Reports of mental health disorder had been concerning before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with as many as 1 in 5 people in the United States reporting symptoms. As of April of this year, it is estimated that nearly half of Americans report that their mental health has suffered, and that number is expected to increase as the threat wears on. Concerns about the mental health effects of the pandemic are high enough to warrant advice from the Center For Disease Control regarding the importance of self-care during this trying time.
While the nature of a virus requires that we focus on taking as many physical precautions as necessary, it is equally important that we take steps to ensure that our mental wellbeing is protected. Our need to press on with managing life will extend long after the threat of the virus has passed, and good life management requires sound mental health. In your own quest toward preserving your mental stability, try experimenting with applying some of the following ideas while under a state of quarantine.
Be Creative with Socialization
Finding effective relief from stress and boredom during social distancing will depend on your orientation toward socialization. Introverted individuals may find that their lives have actually changed very little during this time, due to their tendency to regularly stay home and occupy themselves with personal hobbies. An extroverted person, however, might be climbing the walls from lack of options to get out and be around people. If you aren’t already aware of your own personality bend toward the need to socialize, try taking a free personality test to learn more about it.
If it is apparent that you are a person who craves socialization as part of your wellness routine, the social distancing guidelines require that you learn to be creative with it. We are fortunate that this has occurred during a time of widespread social media and video chat options, which simulate face-to-face interactions while maintaining responsible distance. Try arranging virtual social activities such as book clubs, exercise classes, or movie nights. There are also opportunities to expand your conception of what constitutes in-person interaction. For an example of how creative you can get outside of the virtual world, stories of Italians serenading each other from their balconies and of neighborhood birthday parades can serve as inspiration.
Tend to Your Personal Hygiene
It is interesting to note how much going out in public affects our desire to groom. Taking advantage of some of the freedoms from a grooming routine that stay-home orders provide can mean a nice break, but it can also come with a cost. Letting ourselves go in the grooming department can subtly
alter our mood for the worse.
If the lack of requirement has you failing to engage in your beauty routine, consider challenging yourself to go ahead and wash your face, brush your teeth, and change out of those sweat pants. Not only can getting dressed for your day at home provide you with a boost of inspiration, but it can also make the eventual transition back to regular workdays go more smoothly.
Create Work/Home Boundaries
Along with sticking to a grooming routine, adding other rituals to your days at home can work to provide some relief from stress. Stress is a response to fear and uncertainty, and the establishment of routines can calm your nerves through letting your brain know what to expect next. Think about the comfort of the routine of going to work every day, knowing what was expected of you once you got there. Your goal will be to set up your daily home life in a way similar to that level of structure.
For those working from home, a structured routine can be particularly helpful. There is a tendency for many to find themselves blurring the lines between work and home life during this time. Babysitting, homeschooling, and house chores can become oddly integrated with obligations of video conferencing, client calls, and document writing. It can be tempting to neglect to shut down that laptop at the end of your scheduled work hours, or to just go ahead and take that phone call during lunch.
Those breaks, lunches, and laws for set working hours exist for a reason. They were established by unions and governments to ensure that human beings were able to have lives apart from the demands of their employers. Without your management there to monitor that those legal rights to time off are being enforced, it is up to you to ensure that your schedule is demanding that time away from work tasks.
Find a Safe Venting Space
It is always an important part of mental health to be able to honestly express our concerns, fears, worries, struggles with another human being. Having an outlet to get thoughts out of our heads means that there is more free mental space for finding practical solutions to our problems. During this pandemic, there is no shortage of internet-based venting going on. The task is finding options for expressing and sharing perspectives that result in healthy outcomes. If you are unable to discuss your concerns with someone who is willing to listen without judgment and able to refrain from adding to your stress through one-upping or spouting conspiracy theories, you will need to come up with a game plan for effective relief.
If you aren’t someone who needs immediate feedback, you can try writing down your thoughts in a daily journal or expressing your feelings to the universe through prayers or meditation. If you require interaction from another human being in order to experience relief from distressing thoughts, technology can come to the rescue. Social distancing guidelines have contributed to a surge in the availability of telemental health services. Counselors, psychologists, social workers, and therapists are able to provide support through face-to-face video conferencing, online interaction, texts, and telephone calls. Finding telehealth services to fit your needs is as easy as contacting the national helpline for a list of resource options.