In the face of this pandemic, we’re doing what we can to prevent the spread of the virus and the worsening of the global situation. Which means we’re being responsible by not gathering in groups, practicing social distancing, and working from home. Abiding by those World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control guidelines is definitely a good thing. But it also means we’re stuck inside by ourselves without the daily structure we’re used to, often without any company, and with a whole lot more boredom. Not to mention we’re all worried about our health, our families, our finances, and the rest of the world. It can be overwhelming to think about, and can therefore take a toll on mental health.
But the last thing anyone needs right now is for their mental health to be affected. The best thing to do is try to cope effectively. Here are eight ways to stay mentally healthy during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Move your body
We all know that exercise improves our moods by producing the chemical endorphins that make us feel good, and that makes exercise a great way to cope with the world’s current period of stress. Maybe you’ve even been telling yourself for a while to start exercising. It might seem like it would be harder to do while being quarantined, but what better way to fill your day than doing something healthy for yourself? There are plenty of ways to move your body from home so you can start to feel its benefits. YouTube is filled with workout and yoga videos that you can follow along with, and many of them require no equipment. Personal trainers are using Instagram Live to give free classes throughout the day. If you’d rather go at your own pace, Pinterest is filled with exercise lists and diagrams and ideas.
2. Be careful how you use social media
Mindlessly scrolling through your social media apps all day can get to you even in the best of circumstances. But now, Facebook feeds are filled with stories of fights happening over toilet paper and complaints about boredom. Even positive stories of love and kindness during coronavirus can serve to remind you of the crisis we’re all facing. It’s mentally draining to be reminded of such things, so be careful. When you pick up your phone or open your laptop, be mindful of how it’s affecting you. Using it as entertainment is definitely fine (and let’s face it: it can be fun to see what our friends are up to or laugh at a funny or relevant meme), but be aware of how you can manage the stress it can bring.
3. Use technology to connect emotionally
Being physically distanced doesn’t mean we have to be emotionally distanced too. We can still be close to one another by talking on the phone and sending each other text messages. We can still entertain each other by sharing Tik Tok videos and playing games against each other online. Services like Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo, or Zoom are great for video calling, and by using them, we can keep each other company virtually. Many people are getting creative by creating chat rooms and channels where they can “hang out” together over the internet while playing the same things or mixing the same drink. Reaching out to ask for support however you need to can do a great deal to boost morale and feel connected.
4. Get dressed every morning
In addition to simply getting up according to your normal routine, getting dressed normally can also work to improve your mental health. The act of changing out of your pajamas into regular clothes can be incredibly beneficial during this time. It signals to your brain that it’s time to start the day. And according to Jennifer Musselman, quoted in a recent Refinery 29 article, “putting on an outfit in the morning releases neurotransmitters in our brains including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins,” which are chemicals in our brain that control our mood, “sparking a sense of purpose.” The old adage “if you look good, you feel good” rings particularly true in this situation.
5. Nourish your body with healthy food
The food we eat has a tremendous influence on our mental health. An article by doctor Maxine Barish-Wreden published on Sutter Health’s website talks about how an inadequate diet can worsen or even lead to stress and depression. It details how sugar and processed foods are associated with inflammation in the body and brain, and therefore may contribute to issues regarding mood. We already knew that eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables is good for us, but it’s important to make the connection between their essential nutrients, brain function, and our mental health. When our brains are functioning properly, we feel better. So when everything else is chaotic and unpredictable, fueling our bodies with what it needs is a great way to help ourselves cope better.
6. Practice self-care
We’ve been hearing about the importance of self-care for a while now. It most typically brings images of bubble baths and facemasks to mind, but self-care is simply anything we do that helps us relax, promotes emotional wellbeing, or shows love for ourselves. It can mean mindful meditation for some, journaling or coloring for others, or even preparing and enjoying a healthy meal. Regardless of what it is for each person, self-care is important because we rely on ourselves every day to do important things and take care of what needs to be done. We have to give back to ourselves in order to do all that. Since there’s been a large conversation about the importance of spending time working on ourselves, and since we currently have an abundance of time to ourselves, it feels like now is an ideal time to make self-care practices a priority. Do whatever you define as self-care, and let your mind heal while the world is trying to do the same.
7. Limit exposure to news and virus updates
Right now, we’re consuming news more than we usually do out of concern and boredom. People are “panic scrolling” for hours, and it’s becoming a problem. We have to be conscious of what overconsumption of news and media does to our mental health. It’s good to want to be informed about the global situation because it helps us feel in control and secure. But politicians and medical professionals and experts and people on the internet don’t have all the answers we want them to have right now. Being aware of that fact is critical. So try to get used to putting your phone away, stepping away from your laptop, and distracting yourself in a healthy way.
8. Focus on what you can control
The uncertainty that comes with the pandemic is difficult for all of us. Although we’re desperate for answers and information, there’s still so much that leaders and medical officials aren’t sure of. But we know we can control our own actions. And we know staying home and practicing social distancing is our best chance of stopping the spread of the virus. Being patient with yourself is also something important you can control. For example, if you’re struggling with working or studying from home, remind yourself that it’s an adjustment and that sometimes just getting through the day is an accomplishment. You can control what movies or shows you watch, and choose to watch more positive and uplifting things. You can control how often you reach out to friends and loved ones over the phone or internet, and you can control how often you tell them you care about them. You can control how grateful you are, and choose to count the blessings you still have in your life. Remembering the little things we can still do for ourselves gives us more confidence that we’ll be able to survive the challenges we’re facing right now.
The pandemic is affecting everyone on the planet in one way or another, but its impact on mental health is something to consider seriously. Being worried, lonely, bored, and confused is problematic to begin with. The fact that we’re in crisis adds to that tenfold. In addition to taking care of our physical health and remaining in our homes to halt the spread of the virus, taking care of our minds and emotions is something we should all be working on.
“Home.” Sutter Health, www.sutterhealth.org/health/nutrition/eating-well-for-mental-health.
Radin, Sara. “The Case For Getting Dressed.” Why You Should Get Dressed During Covid-19 Quarantine, www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/03/9601567/reasons-to-get-dressed-in-coronavirus-quarantine.