The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to everyday life. Many people feel as if they’re living in a prolonged period of uncertainty as evidenced by their canceled plans, paused dreams, and drastically changed routines. Not to mention the fact that the virus has put everyone on high alert over the very real possibility of getting sick. A number of health organizations have stressed the need to stay at home and practice regular hand washing and social distancing.
How Does Staying At Home Affect A Person’s Mental Health?
While staying at home can help keep you safe from COVID-19, many studies show that long periods of social isolation can adversely affect your mental health. The main reason this happens is you receive less social support and you may not be able to carry out your usual day-to-day activities. Some of these activities may include traveling, hanging out with your friends, going to parties, eating lunch or dinner at your favorite restaurants, hiking to the mountains, going to work and interacting with your co-workers. When people are socially isolated and their behavioral routines are greatly disrupted, it may lead to feelings such as frustration, anger, boredom, sadness, anxiety, and loneliness.
While it is recommended that people take all necessary precautions to protect their physical health, their mental health should not be overlooked. The guide below provides four tips you can use to preserve your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Establish New Routines
Your daily routine helps you to stay on track with your daily responsibilities. A healthy routine promotes good mental health as you feel more stable when you have a set of predictable activities. Analyze each part of your old routine and identify areas where changes need to be made. For instance, if your old routine included taking a morning walk in the park, you could switch to an alternative workout such as jumping rope in your backyard.
If some parts of your routine weren’t significantly affected by the pandemic, it may be best to keep them as they are. For example, if you used to wake up early to go to your office, it may be beneficial to wake up early for remote work even though you may have more flexibility with your time now.
Your activities, thoughts, and moods are linked together. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new routine, you can access helpful telehealth services on websites such as https://www.hcbh.org/. Working with a licensed mental health professional can help you to understand yourself and your situation better so that you can regain control of your life.
2. Limit Media Exposure
When spending long stretches of time at home you may find yourself using your phone much more than usual and that’s understandable. Browsing the internet is an excellent way to find some entertainment and stay up to date with what is happening in the world. However, internet and social media exposure can also be a major contributor to feelings of anxiety. This is especially true if you constantly read negative news reports, look at grisly images and watch videos with graphic violence.
If you realize that daily news reports are making you feel panicked, it may be a good idea to limit your media exposure. If you typically watch the news every night, you may consider watching it only two or three times a week. You can also be selective about where you get your news. Focus on news outlets that have balanced, accurate reporting rather than those with sensational headlines.
3. Stay Connected With Your Loved Ones
COVID-19 has resulted in many people being physically separated from most of their family members and friends. However, this does not mean that you have to isolate yourself emotionally. If you have family or friends that live with you, try to keep the lines of communication open. Having someone you can see, touch, and talk to is invaluable during lockdowns and community quarantines.
If you live alone, your mental health may be at a higher risk of decline during the pandemic. However, there are still things you can do to protect yourself. If you have reliable internet access, for example, you can stay connected with your loved ones virtually. Most social media and messaging platforms offer services that are free and available 24/7.
While staying connected is important for you, keep in mind that your loved ones also need social support in these distressing times. So make yourself available when they need advice or just a listening ear. If you feel lonely, bored, or stressed, you can organize or participate in a host of online activities. A few options include hosting a virtual movie night, a virtual pet show, or a virtual book club through several of the popular live-streaming apps.
4. Be Kind To Yourself
This is a tough time for everyone. It’s during these unprecedented and challenging times that you need even more care and support. Remember, no one knows what you are going through better than you do. In addition to following the established health protocols, be attentive to personal needs that may be unique to you.
Being kind and caring to yourself includes:
- Eating the right foods
- Getting enough sleep
- Fueling your body with healthy beverages
- Doing regular at-home exercises
A balanced blend of nutritious food, sleep, and regular exercise can do much to improve your mood and mental health. In addition to canned food, try to stock up on fresh produce, whole foods and grains, and frozen fruits or vegetables when possible.