Here we are, hunkering down at home for a while. Who would have thought? How do we survive with each other during this time of crisis? This in itself can be quite the stressor unless we practice some good strategies.
Here are some of the mental health practices oftentimes reviewed in the literature that you can install in your home to make the time go smoother for everyone during the lockdown period.
Have a routine – Grab onto some structure. Most of us are accustomed to some kind of structure, be it work duties at our jobs or school assignments at school. Now, with chaos arising at the home-front, having a routine is a good thing to incorporate; sleeping and eating schedules, exercise times, social distancing contacts, designated chores or duties, selected fun time with new and creative activities, and school and work time slots with designated breaks. It doesn’t have to be a prison for everyone, but it surely doesn’t have to be WWIII! Studies have shown that having a routine can help reduce boredom, reduce anxiety and depression and lead to more healthy patterns of coping. This format at home can then allow more energy to deal with other more important things that need to be tended to.
Don’t stop exercising because the gym is no longer open – Physical exercise is synced with good mental health. Get that heart pumping, build those muscles and make that body move. Cramped quarters can be a problem, but figure out how you can make it work – even if you have to have a shared group exercise program in the living room, or if you can find some exercises that allow you to stay in one place. It doesn’t take a genius.
Spend time in nature – even if it is through a TV channel, video or internet. It is calming to your soul and it definitely helps your body relax. There is much research that has found time in “green” and “blue” space is associated with a reduction in anxiety and depression as well as helps reduce the risk of chronic health issues. Being out in the sunshine, breathing air outside (with good social distancing) is a good habit for both your body and mind. In fact, some studies indicate that the chemicals released from the trees; phytoncides” can increase the immune cells that help keep the body healthy.
Re-arrange, clean out or organize your home – It makes you feel productive, you gain a sense of control over times of uncertainty, and gives you time to focus on something else besides the news flashes and all the media clips about the Corona-Virus.
Give yourself some time to breathe, be quiet, and meditate. It helps your body calm down, have better insight as to what is happening, and maintain a sense of internal control and confidence that this too shall pass.
Continue with your support team as you maintain social distancing – We are social creatures and need each other; that is how we were made. Take time to reach out and connect.
Keep your empathy at the forefront – While experiencing the sense of being home-bound, you now can realize what so many people regularly experience throughout their much of their lives. Reach out. – but don’t touch – at least not yet. Empathy is a great experience that makes you feel good all over. Doing acts of kindness and thinking of others before yourself all have huge mental health benefits. It provides you with a sense of purpose. It also helps you the opportunity to climb out of yourselves and give a bit of support and kindness to someone else that also needs it.
Be thankful – Recognizing your blessings, being grateful, trusting in a spirit greater than yourself can be hugely beneficial to mental health. Practicing thankfulness with others not only improves your mood, but those recipients of such grace. Don’t judge. Realize that we are all likely doing the best we can with what we got. Sit back and relax. We will get through this.
Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW