If you’re overwhelmed by what everyone is calling your “new normal” in the days of social distancing, you are not alone. This is not normal and most of us are having a hard time with this transition. Here are five ways to care for your mental health during this temporary phase of social distancing.
Five Ways to Care for Your Mental Health During Social Distancing
Feel Your Feelings
There is a whole range of emotions you’re likely to feel during this time. Some of us may feel anxious, some of us sad and some may feel numb. You don’t have to push away all the negative emotions and press toward a constant positive attitude. Take time to feel upset, angry or sad. Cry if needed. Take moments to reflect on what you’re grateful for, but we don’t need to have a constant positive attitude.
Stay True To Who You Are
Look, we’ve all seen the schedules, lists of activities and web resources. But to protect your mental health, do what works for you, in the amount that works for you. If strict timelines aren’t your thing, ditch them for a flexible daily checklist. If a schedule keeps you sane, post it all over your house. Know yourself and what will help your mental health.
In addition to managing a new family schedule, know that it’s not healthy to shame yourself into beginning an unrealistic home workout routine or to tackle giant house projects just because you’re home. If the thought of starting something new causes more anxiety, ditch it. Stick with familiar hobbies which bring you comfort.
Spend Time Outdoors
It’s no secret that keeping your body moving is good for your mental health. As of now, guidelines state that spending time outdoors is still encouraged. This doesn’t mean you need to take up distance running or interval training in your back yard if this is not part of your normal daily routine. Get outside and take a moderate walk through the neighborhood. Drive to a new neighborhood or a trail if you need a change of scenery. This goes for kids too. They need to run, jump and move their bodies as well. Finding one small thing to look for helps to engage in your surroundings, rather than check out.
Connect When Possible
We are fortunate to live in a time of simple technology. We can talk, text and video conference for free. Create a group video chat with other friends for a virtual happy hour. Don’t feel the need to connect with family members or friends who are causing stress. It’s acceptable to remain unavailable to people who don’t positively contribute to your mental health.
When connecting with others, be sure to ask how they’re really feeling. It will help your mental health to be vulnerable in your feelings with others. Be sure when you’re checking in to genuinely connect and not pretend to be OK if you’re not. Lean into those who are checking on you.
Family and friends will be helpful, but they cannot replace your regular therapist, if you’re seeing one. Ask your provider to provide telephone sessions during this time. If you think you may need to start talking to a therapist, ask trusted family and friends for recommendations. Now is not the time to “power through.”
Ground Yourself in the Present
We absolutely need mental breaks. Some level of mindless scrolling on your phone or watching mindless TV is necessary at times. However, be sure to continue practicing self-care for your mental health. Spend some time doing something just for you that stimulates your brain. After a long day of working from home and caring for kids, take time to check out for a bit, but before going to bed for the night, spend even a small amount of time reading or engaging in a mentally stimulating conversation. Play cards or games, even if they’re online. Don’t check out completely.
Another aspect to grounding in the present is to keep up your daily rituals. You may be skipping a shower or full face of makeup, but do try to keep up your self-care routines. Brushing your teeth, washing your face and getting dressed in the morning can help you feel more human. Settling in at night and remembering your face cream and multivitamin will keep a sense of sanity for you as well.
Take this all in stride. One day at a time. It will pass, I promise. Take care. Forgive yourself and others. Go easy, friends.