Surviving Quarantine: A Mental Health Survival Guide

Drastic times call for drastic measures and in the face of a global pandemic we have suddenly found ourselves, without much warning, quarantined in our homes with family, roommates, a significant other, or alone. These are unprecedented times and everyone is experiencing and processing the shelter-in-place order differently.  Maybe you feel like you are falling apart right now, having a hard time being socially isolated, struggling with 24/7 contact with family or roommates, grieving the life you used to know. Maybe you’re holding it together well and feel as though once it is all over, that will be your time to crumble. Maybe you are putting on a strong front and facing this head on and you won’t know how this will impact you for a very long time. This is all okay. Everyone is different and currently we’re all just doing the best we can. 

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get by as we navigate these world changes together.

 

Build a New Routine for a New Normal

In the face of uncertainty, when there is not much control we have on the timing of everything – creating a new routine will help to normalize this experience and allow for better functioning.  Having a separation between weekdays and weekend days can be important; this can be done by creating and sticking to a sleep schedule during the week and allowing for some wiggle room during the weekend. Getting up at a similar time in the mornings, showering, making coffee, eating breakfast, getting ready for the day will help to keep things structured. While it may be enticing to put sweats or yoga pants and a hoodie on everyday – getting dressed in work clothes will help the day feel like you are getting some separation between working from home and living at home. Changing into loungewear in the evenings will further help that separation.

Keeping a Clean Space

Due to the shelter-in-place order, we are spending the majority of our time in our homes, and as such it has become more important to keep a clean and organized space.  Research has shown a direct correlation between cleanliness and positive mental health. Cleaning has a positive effect on our mental health by helping us gain a sense of control over our environment and because we don’t have much control over this situation, this is something you do have control over. In addition, the act of cleaning in and of itself can also help improve your mood, calm your mind, and provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. As a result, clean homes are proven to reduce stress, improve happiness, and increase productivity at home. This is especially important as productivity can be less due to the current crisis. 

Plan something to look forward to

According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, planning a vacation can be more cathartic and bring more joy than actually going on the vacation. Now, don’t get me wrong, after this is all over, which it will eventually end, we will all need a vacation. Now would be a great time to start planning. Use your extra free-time to research and look into places you have wanted to visit. Whether you picture yourself sitting on the beach drinking a fruity beverage or exploring a new city – this will give you a chance to focus your attention on something positive while also planning something fun to look forward to.  If a vacation isn’t your cup of tea, find something that is and plan for it whether that means events with friends or family, concerts or a nice dinner out; start the process now.

Plan Virtual Social Hours with Friends

Social isolation is incredibly difficult and we are all feeling the effects of not being able to see our friends and loved ones. Due to the shelter-in-place order this has become the norm during this time. In order to combat loneliness and feelings of being isolated, try organizing a Virtual Social Hour.  There are several free platforms that offer the opportunity to continue to get together with friends and family in order to support one another through this. This can also include watching a movie together or doing a happy hour with drinks. 

Exercise

You don’t need a gym to continue your exercise routine. The positive effects of exercise on mental health are endless and continuing your routine will also keep structure in your life so it’s not as hard to go back to it after the shelter-in-place order has lifted. There are many ways you can still get in a good workout; there are apps that are providing free trial memberships – like Peloton and Beach Body, that have online classes, live or recorded; your gym may be doing virtual workouts to help you stay in shape; getting outside for some sunshine and fresh air by going for a walk or jog is also a good option as well. 

Try a new hobby

This is the time to try that new hobby you have been meaning to get to. Crocheting and/or knitting, reading, gardening, paint-by-numbers, painting and drawing, puzzles, candle or soap making, learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, baking or cooking new recipes are all hobbies that can be done in the comfort of your home and may serve as a way to structure and fill time as well as break up time spent on devices and binge watching TV. Hobbies can help to lower stress levels and anxieties, will give you something to talk about and can even help you make new friends by joining virtual groups about the hobby that interests you most. Additionally, Pinterest is a helpful, free website offering thousands of ideas on DIY projects, recipes, how-to tutorials, plus much more. Fender, the guitar company, is currently offering 3 free months of online guitar lessons from their website. Insight Timer is a great free app that has a plethora of guided meditations for any level or emotion you may be feeling. There are many options available to try activities from home.

Give yourself Grace

As we continue to move through these uncharted territories please remember whatever you are feeling is allowed. Each day is different and there will be ups and downs; good days and not so good days. This is ok.  Be kind to yourself. Maybe one day you are feeling really productive and organize your house or get a ton of work done; maybe the next isn’t so productive. Allow yourself to feel your feelings and know this is temporary. This can also be a time where you decide what you want to take out of quarantine – what has become important to you in your routine and the time you have spent in reflection of yourself and your circumstance. What you feel like you want to incorporate into your life and things that no longer serve a bigger purpose for you. Give yourself permission to examine what has been positive during this experience and incorporate it into life outside of the shelter in place order. Remember, if you feel like you need it, reach out for support from friends, family, and professionals. We are all in this together. 

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