A few months ago, this would all have been unfathomable: The whole world forced to a stop as an unseen enemy keeps us indoors.
And yet here we are.
It should be a straightforward thing, really—we stay at home so we stop the COVID-19 from spreading and further disrupting the way we live.
But it’s not as simple as that.
The disruption in our normal lives is enough to shake our balance. Most of us are struggling with the mental, emotional, physical, and economic repercussions of a global pandemic.
We’re all undergoing a traumatic experience.
A recent study published in The Lancet journal suggests that the psychological impact of quarantine can cause post-traumatic symptoms lasting up to three years.
If all you can do right now is try to keep yourself sane, that’s alright. Your mental health should be your top priority right now.
If you’re wondering how to stay mentally healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about 6 achievable things you can do for your wellbeing right now.
Signs your mental health might be suffering due to quarantine:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 outbreak can cause overwhelming fear and anxiety that may become harmful if left unchecked.
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
If you find yourself experiencing the things above, it might be time to reflect on yourself and think of ways to keep things from getting worse.
Read head for 6 tips to help you stay sane, shared by psychologists and experts:
6 ways to protect your mental health during quarantine
1. Keep yourself well-informed
According to the study above, we cope with quarantine better when we know what’s really happening around us.
Researchers suggest that our fears and anxieties are mostly fueled by “inadequate information” that leaves us with an unclear understanding of the risks we face and why we have to quarantine in the first place.
It makes sense if you think about it. If we know what we’re up against, we react with more logic and our survival instincts kick in.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Mark Banschick:
“It is far better to get people to agree to quarantine by convincing them and offering information, than by forcing them. That increases their sense of agency and reduces helplessness as they become active participants in their circumstances.
“This is an important psychological concept. When faced with external pressures, the feeling of agency enables a person to feel more like a survivor than like a victim—increasing their sense of control.”
So keep yourself well-informed with the latest developments and news about COVID-19. But be careful: exposing yourself to fake news and misleading information is even more dangerous than not knowing anything at all.
In fact, the World Health Organization itself recognized the psychological distress this pandemic can cause and has urged people to avoid misinformation and the “near-constant stream of news reports” surrounding the pandemic.
Take everything with a grain of salt and as hard as it may seem, focus only on the important things and let go of everything else that you can’t control.
2. Try to establish routines
Perhaps you’ve promised yourself to make the most out of this quarantine by being productive. You planned to keep up to speed with work, hobbies, or learning a new skill… and you’re starting to realize it’s not as easy as you think.
Many of us may actually find ourselves demotivated and uncreative. And that’s mostly because we’re suddenly forced to abandon our well-structured outside lives.
This is why it’s crucial to develop a new set of routines to keep you moving.
According to therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw:
“People can become depressed or anxious because structure can provide an understanding of what’s next and it can help us organize what we’re doing in each moment. ut without it we start to forget what our purpose is. It’s the perfect storm for creating a bunch of really difficult feelings at the same time: sadness, guilt, anxiety.”
You don’t have to make it complicated. Start by setting a schedule: when to wake up, shower, eat, and run errands. And then allow some time for self-care.
A routine is a simple thing that can make all the difference. It will give you some predictability at a time when most of us feel like we’ve suddenly lost control.
3. Try to get your body moving
Being stuck at home means your body doesn’t get the movement it usually gets. Even the best of us, who have a fit lifestyle, can find it extremely hard to feel motivated right now.
Still, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
If you create a routine that allows your body to move from time to time, whether it includes stretching in between breaks or an hour of bodyweight workouts in the morning, you’ll notice a big difference in your mental health.
Exercise will benefit you by:
- boosting your immune system, which will limit the risks of viral infections like the flu and COVID-19
- releasing “happy hormones” like serotonin and endorphins, which will do wonders for your mood
- helping you sleep better and get more energy
- releasing tightness in your body caused by stress and anxiety
Aside from these positive physical and mental benefits, exercise will give you a sense of accomplishment. At least, at the end of this pandemic, you’ll not have only kept your sanity intact, you’ve become more fit, too!
4. Stay connected to your loved ones
Thankfully, we live in an age when we don’t have to completely isolate ourselves from society. Make sure you get the most out of technology to keep up with your friends and family via texts, social media, video, and phone calls.
It may not be the same as sharing a meal in a restaurant or having a cup of coffee at a cafe, but a simple call right now is more than just a voice at the end of the line.
According to Lynnette Arnold, assistant professor of Anthropology at University of Massachusetts Amherst:
“Communication isn’t just about conveying information – it’s also a way of caring for others.”
So it’s not just what you get from connecting with your loved ones, you’re also sending a message that you’re thinking of them during this difficult time.
Also, if you’re lucky enough to be in quarantine with your family, embrace this time to create good memories and build better relationships. Some of us can only dream of being able to spend unlimited time with family and this is a chance you will likely never get again. Use it wisely.
5. Don’t forget to unwind
Being stuck at home doesn’t make you less prone to stress. In fact, with everything going on, you might be the most stressed you’ve ever been. Many of us are even at risk of burnout right now.
And while it’s important to think about your future and security during and after this pandemic, you shouldn’t allow that stress to incapacitate you.
Make sure you set some time to unwind. Fight off the boredom by doing activities you usually put off like reading, catching up on that forgotten series, or cooking homemade meals. Spoil yourself with a nice bubble bath or a glass of good wine at the end of the day.
Now is not the time to neglect your needs. It may not seem like much of a priority right now, but these things will keep you through this global pandemic.
6. Take it a day at a time
And lastly, try not to look too much into the future. I know that’s easier than done. At the end of the day, we all have the same question: When will life return to normal?
It’s a lot to take in. And this experience will likely stay with us for a long time.
As Robert Leahy author and psychologist Robert Leary phrases it, we are experiencing “an international human trauma, where everybody has a sense that their life, or the lives of people they love, is threatened.”
Coping with the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly difficult because it is cloaked with the uncertainty of what’s to come. We are dealing with a lot of unknown and unanswered questions, which can lead to the worst kind of overthinking.
Bu there’s one simple thing you can do to avoid that:
Simply focus on taking that one step forward.
Take it one day at a time. Focus on things you can control. Do what you can, however small or silly it may seem to you. Prioritize your mental health. And be kind and empathic to everyone because we are all suffering. In that solidarity, we can find a bit of comfort that we are not alone.