Thousands of people across the globe right now are currently undergoing social distancing or quarantined as a measure to counteract the novel coronavirus. Whether you’re staying inside by your own choice or because you’ve been exposed, the effects on mental health are similar. Not feeling like you have an option to leave your home, especially when out of fear or stress, can lead to a lot of damage to mental health and keeping a positive mindset.
Getting a little bit of time outside everyday contributes a lot to mood, mental, and even physical health. Our bodies produce vitamin D when we’re exposed to it, which directly regulates our immune system, reduces inflammation, and improves your mood. Quarantining and social distancing is not only a battle of mental health and keeping your brain occupied at home, but also missing out on the vitamins and natural resources we need to regulate vitality and mood.
Finding Productive Ways to Spend Time
When we’re presented with challenges like extended quarantine and social distancing, it’s essential to find or create outlets to channel our energy. When we engage in activities that our brain perceives as both entertaining and productive (e.g., working on a skill, a hobby, etc.), we’re releasing the necessary dopamine levels that we need on a daily basis while simultaneously doing something that we perceive as worth our time. This balance can be a contributing factor to maintaining positive mental health while spending most of our time at home. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities and steps available that fit this criteria; it’s just about finding out which is the right one for you personally.
Finding a creative activity or hobby to engage in can be a great way to spend time and possibly work on a skill. Building or working on a skill is an almost surefire way to help lift spirits while indoors. Take the time to read a book, try out painting, practice an instrument, watch a new movie, the list can go on. Anything that engages your brain and encourages creative thought will help facilitate dopamine release and contribute directly to your happiness and well-being. Being mindful of your choice to spend your time productively can always help a little bit as well!
Diet & Exercise
Physically taking care of yourself is tremendously valuable as well. Many of us do not have access to a gym or workout equipment in general, but there’s still plenty of things we can do to stay active. If you are young and in good health and need to move around, taking a walk or jog around your neighborhood or street is fine as long as you are taking the appropriate precautions like staying away from crowds and maintaining a few feet of distance from others at all times. Stay in touch with information about the disease; as our understanding of how coronavirus is spread is still developing.
If going outside to exercise is not a choice or your preference, that’s alright too! Find or clear some space where you can in your home and make it a goal to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. Simple cardio exercises, yoga, or dancing are some examples of physical activities that are not too reliant on a lot of space. You can also use outlets like TV, video games, or reading materials to guide you through workout routines.
On top of exercise, eating healthily improves your mood and energy levels. When our lifestyles are taking a shift towards being slightly more sedentary, eating healthily becomes increasingly important. You are much more likely to spend your time doing productive activities and being mindful of your health when your body is receiving the energy and nutrients it needs instead of junk food or empty calories. Taking the time to learn more about cooking is another creative skill you can develop as well! It’s a win-win exchange.
Take Brief Breaks
Make sure to take occasional breaks from news outlets, especially ones actively covering the novel coronavirus. Staying informed is incredibly important, but it can be a serious challenge to your health to keep a constant pulse on what’s going on. Unless there’s a specific reason you need to stay engaged all the time, taking breaks can reduce stress and anxiety about the situation. Do not approach news breaks as pushing your problems out of mind, but as a temporary healthy distancing to take time to maintain your health (kind of like social distancing, but for your brain).
Maintain Your Relationships
This might be a given for some, but call or text your friends to let them know how you’re doing! Your close friends and family will likely want to see how you’re holding up, and probably will want to update you on their own health as well. Even if you’re calling just to take turns having venting sessions, a quick conversation is a great way to express your feelings. If you’re possibly not in the position to meet up in person, a phone call can still be a great mood lifter when other options are sparse.
Being mindful and spending your time wisely during hard times will help you keep a positive outlook and mental health space. While there’s no sure or consistent way to retain strong and resilient mental health, these are known to work at least some degree for most people. Stay strong and work hard, and soon this will be behind us and an issue of the past.