While it’s crucial to social distance as much as possible, it can put a strain on your mental health. Now more than ever, people are working, studying, and spending their free time at home. This huge and sudden shift can be incredibly uncomfortable and isolating. Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to help manage your mental health while social distancing.
Provide Your Days With Structure for Mental Health While Social Distancing
Doing tasks remotely can create flexibility in your daily life, but too much flexibility can backfire. A lack of structure can disturb your sleeping patterns, which could make you feel disoriented and aggravate mental health issues. Without a schedule, tasks can feel less automatic and therefore take more motivation and energy. A lack of consistency can also increase your stress levels.
Steps You Can Take:
- Wake up at a certain time, even if you don’t need to. Get started for the day as if you were going somewhere.
- Fall asleep within a certain time frame. Be realistic and flexible, but try to be mindful of how consistent your sleep patterns are and whether or not you’re getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Before going to bed, try to do an activity that calms you down and refrain from using technology or drinking alcohol.
- Create a new to-do list each day to help with motivation. Tasks should be realistically completable, and small enough as to not feel daunting.
- Incorporate small daily habits in your routine. These can help make your days feel more stable and comfortable. Habits could include morning meditation, starting your day with stretching, listening to music while exercising, walking your dog at the same time each day, going outside in the afternoon, reading before bed, etc.
Connect With Others
When you’re spending a lot of your time away from people, it’s natural to start feeling lonely. The separation of social distancing brings can be hard to handle. It can worsen your mood and mental health. However, although it might look different in quarantine, there are still ways to communicate and socialize with others. Mindfully seeking connections can be crucial for your happiness.
Steps You Can Take:
- If you live with others, try to spend time with them. There are many ways to do this, such as making meals and eating together, playing cards or board games, watching a movie, painting, etc. Even just taking some time out of your day to communicate and have conversations with those around you could make you feel less alone.
- Remember to stay connected with friends. It can be hard to keep up with relationships when you’re dealing with stress or mood issues, but it’s important for decreasing loneliness. Texting is great for instant and constant communication, but talking with a friend over the phone or through facetime can feel more genuine and rewarding.
- Attending events or club meetings through online platforms can be a great way to talk to new people. You can find these through looking into clubs or platforms dedicated to an area of interest, finding groups through a university or organization, and looking up lists of virtual events.
Participate in Rewarding Activities
Refraining from going to public areas or social events and doing obligations remotely can free up a lot of time. Free time is important and can be relaxing, but too much of it can cause boredom. Boredom might not sound like a serious issue, but it can provoke increased substance abuse, worsen depressive tendencies, and bring down one’s motivation and satisfaction in life. It can also cause a general lack of interest, discouraging someone from making progress in something they care about. Decreasing boredom can be done by consistently pushing yourself to do behaviors that are beneficial and rewarding, even if you don’t feel like it.
Steps You Can Take:
- Work toward personal goals. Try seeing extra time as the perfect opportunity to work on personal goals you’d be too busy for otherwise. It’s never too late to create new goals, and even if nothing particularly excites you, it can be a rewarding experience to try something new anyway. You just might surprise yourself and find a hobby you really enjoy.
- Change up your scenery. It might sound simple, but even just spending time in different areas of your house or apartment can help break up your day and make it feel less monotonous. Going outside to get some fresh air is also a great idea. It can feel rewarding, refreshing, and can help relieve stress.
- Refrain from excessive technological use. The brain wants to pick activities that require less energy, but these activities are also less rewarding. Constantly using technology can make you less satisfied with life. It can feel hard to participate in more effortful activities but gets easier and more automatic with time.
Take Care of Your Physical Health for Mental Health While Social Distancing
Physical and mental health aren’t completely separate concepts. They intertwine and heavily impact each other. Eating nutritiously has benefits such as increasing mental clarity and decreasing anxiety while exercising releases endorphins. Staying motivated to be healthy while social distancing can be hard, but it’s important for your well being.
Steps You Can Take:
- Being healthy means different things to different people. Try to be a healthier version of yourself, instead of comparing yourself to other people.
- You don’t need to visit the gym to exercise. There are many workouts you can do within your home and without equipment.
- Implement healthy behaviors that you personally enjoy. For example, working out can look like riding your bike or doing yoga, and eating healthier could mean making nutritious versions of foods you already enjoy or starting a diet that piques your interest.
- Try approaching exercise with a different lens. Instead of getting discouraged from large goals, realize that every day you exercise is a day where you’re helping yourself grow. Pay attention to the immediate rewards of staying physically fit, and notice how it can help improve your mental health.
- Take advantage of supplements and infusions. These can help provide you with the vitamins and nutrients you need.
- Try to limit your use of substances. Too much of a substance can seriously harm not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Excessive use can aggravate issues and make you feel dependent and out of control. If you feel as though you might be experiencing a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to get help as quickly as possible.
When To Seek Treatment for Mental Health While Social Distancing
Dealing with the hardships caused by COVID-19 can be incredibly difficult. It can exacerbate or trigger mental illnesses. Those who struggle with substance abuse disorders are especially at risk. These are serious issues that shouldn’t be handled alone; it’s important to reach out for help when you need it.
Steps You Can Take:
- Therapy is an incredibly useful tool for battling a mental illness. For most mental illnesses, consistent therapy is known to be the most beneficial form of treatment. If you are looking for a new therapist, we recommend our sister facility Ballen Medical.
- See if medications are right for you. It’s a good idea to talk with a psychiatrist about the issues you have been experiencing in order to discover your optimal path for wellness. Not everyone needs medication, but it can be vital for those who do.
- Try to make positive behavioral changes in your daily life. There are many beneficial habits you can try to incorporate, such as meditating, spending time outside, talking to those you care about, and being physically healthy.
- Seek alternative treatment. Infusions and neuroptimal neurofeedback can be incredibly powerful at relieving symptoms and promoting recovery.
- Stay safe. If you feel like you’re in danger of hurting yourself or others, it’s important to reach out for help. If you’re in an emergency, you should call hotlines or 911.
National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255
National Drug Abuse Hotline: 1-844-289-0879.
Colorado Drug Abuse Hotline: 877-624-2936
Although this pandemic can be difficult to deal with, it can teach us how to take care of our mental health even when it’s tough. Learning how to stay mentally well in times of hardship is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn.