COVID-19 and mental health have a precarious relationship…
This year is off to a strange and unprecedented start for us due to COVID-19, and the term “social distancing” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Social distancing – or more specifically, limiting your contact with others outside your home unless absolutely necessary – can be difficult to manage. Quarantining right now is especially challenging as there’s only a vague idea of how long we may need to do so in order to limit the spread of the virus.
While we are all practicing social distancing together, here are some tips for adjusting to this period of time without sacrificing your wellness.
- Remember, this is a very uncertain time, and anxiety feeds off of both the fear of the unknown as well as becoming too preoccupied with the stressor in question. It’s important to find a balance between staying informed without getting sucked in nor shutting everything out. Consider focusing on some of the positive changes, such as recovery rate, improvements in testing availability, and so on.
- Consider a positive reframe of social distancing: we aren’t scared and helpless, forced to stay indoors. Rather, we are doing our part to practice good public health, contain the spread of COVID-19, protect those most vulnerable, and not overwhelm healthcare workers all at once. We are working together toward a common goal and we all want the same thing, which can only be achieved by teamwork!
- Examine your locus of control. In reality there are many things we have no control over every single day, such as the weather or other people, and that feel even more true now. By focusing on what you do have control over, this can reduce feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
- Keep things in perspective and examine the evidence: unnecessary bulk-buying can help others feel prepared when they are at a loss of control, but consider how much toilet paper (or other necessities that seems scarce right now) your household goes through in a given month and consider that stores are able to stay stocked provided they don’t get overwhelmed by panic-buying, and that they will stay open as an essential service. It is easy to get caught up in the sweep of impulsive behavior due to anxiety, but challenging our cognitive distortions is key to keeping calm and carrying on.
- Following these tips on managing your anxiety during this time would be helpful, and consider professional help if you are in need of further support. Mental health is still a priority even during a pandemic, and mental health professionals are available from a distance.
- It would be a good idea to check on your family and friends during this time, especially your older relatives; they might appreciate a phone/video call. This is a good opportunity to reach out to those you haven’t connected with in a while.
- Social distancing is all about the physical, not the emotional! If you have access to a phone/computer, you can use apps such as Netflix Party or Discord to watch TV and movies with others from afar. It is still possible to have a movie night with friends!
- Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Oh, I’d love to start _______ but I just don’t have the time” about something? Does it involve staying indoors? Now might be a great time to get around to it!
- Try to pick up a hobby that promotes staying in so you can get those little boosts of serotonin from accomplishing tasks and learning new skills. Some examples include reading (Scribd is offering free 30 day access to their online library), arts & crafts, cooking, and yoga.
- Try and come up with a routine to stick to even if you may not feel there’s a tangible reason to do so while you’re social distancing at home. Routines help us feel more in control, and are good ways to prioritize self-care and wellness. This can involve setting a wake up and bed time for yourself, scheduling time for an exercise routine, and prioritizing a hobby for a few hours in the morning/afternoon/evening.
- If you have a pet at home, you can be sure they are thrilled to see so much of you lately! Give them lots of love and attention, and take advantage of the increase in time together.
- And of course, practice good hygiene: wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water after touching surfaces and before touching your face, stay 6 ft away from others while out for necessities such as grocery shopping, and remember to sneeze/cough into your elbow or a tissue!