Staying Sane While Social Distancing: 15 Things To Do To Take Care of Your Mental Health While You’re Staying Home So Much More
Let’s be totally real for a second: life right now is hard for virtually EVERYONE. No matter how “together” we have it, no matter how “strong” we are, this is hard.
We are ALL human, and not one of us is above emotionally feeling the effects of the coronavirus (and of the sudden and dramatic change to how everything is now being done) on our own lives. Even if we’re doing okay 90% of the time – we’re all having moments of stress, anxiety, panic, loneliness, and grief. And we are all tired. So we ALL need to pay attention to our mental health right now – every single one of us.
Just as we all need to take extra steps to wash our hands and not touch our face, and wear a mask to stay physically healthy, we also all need to take extra steps to stay as mentally healthy as possible during these unprecedented times.
This is especially true if you’re prone to depression or anxiety. But it’s also true if you’ve never been clinically depressed a day in your life, and have no idea what a panic attack feels like. It’s true if you’re religious and have a rock-solid relationship with God to lean on. It’s also true if you have the most amazing family and support system in the world. It’s true no matter how “together” you think you have it normally (or how “together” everyone else thinks you have it).
Taking extra care of your mental health is always a good idea. But right now y’all – right now it’s an important part of survival.
Here Are 15 Ways To Help Yourself Stay Mentally Healthy During Social Distancing:
(These are just SOME of a long list of tools that you can use. If you’re struggling, PLEASE reach out to a mental health professional to help you put together a plan that is right for you).
1. Get Adequate Sleep – Make sure you get AT LEAST 7 hours of solid sleep in every night right now – at a minimum.
There is so much scientific evidence that links adequate sleep and mental health. Getting enough zzzz’s each night will increase your emotional resilience. Most people are typically walking around in a state of sleep deprivation. During social distancing, make sure you’re not skimping on the hours in bed, even if you feel like you’re ‘doing’ less things so you must need less sleep to recover. It’s not true. Sleep is so important right now, so use this time to catch up on serious rest.
2. Eat A Healthy Diet – Fuel your mind with food that supports your mental health.
The food we put into our bodies also directly effects our minds and moods. In general the healthier a food is for our bodies, the healthier it will also be for our mental health. Make sure you’re eating plenty of healthy whole foods – vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean meats, etc. And as much as the junk food in your cabinet may be calling, try to cut down your processed food and sugar consumption as much as you can. Pay attention to how what you eat and when you eat impacts your mood. If you notice you get a surge of worry after eating certain foods, cut them out immediately.
3. Get Outside Into Sunlight – Those rays of natural light will help keep your brain in balance.
Sun exposure has been directly linked to brain chemicals, especially serotonin levels. Getting into natural light is good for the brain, and not getting enough is bad for it. (Do you get winter blues? That’s often a brain chemical thing from shorter daylight hours!).
When we’re home all of the time and not running in and out of buildings for errands, etc. we’re getting way less sun exposure than we’re used to. This means we need to make an effort to compensate extra for what we’re missing. The good news is it’s starting to get light later so we have more hours to get in some rays. So choose to sit outside when you can while you work on your laptop or read, and go for walks when you can. Going outside for exercise in the sunshine is great for you, as long as you stay 6 feet away! (Note: after I wrote this section, I looked outside and saw how nice and sunny it was, so I took a break to go for a walk! It boosted my mood immediately!).
4. Exercise – Move your body to release chemicals that your brain really needs.
There is endless science to back up the mental health benefits of physical activity. You don’t have to have a gym to move your body. There are endless free workouts online that you can do in your living room. Or go for a walk, or a jog. Do yoga from the comfort of your own home. Just make sure you get your blood flowing to help release the awesome chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.
5. Journal – write to reduce your stress levels, process your emotions, and increase your self-awareness about how you’re doing.
Even if you’ve never journaled before in your life, putting pen to private paper can be an incredibly therapeutic way to cope with this unique situation. You don’t have to have any specific structure. Just sit down with a pen and paper and start writing about your day, or what you’re feeling. But if you’re feeling stuck and don’t know where to start or what to write about, you may want to check out my post with 30 Journal Prompts To Write About During Social Distancing, Self-Isolation, or Quarantine
6. Meditation – even a few minutes a day listening to your breath can help you relax and alleviate stress.
Anyone can meditate. Meditating is taking time to breathe and connect with your self and there’s no way to do it wrong. (Read my post Anyone Can Meditate- You Can’t Do it “Wrong” for more on this topic if you think you’re ‘bad’ at meditating). This is another one mental health tool that is starting to get a lot of scientific research to back up the benefits. If you are new to meditation, I highly recommend the Headspace App as a starting place to learn. Now is the perfect time to begin a practice that you can take with you anywhere when the world resumes, too.
7. Connect With Friends and Family You Can’t See In Person with FaceTime/Zoom/Google Hangout or other Video Chats
Humans are social beings – we all need interaction with other people. Thankfully with technology it’s possible to stay connected to friends and family while at a physical distance. If you’d like more ideas on how to connect socially you may be interested in my post on 20 Things To Do To “Socialize” and Stay Connected With Other People While You’re Stuck at Home or In Quarantine
8. Get Dressed Every Day – and while you’re at it, take a shower, too.
Putting on real clothes and taking care of yourself will send a signal to your brain that just because you’re not leaving your house or going to an office, it doesn’t mean you’re checking out of life. It may feel like “why do I need to look cute if nobody will see me?” and I’m not saying you need to get dressed up in your “Sunday best” clothes. But putting on actually clothes you’d be happy to wear in public will help you emotionally feel like life isn’t completely on pause. (It’ll probably help you be a bit more productive, too).
9. Do At Least One “Productive” Thing Each Day – make it something that is about more than “survival” right this minute.
Make sure you get at least one thing you find to be “of value” done every single day. The feeling of accomplishment and productivity is healthy.
10. Schedule Guilt Free Down Time
At the same time as needing to make sure you do at least one productive thing each day, when we’re working from home (and running most of our entire lives from home) downtime can suddenly feel like the wrong thing when it’s actually a necessity. So schedule time every day where your plan is actually to do ‘nothing’ productive. That way you can set a boundary where you can turn off work, homeschool, cooking, cleaning, exercising, etc. and just relax for a few without picking up a sense of guilt that you’re just ‘laying around.’
11. Limit News Consumption
Obviously we all need to know a little bit about what is going on in the outside world right now, what rules and guidelines are in place, etc.. I’m not saying to turn off the news completely. But for the love of all sanity, do not keep CNN running in the background 24/7. Don’t check Google News or the NY Times website 85 times a day to see the latest updates. Stay off Facebook if you need to because friends are posting updates incessantly. Yes, there’s this absolutely massively huge life altering very scary thing going on in the world. But you do NOT need to make it the focus of your mental energy 24 hours a day.
12. Practice Gratitude
You may read that and think life is way too crazy right now to be grateful. But if you step back I guarantee you have a TON in your life you can be grateful for. And consciously looking to find the things to be grateful for has all kinds of proven mental health benefits. So find a way to incorporate a gratitude practice into your every day during this time. You could make it a daily thing that you don’t get out of bed (or don’t go to sleep) without consciously recognizing things you’re grateful for first. Or make a gratitude list part of your journaling practice. Set a gratitude jar in your kitchen and write something you’re grateful for on a slip of paper that goes in the jar everyday. It’s not about HOW you add gratitude into your life, it’s that you do. (You may be interested in my post “The Power of Gratitude” for more on this topic, too).
Now is a great time to deepen your personal relationship with God (or however you define your higher power) through regular prayer. And I’m not JUST saying this because I’m a spiritual coach and prayer is a huge part of my life every day (and the first place I turn to keep myself mentally healthy). There’s actually a lot of research to back up the benefits of prayer on mental health, too.
14. Find Someone To Talk To– turn to a professional therapist or a coach for additional support.
If you already have a therapist or coach, reach out to them if you haven’t already. You do NOT have to have a diagnosable mental illness to lean on someone professional during a hard time. (If you do struggle with mental illness now is a time you definitely should be leaning on a therapist though).
Finding someone qualified to help you through this time may be key for anyone who could use extra guidance or encouragement. It takes courage and strength to ask for support if you need it, but it may just be the most important thing you can do for yourself to get through quarantine.
15. Give Yourself Grace
It is okay to be where you are. Let me say it again: it is OKAY to be where you are. This is hard for all of us. Do not give yourself a hard time if you are having a hard time. Take the steps you can every single day to make this a little bit easier on yourself. And do what you can not to judge yourself if it’s hard.
Some Other Resources You May Like:
- Headspace App for meditation
- Find a therapist: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
- Journal Prompts for Quarantine
- How to Surrender Control and Find Inner Peace