I know things are crazy right now. Whether like me, you’ve been asked to work from home, or whether you’re simply on hiatus from work, you’re probably still in your house, between four walls, and going a little crazy. I know I am . . . And it’s hard. As humans, we are social creatures. Most of us need to engage, to talk to others. Being alone, being isolated, is enough to make us bonkers.
But at a time when the entire world is suffering the same, we have to be mindful of our mental health. And of how to take care of it. What the best ways are to keep us busy. What to watch out for, and when to seek help. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts I put together on both topics.
Mental Health Comes First
It’s usually not a priority. It always get pushed back behind work, kids, pets, and other things. Well, now’s the time to put it front and center. A few best ways to do so:
1. Don’t let yourself go
- Set a schedule. Keep to regular working hours that include taking breaks, eating lunch, and getting some fresh air. A set routine will also help to decrease the tendency to work beyond your established work hours.
- Stay connected. Set up a channel on a social network for impromptu, informal workplace conversations. Call or text a “work buddy” to share how your day is going. Hearing friendly voices and maintaining social connection can help combat the loneliness that some employees may experience while working from home.
- Make time for self-care. Get enough sleep, eat healthily, and integrate regular exercise into your day. The gym may be closed, but the outdoors are not. Try to include a daily 20-30 minute walk in your day.
2. Choose happiness
Change is inevitable. When you’re expecting it, the transition can feel easy. When you’re not, it can be devastating. While we cannot always choose our circumstances, we can choose our attitude in how we move forward through them. When we choose to adopt a positive mindset, or take action to make ourselves or our situations better, the by-product is happiness.
- Consider the words you use, whether in your thoughts or in your communication with others. Your choice in language sets the tone for your outlook.
- Surround yourself with positivity: people, ideas, and things that make you feel good!
- Every situation likely has a positive you can extract from it. Shift your focus to noticing the positives in a situation. Concentrating on things that you feel good about, or noticing the good out there in the world, will undoubtedly create a carryover effect into other areas.
- Pay it forward and do something kind for someone else, just because. Not only might this make someone else feel happy, but you may find that this increases your own positive well-being.
- Practice self-awareness. Notice how you and your needs may fluctuate. What feels good for you today may be similar to or different from last week.
3. Allow escape
I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m a Netflix binger most weekends, but when I truly need escape? Nothing compares to curling up and reading a good book.
Reading serves two main benefits: it exercises your brain, and it provides an escape. Many authors have joined together to offer their books for free, and to help their readers in this time of need. Take advantage of those offers, scout social media, and dig into new books, and the benefits on your mind will be heartfelt. Stress, mother of all problems, will be the first to leave you alone.
Don’t believe me? One study conducted realized that reading can reduce stress levels by 68%. Even more notably, it works better and faster than listening to music or going for a walk.
I know it’s tempting to read the news day in and day out. But minimize that, and instead pick up the latest thriller or fantasy. For myself, I just wrapped up Verity by Colleen Hoover and it was amazing!
Plenty of research has shown that cuddling up with a book before bed improves sleep. Some doctors in the UK even prescribe books to treat depression!
So rather than read the news or be on your phone every night before bed, cuddle up with a good book. Better yet, make it a game! Have a every family member read one and spend your weekends debating the pros and cons. Stress relief and relationship builder, all in one!
4. Breathe fresh air
I’m not saying break self isolation. But if you have dogs, they’re probably going just as stir crazy as you are. Take them for a walk—at night, or early morning—when there are fewer people around. If you do run into anyone, keep your distance. Don’t let the dogs touch. But the fresh air will do you, and the doggos, good. And if you’re afraid to go out? Try your backyard or balcony. Take precautions, but try a few minutes every day.
5. Find a new hobby
Lastly, finding a new hobby or project could give you a purpose. This could be learning a new language, writing, whatever. Something you’ve been putting off. Find that something for yourself—not the family, the in laws, or anyone else!—and set aside time to do it. You don’t have to devote hours upon hours. Set aside 2–3 hours every day for yourself, and whether that project is reading more or building a new deck, split it into little tasks that you can do every day. If you can find a project to keep your mind busy, it will be good for you and improve your routine. You’ll feel less lost, and the exercise for your body and mind will also help your stress levels. If you can find a project with your significant other, or your kids, even better!
What to Watch out for
In being mindful of yourself, you have to also watch out for signs that imply something else is going on. If you are living alone, this is doubly important.
Things to watch out for:
- Having a hard time getting out of bed or finding motivation for basic things
- Eating too much or too little
- Changes in sleep patterns that affect your daily routine
- Overdoing alcohol or drug use as a way to escape reality
- Massive fatigue
- Being less optimistic than others, seeing only the negative side of things
- Loss of concentration
- Lack of interest in hobbies and anything that made you happy before
- Exacerbation of physical pains
- Being angry or irritable nonstop
If you find some of these symptoms are occurring more and more with you, speak with your friends, your family, but most of all your doctor. A lot of health practices have set up telephone systems to put you in touch with a medical practitioner. Don’t let things get out of hand, and seek help. This is a rough time, but we will get through it. And we’ll come out at the other end stronger.
One Last Note
Make sure you keep in touch with family and friends over phone or video chat. Texts are good, but seeing someone’s face (even if on a screen) helps more and will also improve your overall outlook and leave you feeling less isolated.
What have you done to feel happier and less isolated during the COVID-19 quarantine?