6 Ways to Protect Your Mental Wellness While in Quarantine
Most people across the world are taking it upon themselves to quarantine at home in order to prevent the spread of the recent coronavirus outbreak. With that, many have found themselves struggling to handle this disruption to their normal daily lives. When we’re taken out of our regular routines, our mental health tends to take the biggest toll.
Since this is a global outbreak that’s quite beyond our control, self-isolation is doing more harm than good to many of us - mentally speaking. Yes, we’re all keeping safe from COVID-19 itself, but as we do so, we’re throwing ourselves into a cabin fever-like state.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are a number of both mental and physical health risks people face when quarantining. These include: ¹
Difficulty managing emotions
Difficulty remembering information and following directions
Impaired executive function
Poor cardiovascular health
Though these risks are critical, we’re taking them in order to ensure the national health system isn’t overwhelmed and fewer people are likely to be infected with COVID-19. With that said, as we all do our part by quarantining, we’re going to offer you some ways to overcome these potential risks and teach you how to better take care of your mental wellness.
Potential Mental Health Challenges of Quarantine
It’s important to remember that everyone’s psychology works differently. Therefore, their reaction to the situation our world currently finds itself in will naturally vary. While some people are completely panicked, others will likely feel more depressed.
In a 2019 review by The Lancet, it was found that quarantine may have the following experiences on people: ²
Fear (sometimes paranoia)
Post-traumatic stress symptoms
Though these symptoms will most likely only last for the period of quarantine itself, some people may find themselves experiencing long-term consequences. For example, people who are currently having these experiences and turning to drugs and alcohol to cope are vulnerable to developing a substance abuse disorder.
How to Cope Through Quarantine
If you’ve been experiencing negative emotions since this quarantine began, it’s important to ground your mental wellness and bring back the positivity. Yes, this pandemic will affect us all at the moment. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that this isn’t going to last forever.
With that said, it’s highly beneficial to begin rebuilding your mental wellness while you’re still in quarantine. The following are 6 ways on how to protect your mental health during this time:
1.) Develop a Routine
Our brains are much more comfortable when they’re directed towards a daily pattern. ³ For many of us, this quarantine has thrown our lives off-balance and broken us from our regular routines. Some are working from home while others are laid off until this all blows over.
The best thing you can do at this moment is to establish a routine for yourself. Consider how your daily life was before quarantine and try to restructure your day to it as much as possible. If this is all too difficult, then start a new routine - whatever that may be.
For those with families, this will be making sure your kids do their academic work during the times they normally would. For those who lost their jobs, this may mean picking up a hobby that’s similar or fills you with similar passion - then doing that hobby during your normal work hours.
Truly, you can get creative with your routine. The important thing to remember is that you stick to it and we promise your brain will thank you in the long run.
2.) Stay Active
When you’re stuck at home for long stretches of time, it’s easy to get a bit too comfortable relaxing. We get it, there’s so much to binge on Netflix and so much time at your disposal.
However, when you don’t participate in activities - even for just a short period of time - it can have highly negative consequences on your mental health. For example, one study found that within just two weeks of idleness, participants experienced a decrease in muscle mass and metabolic effects. ⁴
So, what can you do to keep yourself active while you’re isolated inside?
For one, there are a number of ways to workout at home. With the advent of YouTube, a quick search will give you tons of ideas on how to keep active all while under your own roof. Maintaining fitness is not only a great way to get your body and brain going again, but it’s also an anecdote for boredom.
If possible, we also suggest getting outside every so often. We understand that quarantine means staying indoors and away from others, but the outdoors has such a positive effect on your mental health, it’s too hard to ignore. Even just 30 minutes taking a quick hike in the woods or around your neighborhood could make all the difference.
Of course, always make sure you follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
3.) Don’t Battle with Frustration and Boredom
One of the reasons many of us are stressed out is simply because we’re bored. When we have nothing better to do, we find ourselves desiring to learn as much information as possible. Obviously, the hot topic right now is COVID-19. However, diving deep into coronavirus research isn’t necessarily the best way to handle our boredom.
It’s important for us to step away from everything happening in the world and to remember what we have control over. Research has found that people tend to develop anxiety when they lose their sense of control and, in turn, become distressed over what could happen. ⁵
So, what can you do in order to beat boredom?
Well, consider what you’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s writing that novel you’ve had floating around your head for years or learning to code that software that you’ve been thinking so much about.
Though this quarantine is a blow to many of us, a quick change in perspective shows that it could also be an opportunity to accomplish what we’ve always wanted to.
4.) Stay in Communication
We as humans are social creatures. With that said, self-isolation can have a very damaging effect on our natural ambition to simply communicate with others. With that said, it’s vital to talk to people as much as possible.
Whether through a phone call, social media, or a Skype call, make sure you’re keeping in touch and staying connected. If you’re having trouble handling your mental health during this time, then we definitely suggest you look into online support groups and discussion boards.
Remember, you aren’t alone in this battle. Many people are also struggling and a bit of communication can help us all in major ways.
5.) Don’t Consume Too Much Information
To put it bluntly, the media currently has everyone in a state of panic. Though it may be in their interest to simply inform us, they aren’t doing anything to help us cope with our mental wellness.
Of course, it’s always beneficial for us to stay informed on the current situation. We’re not saying to avoid the news at all costs. Simply, we suggest you don’t take in too much information. Immersing yourself in every little report that comes out about COVID-19 can have damaging effects on your short-term mental health.
Not to mention, there’s a lot of misinformation spreading online about COVID-19 and the pandemic as a whole. Much of this information induces an unnecessary fear many are falling victim to. We highly suggested you only get your information from sources that are generally trusted.
6.) Remember the Importance of Quarantine
The purpose of quarantine may seem unnecessary at times - especially if you are young and healthy. That’s why it’s important to remember why it was initially put into place.
All throughout history, quarantines have been shown to be an effective measure in reducing the number of people who are infected with a virus. Through quarantine, many of those who struggle with compromised immune systems are also protected. And, finally, it helps the healthcare system tremendously as it becomes less overwhelmed with patients.
By sticking to quarantine, you aren’t merely protecting yourself. You’re playing your part in a much bigger picture.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Professional Support
If you’ve been struggling with a mental health condition for some time and you find that the current pandemic has only worsened that condition, there is a lot of help available. Though you may not be able to go into a therapist’s office at this time, there are plenty of online resources at your disposal.
Furthermore, if you were receiving treatment prior to the outbreak, the CDC highly recommends you continue your treatment during this time. ⁶
We know times are stressful and seem entirely uncertain. But through quarantine, it’s almost guaranteed the next few months will be an easier ride in comparison to if we weren’t self-isolating. With that said, it’s important we all play our role in the matter.
Stay home and flatten the curve. But make sure you check in on your mental wellness in the meantime.
While we find ourselves in isolation, it’s easy for us to get become anxious, depressed, and stressed. However, if we stay busy, continue talking to loved ones, and maintain some structure, we will benefit from all this in the long run.
¹ American Psychological Association: The risks of social isolation
³ National Public Radio: The Habitual Brain: How Routine Action And Thought Are The Structure Of Life
⁴ SAGE journals: Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism
⁵ Journal of Family Psychology: Sense of Control Predicts Depressive and Anxious Symptoms Across the Transition to Parenthood
⁶ CDC: Outbreaks can be stressful