As we continue stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness may be affecting the mental health of many Americans. Mental health is just as important as our physical health. In fact, science shows that poor mental health can negatively impact physical health and lead to an increased risk of some conditions.
Those who suffer from a mental illness may find quarantining and self-isolating to be especially detrimental to their mental wellbeing. It’s important to find productive coping strategies in order to nurture our minds while we search for a sense of normalcy and spend time away from our loved ones. Below you can find some ways to take care of your mental health during COVID-19.
Transition and change can often be a disturbance in our lives; however, this unprecedented crisis has made such concepts far more difficult and possibly damaging to our mental health. Therefore, it’s a good idea to establish a consistent schedule if you haven’t already. Regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and waking schedules will prove helpful, even if your day is not going to be spent “at work.”
However, if you are working from home, designating a work area is crucial. It’s a good idea to work in an area that offers no distractions, for example, working from bed is not advised as you may find yourself scrolling on your phone or watching TV, for example. Separating work and home life may be especially difficult right now but designating specific times and areas will make life at least a little bit easier.
Additionally, those with mental illness who take medication and follow a schedule when it comes to their mental wellness should continue to follow their regular regime. Check-in with yourself from time to time and stay aware of new or worsening symptoms. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Speaking of reaching out, connecting with family, friends, and other loved ones is another excellent way to decrease stress and improve mental wellbeing. Human beings are social creatures and loneliness can be a painful emotion. Utilize technology and video chatting services to maintain relationships and regular social activity while in quarantine.
It’s also important to note that those who suffer from mental illness may find themselves consumed with the constant, changing news cycle. If watching or reading the news causes an increase in stress, anxiety or depression, consumption should be limited. Alternatively, one can ask a family member or friend to filter it, give only necessary updates, and provide information that’s relevant.
Turns out, not all distractions are bad, in fact, hobbies and activities can distract you from feeling poorly during times like these. Besides watching TV and movies, you can take advantage of this time and get ahead of your spring cleaning and other household chores. There are also free online courses and webinars, as well as virtual religious services being offered online at no cost.
While you should try to stay busy, you should not feel pressure to overperform. You may have extra time on your hands, but there’s no reason to be hard on yourself for perceiving yourself as productive enough during this time. It is a quarantine, after all, and the situation is tough on everyone.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Self-compassion is key for coping with emotional challenges. Reject self-judgment during this time and opt for acceptance and kindness instead. This crisis has been difficult for many of us, but if we take care of our mental health, maintain regularity, connect with others, get busy, and remain kind to ourselves, we may come out of this stronger than we ever thought possible.
If you find yourself feeling down, depressed or hopeless, have thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or if you find yourself overmedicating with alcohol or drugs, please contact a mental health professional at NCH (239-624-3880), the David Lawrence Mental Health Center (239-455-8500) or call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-272-8255).