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Right now, most Americans, along with people all over the world, are staying at home to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. This necessary precaution can be difficult because the isolation of quarantine can have an impact on mental health, so it’s essential to practice positive mental habits to keep from going stir crazy.
Thankfully, another portion of Americans, those deemed “essential workers,” like nurses, physicians, first responders, truck drivers, grocery store clerks, pharmacists and others, are doing their best to help keep those of us staying at home as healthy as possible.
Hopefully everyone is doing their best to slow the spread of this disease by staying inside, and keeping a safe “social distance” from others when outside of the home.
Unfortunately, there can be an enormous of amount fear, loneliness and stress that might build up and lead to depression, anxiety and poor mental health in general while being isolated from others.
The stress and anxiety of feeling disconnected from others, financially vulnerable, and powerless over this entire situation is completely normal.
However, we all have some tools at our disposable to stave off exasperation and desperation.
How Does Isolation or Quarantine Affect our Mental Health?
First things first, it’s important to understand that each of us is not the only person struggling with these issues. It is not an understatement to say that in this particular global crisis, our literal neighbors are very likely feeling the same exact feelings.
It’s also indispensable to recognize and identify the most common emotions and feelings brought on by this isolation.
The American Psychological Association reports that social isolation can lead to a number of different negative symptoms.
The negative mental health symptoms of isolation or quarantine may include many of the following:
- Anxiety and stress
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite and weight gain or loss
- Increased risk of cardiovascular health
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings and problems regulating emotions
- Depression symptoms, such as feeling exhausted, hopeless, sad, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
None of these outcomes are healthy, though they are particularly risky for people in recovery from substance abuse or other mental health disorders. If the symptoms are not properly addressed and managed, too much emotional stress can trigger a relapse.
During a global health challenge such as this, it is incumbent on each and every one of us to take responsibility for our precious mental health, as well as watch out for the wellbeing of others.
Mental Health Tips for Surviving Quarantine
Perspective is everything, meaning how we chose to view this time of isolation will have a direct impact on our mental health. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests reframing our view of this from “I’m stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself.”
Take this opportunity to complete long-ignored tasks, such as reorganizing a closet or a bookshelf, deep cleaning your entire living space, or taking up a hobby that’s always seemed interesting but you never had time to pursue.
There is also a peace of mind in keeping a regular routine, especially for children. Without our normal daily responsibility of reporting to some outside location, it can become incredibly easy to lose our sense of routine.
So, if possible, keep a regular sleep pattern, going to bed and waking up at the same times you normally would, as well as normal mealtimes.
For those new to working from home, it’s all too easy to continue working well beyond your regular hours because time becomes a little more flexible. This can be something of a stress-trap when we fail to shutdown our phones or computers at an appropriate time and get on with the business of living.
6 Ways to Maintain Positive Mental Health While in Quarantine or Isolation
Find a way to exercise regularly even it means doing it in the living room. We are still allowed to go outside as long as we keep a safe difference from others.
During the day is the best time to exercise outside because sunshine combined with fresh air can increase the release of endorphins to relieve stress.
The internet can also be a useful resource for finding free online workout routines.
2. Keep in Touch With Others
Staying in touch with family and friends, either by phone, email or video chat, can do wonders for improving mood.
Seeing our loved one’s faces online can lower our stress levels and instill a sense of comfort knowing they too are okay.
3. Avoid Boredom
It’s crucial to avoid boredom at all costs so that the time inside passes more quickly, and to circumvent anxiety and depression.
There’s always something to do, but if it feels as if there’s nothing at all, take the opportunity to simply breathe and meditate to clear your mind for 15 or 20 minutes.
Not only does meditation decrease stress levels, but it can have an impact on how we feel physically as well.
4. Practice Gratitude
Be grateful for the unexpected time spent with family or any others you’re sharing the house with while in quarantine.
Play games, do art projects, or work on puzzles together, and be grateful for having others you care about with you.
5. Don’t Obsess on the News
This one can be tricky because it’s always on, but don’t obsess or binge on the news or even social media reports of Coronavirus.
It’s okay to stay informed and get the latest reports, but avoid over consumption because it really isn’t healthy.
6. Communicate Your Feelings and Those of Others
Be aware of how those around you are doing and feeling, especially children, and create open lines of dialogue about what we’re all experiencing.
Not everyone is open about discussing the current issues. Still, it’s important to check-in with others to see how they’re doing and be willing to just listen if that’s what they want.
Being in isolation or quarantine is not a routine part of life for most people, and it can take a toll on mood and mental health. Keeping a positive attitude and practicing some of these simple tips might make it easier for all of us to get by until things return to normal.
To truly get the most out of this time in isolation, be mindful of how you feel right now and carry that thought with you when it’s time to return to everyday life again.
Thinking back on these times will add a unique appreciation for just how good life can be when we’re free to do anything we want.