Maintaining Good Mental Health During The COVID Lockdown
As many of us are being told to lock down in our homes, and limit trips outside and social contact, things are feeling pretty “real” at this point. Aside from the general worry people may have about their physical health as they digest the news from around the world and here at home, there’s the larger toll this is taking on our collective mental health.
Lots of organizations have put forth guidelines to help combat the stress of the coronavirus pandemic, and with good reason: One of the main weapons we have to fight the virus is social distancing—a deeply unnatural practice for humans, but an essential one.
Here are some of the mental health practices to make sure you keep doing—or begin doing, during the lockdown period.
Have a routine (as much as you can)
We know how important routine is, especially for kids, under normal conditions. And when schools are closed and many people are working from home or told to stay at home, it might feel like all bets are off. But it’s actually much better for everyone’s mental health to try to keep a routine going, as much as possible.
This means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking and exercising at set times. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.
So in the morning, rather than wondering whether to start work or help the kids with their online learning, it’s better to know what you’re going to do—make a schedule that everyone can get on board with, and try to stick with it as much as is possible (don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t always work, and it sure won’t some days).
Be of service, from a distance
Being of service is one of the best things we can do for society—and on a more selfish note, for ourselves. Studies have found that serving others, even via small acts of kindness, has strong and immediate mental health benefits.
Feeling a sense of purpose has also been shown to help people recover from negative events and build resilience.
For people who are lucky enough to be healthy right now and not caring for a loved one who’s sick, finding ways to help others in this kind of crisis is probably very good for your own well-being. So, make use of technology to check in on others, or maybe pick up a few groceries on your next shop for essentials for someone who may be stuck at home.
This is not the easiest thing to do in these times, particularly if you’ve felt the more brutal effects of the pandemic, like job or business loss, or even illness. But practicing gratitude for the things we do have has been shown again and again to be hugely beneficial to mental health.
So even though it might be a challenge right now, write down some of the things you’re thankful for.
Start an at-home exercise routine
Working out at home in these times is obviously a good way to stay healthy and kill indoor time. There are lots of options online, from Instagram and YouTube clips, maybe you could dig out the old-fashioned workout videos or the dusty hand weights in your cupboard.
Many online workout sources are offering free access or longer free trial periods during this time, which might be worth looking into. But again, anything that gets your heart pumping or builds muscle is excellent for both physical and mental health.
Declutter your home
Working on your home if you have time can be a good way to feel productive and in control.
Take the opportunity of the extra time by decluttering, cleaning or organizing your space. Studies say the predictability of cleaning not only offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty, but also offers your mind body and soul a respite from stress.
You don’t want to become obsessive about cleaning, since there’s only so much you can do. But using the extra time, if you have it, to reorganize and toss or donate items you no longer use is a very good idea.
Let yourself off the hook
This might be the most important thing to keep in mind—don’t beat yourself up when things are not going perfectly in your household. On top of everything else, being upset with yourself is totally counterproductive.
If the kids watch too much Netflix or play too many hours of video games, it’s not the end of the world. Things are going to be hairy for a while, and if you can’t stick to your schedule or can’t fit in your at-home workout every day, it’s really not such a big deal in the long run.
It’s much more valuable to everyone to cut yourself some slack, use the time to reflect on the important things, and try to keep a sense of “we’re all in this together” at the forefront.