10 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health During Isolationby Janet Zadina on 03/16/20
distancing is critical right now to save lives, it can create or exacerbate
mental health issues. Too much time on
our hands can lead to rumination, increasing stress levels. Isolation can create loneliness and increase
stress. Fear can take over and lead to
too much binge-watching, alcohol abuse or other unhealthy ways of coping.
Having a coping plan will help.
currently writing a workbook on anxiety, stress, trauma and the brain. One chapter gives research-based strategies
for reducing stress on a daily basis. In
this blog, I am not going into the detail that I would there. I am going to list some strategies and
examples of how I applied them yesterday.
Keep in mind
that we can’t avoid stress, especially now.
We must periodically recover from stress so that it
doesn’t increase our allostatic load to the point of creating physical and
mental health problems. Just as you
physically rest and recover periodically during physical fatigue, you must do
the same with mental stress. This
recovery needs to be deliberate and frequent.
Here are some strategies from the book along with suggestions from my
life. Every day I will implement these strategies in different ways, doing as
many as I can. You might want to make
yourself a checklist and track how many you can do a day or keep a journal.
not explained here, these strategies are shown in scientific research to reduce
anxiety and/or depression.
meaning in life: My work gives me purpose and
meaning. However, with my events being
cancelled, I don’t have talks to write.
This will give me time to focus on my new book and I will schedule
normal work hours to do that. What gives your life meaning and how can you
incorporate that? Reach out to
family? Maybe this is a good time to
think about that and plan for the future.
- Exercise: I
am fortunate that I have a yard that I can enjoy. I did a little weeding.
Sunshine is antiviral. I am currently sunburned LOL. You can probably still go for a walk even
when social distancing. How about some online exercise classes?
- Relationships: Ok
this is where social distancing may create the most stress. Fortunately, we have many ways we can still
have meaningful relationships.
Obviously, we can do Face Time and texting. Maybe you could reach out to
people you never had time to keep up with.
I had a phone call and texts with my grown nephews, something we are all
so busy we don’t take time to do often. Reach out to a different person every
others: I sent a check to my cleaning person
because she can’t come here. Maybe you
can pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor or help small business with an
and flow: Getting absorbed in something where
the time flies is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Crafts and hobbies are great. Don’t think you
have to be a “creative” person. You
might color, journal, cook, or listen to music. I wanted to use up the flour
and sugar while I still had necessary ingredients such as milk and eggs, so I
baked muffins and biscuits. Maybe this
is the time you could learn another language or take another type of online
class in something you have always been interested in.
- Organizing: While
there isn’t scientific research on organizing per se, it is something that
calms the brain and gets your mind off anxieties. It can create a sense of flow. I am reorganizing how I store things on the
floor of my closets. You might clean one
junk drawer or go through clothes to see what you can donate later. Go through
photos with the kids and make an album.
and projects: Remind yourself and your family that
there will be life after this and use the time to make it better. I painted a bedroom. It got my mind of things and relaxed me for
Plan a trip for when this is over or rearrange furniture. Keep moving forward.
- Distraction: While
it wouldn’t be healthy to binge watch all day (and that actually increases
stress in your body although it gets your mind off things), allow yourself some
limited time daily for pleasurable distraction. I watched Bombshell last night. Play board games, read, and watch shows.
and spirit: Meditation has been shown to reduce
anxiety, stress, and trauma. If you have
never tried it, get online and give it a try.
There are many kinds. Probably
the easiest would be to find some guided imagery meditations online or try an
app such as Calm, Buddify, or Headspace, so you can quickly calm down by
listening and being guided through a meditation. Prayer is meditation. My friend said she got dressed in her church
clothes yesterday and watched a service on tv.
I did my gratitudes at night and watched the birds and the butterflies,
clearing my mind of all but that to the extent that I could – mindfulness
and recover: Being confined to home instead of
being at work allows for a nap!