COVID-19 has already reshaped the globe and created a new normal. When the world gets back on its feet again, this normal will shift. Slowly but surely, the headlines will stop focusing on the number of people infected and the rate of mortality. Close on the heels of the pandemic, the world will have to deal with the threat of another insidious enemy: mental health and addictions. Strangely enough, not everyone is talking about the toll this is taking on those with mental health illness. Read on for tips on how to stay mentally healthy during quarantine, and beyond.
The current pandemic has forced each and every one one of us to self-isolate and spend all of our time at home. While we need to do our part to help flatten the curve, there are potential mental health side effects that can come with remaining in total isolation. This can be especially hazardous for people with mental illnesses. The scholarly journal, Lancet, published an online paper that discussed and analyzed the overall effects isolation had on people. They used the example of the SARS epidemic that took place in 2002 as a case study. According to the report, the psychological impact of the pandemic included emotional disturbance, depression, stress, low mood, irritability, insomnia, post-traumatic stress symptoms. The report also stated that only 5% of people experienced happy feelings and only 4% of people showed feelings of relief.
In order stay mentally healthy, here are four recommendations during this unknown period of social distancing and a new normal.
Create a consistent schedule
Now’s the time for a new hobby, or to get that puppy!
During this period, people consume media in excess. And unfortunately, most of the content available for consumption is filled with gloom and doom. Details on the virus, mortality rates, suffering and inability to breathe or work sinks morale. This constant stream of information takes a negative toll on mental health. To keep your mind clear and sane, create a schedule to achieve goals and find the motivation to accomplish them.
This can be seemingly small but important things like making your bed and cleaning your room. Consider other activities like: starting a new book and reading a chapter a day or learning how to cook different meals. If you are a parent and have children that need to be entertained, create some fun activities like family game night or a movie night. This takes the focus off negative thoughts, and puts you in a more present state.
Keep connected with your friends and family
For those who like to go out with friends and socialize with family, quarantine makes it tough to stay mentally healthy. However, thanks to telecommunication networks like Skype and Face time, staying connected is much simpler than ever. One can still communicate and get much needed social interaction from friends, colleagues and family. Try general conversations or joining virtual book clubs, tele-dinners or virtual dance parties and trivia night. Get creative. Ensure you see people every day, even on your phone or computer screen.
Have an honest conversation with family members or friends
While it is important to stay sane and be distracted, that doesn’t mean you should neglect real and serious conversations. Tell friends and family how social isolation is affecting your mental well-being. Bottling things up never works long-term.
If you have children, you must converse with them about the dangers and seriousness of what’s been going on. Allow them to express their true feelings about the current situation and work together to come up with a plan on how to slowly get through this. Set aside a day each week and have a conversation with family and friends and inquire about what their mental state. Check online for therapy sessions or support groups that discuss tools to cope with mental health.
Physical activity/eating right
The best way to strengthen your mind is to remain active and healthy meals. In terms of physical fitness, you are probably thinking about how can you achieve those goals if all the gyms are closed and shut down because of the virus. Thanks to how-to videos on YouTube, you have access to all the information needed to still get the physical workout needed while in isolation.
While in quarantine people aren’t eating as healthy as normal. Whether it’s using food as comfort, or simply not having access, most people waved goodbye to their summer bod a long time ago. But eating junk and processed food can lead to a depressive mode state according to a paper from Manchester Metropolitan University. They state that foods with high cholesterol, inflammation, carbohydrates and saturated fats make you 40% more likely to develop depression. Eating a balanced and healthy diet while practicing good sleep hygiene help improve mental healthy significantly.
Try these small tips to stay happier and healthier during these uncertain times. You’re not alone! People are struggling. But little things can produce big results.