How to manage your mental health during quarantine
As we adjust to this new normal, we must remain cognizant of the pandemic’s effects on our mental health.
By Vanessa Vallon
From a lack of social interaction to a daily barrage of scary news headlines, the new normal has become, for many, a simple acceptance of living with high levels of stress. Although we may feel adjusted to this adrenalized existence, it can be worthwhile to take a step back and assess whether our mental health is where we want it to be.
Maintaining or improving our mental health is more important than ever, so we can both cope with and come out of this period with a newfound resiliency. Here are some easily applicable tips to help you prioritize your personal, as well as your family’s, emotional wellbeing during these strange times.
Pay (at least a little bit of) attention to your diet
Ok, we know we’re stuck at home and having a #summerbod isn’t exactly top of mind. But there’s still reason to keep an eye on what we’re consuming every day; put simply, nutritious foods help our bodies and minds function better, leading us to feel better. We all know the basics: whole foods, home-cooked meals, healthy snacks. As Michael Pollan succinctly puts it: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This doesn’t call for a complete diet overhaul or juice cleanse, rather, do your best to make healthy decisions and embrace the joy of cooking to execute your own delicious and nutritious recipes.
Take a few moments for gratitude
Many of us roll our eyes at #gratitude, but the simple practice is scientifically proven to have an effect on our health and wellbeing. Taking a few minutes of the day to think of a few things we’re grateful for is an instant mood-booster by enabling our minds to focus on what we do have, rather than what we’re missing. It can be as deep or straightforward as the moment calls for: whether it’s your cat, your home, your health or simply a glass of pinot grigio, there’s always something we can look towards with appreciation.
Build deliberate movement into your day
Exercise is proven to increase our moods, and although it’s something many have a hard time starting, the end results are worth moving through that initial hesitation. No longer forced to hype ourselves up for a run or self-directed floor workout, we can now turn to the Internet for all the guidance and motivation we seek. Barre, HIIT, Zumba, Yoga, Tango, you name it, there is a website and an enthusiastic teacher somewhere out there waiting to guide you.
Keep some sort of routine—and celebrate everyday accomplishments
It may sound uninspired, but sticking to a daily routine is surprisingly empowering. Try to wake up at the same time every day and follow some sort of morning regimen (the house recommends gratitude, exercise, and a healthy breakfast!) If working from home, log in and out around the same time everyday and try to stay focussed on work until (probably self-) designated breaks. Although it can be tempting to step away from work to unload the dishwasher, check in with a partner or kids, or get lost in the comment section of a bread blog (hey, we’re being honest here and procrastination knows no bounds), try your best to stay focussed on what you’re doing. Breaks will be much more rewarding if you’ve checked off a few items and stayed on track. Once the work day is over, have some fun! We’re not suggesting a scheduled plan for each evening, but having some plans—perhaps fun meals you intend to cook, a TV show you’ve been looking forward to, a Zoom meet up with friends, can give you something to look forward to during the day.
You can also build “micro-accomplishments” into your routine—little wins that can have a big effect. Think making the bed, doing the dishes after each meal, or making that annoying phone call to insurance you’ve put off for weeks. It all contributes to a sense of calm accomplishment at the end of the day, which can have a profound effect on mood and sleep.
Take breaks from the news
The news is one industry that is currently thriving. And although it’s important to stay up to date with the latest national and local updates and guidelines, there’s a fine line between staying informed and staying afraid. If you’re checking Twitter or news sites every hour, consider taking a step back and trusting that a dedicated daily update is probably enough. There’s only so much adrenaline our systems can tolerate without damage, and, as a reminder to you and ourselves, freaking out never really changes the outcome.
Keep in touch with friends and family
Last but certainly not least, stay social. We may have gone a little too hard on those initial Zoom meet-ups and happy hours and have taken a step back from these less-than-ideal hangs, but it’s still important to keep in touch with the people we love. It doesn’t have to be a big, pre-planned cal-invite affair, a simple phone call to mom or FaceTime with a pal can sometimes do the trick even better than a large digital gathering. Alternatively, if and only if you’re comfortable, a socially distanced IRL hang can be easily executed in a driveway, front porch, backyard or public park. It’s as simple as setting up distanced (and sanitized) chairs, speaking loudly, and trying your best not to annoy the neighbors.