It’s not dramatic or incorrect to say life is changing as we know it. Entire countries are locking down, public gatherings have shuttered, and many are now finding themselves without jobs. Researchers note that many quarantined individuals suffer from short-term and long-term mental health problems, as reported in this psychological study. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, and even PTSD symptoms have all been recorded. You’re not alone in this. We’ve gathered some excellent tips up in one place to help you out.
Take a Break from the News
It’s so, so easy in this day and age to get constant push notifications or turn on a 24-hr news network. Even a simple Google search can send you down a rabbit hole of coronavirus articles about death tolls and social distancing and … it just goes on. There’s a big difference between being informed and overconsumption. It’s important to be up to date on governmental or workplace information that affects you and your loved ones, but if the rest of the information is giving you anxiety, it’s okay to unplug. Whether it means you only look at the news during certain times of the day, or only check once, whatever helps you untense your shoulders is worth trying.
Have Virtual Meetings with Friends and Family
My next door neighbor has a ZOOM meeting with her family at 6:30 p.m. every night; my grandma Skypes us grandkids whenever she feels lonely; I play relaxing video games with a few friends every other day via voice chat. There are any number of ways to safely stay engaged. Are they a perfect substitute for those face-to-face hangouts? No. But they are the closest thing we have at the moment. It’s especially important to check in with more at-risk individuals, like those in nursing homes who are now facing “no visitors” guidelines. Social isolation is already a prevalent issue in today’s society, COVID-19 just makes it worse.
It’s Okay to Not Be Productive
One scroll through Instagram or Twitter and you’ll see people finally doing those home DIYs they’ve been putting off. Maybe someone biked a new record, or tried making bread from scratch, or started a new and fulfilling hobby. Meanwhile, you’ve had the Netflix “Are you still watching?” pop up more times than you can count. That’s okay. There’s no playbook on how to stay productive during a full-blown pandemic. Maybe those activities are stress-relievers for individuals or helps them keep their mind off the current state of the world. You simply can’t compare your apples to their oranges. As long as you’re still taking care of yourself and others (like cleaning the house, showering, eating, etc.), it’s okay to keep that to-do list a bit shorter than normal.
Go Outside if Possible
As long as your local government doesn’t have rules against it, it’s okay to still go outside as long as you’re safe about it. Stay at least 6 feet from other people and wash your hands before and after your adventure. It can feel very isolating quickly while being holed up in your home for days, even weeks, on end. As the weather begins to warm up and the sun stops playing hide-and-seek, take the opportunity to at least go outside a few times a day. Whether you go for a walk in the woods, or bike around the neighborhood, or make sidewalk chalk art, just going outside can help reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
Take Advantage of Mental Health Organizations, Apps, and Experts
Out society has become more open and accepting of mental health. Because of this, there are hundreds of helpful resources you can use. If you are currently seeing a therapist, ask about virtual sessions; if you want to see a therapist, try reaching out to one via your health provider. If those aren’t options, people on social media sites are actively reaching out to one another and sharing their quarantine stories; groups exist for crafting during the pandemic, exercising at home, and general mental health support. Mental health apps have seen an increase in usage and suicide/mental health crisis hotline calls have spiked. Help is out there!
Overall, these are just a few tips for these trying times. There are hundreds of other articles out there listing advice and support methods. There is no one-size-fits-all kind of advice, so it’s important to note that some things just may not work for you, and that’s okay. This isn’t a change that’s going to happen overnight; it’s something you have to discover and work through consistently. Personally, I walk my dog several times a day, cook good meals, have a call rotation to check in on family, and play video games remotely with friends.
Take care of yourself however works best for you, try your best to come to terms with things you can’t change, and most importantly, look out for one another. We’re all in this together.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.