During a global health crisis like the current pandemic, people around the world are being urged to stay at home and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. While doing so is beneficial for the community at large, it can also be isolating, boring and extremely stressful—particularly for people who aren’t accustomed to spending lots of time inside or alone.
On top of social distancing, the constant stream of news and the rapidly changing economic and health atmospheres might be making your head spin. This is normal, but it can lead to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression. In order to protect your mental and physical health, it’s really important to take time during self-isolation to focus on de-stressing and improving wellness.
Reframe your thoughts about social isolation
Shaking feelings of anxiety or depression isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. In times like these, it’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed, scared or sad about what the future holds. However, being consumed by these feelings 24/7 could really affect your mental health over time, as well as your sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress levels—all of which impact the immune system. Now, more than ever, is a time to focus on relieving stress.
If you’re stuck at home due to quarantine or social distancing, try to reframe the way you view your current situation. Rather than ruminate on how scary the global situation is, focus on how you’re doing your part to keep others safe and healthy and how your community can get through this together.
Additionally, consider the many ways you can take advantage of this unfortunate situation for personal growth. Whether your job has been put on hold or you’re working from home, you’ve probably been given some extra time and flexibility for other activities.
Consider spending your excess time on fun, active and stress-relieving choices like these:
- Media diet & meditate: One of the major problems people are facing right now is the overwhelming amount of news and updates surrounding the pandemic. Consuming article after article and Tweet after Tweet can raise your stress levels and make you more scared than you were before. If you’re finding yourself in this situation daily, put your phone away and try a media diet. In the time that you would be scrolling through social media, do a short meditation session, instead. Focusing on your breathing or an encouraging mantra can do a lot to calm you down and center your thoughts.
- Do daily yoga: Exercise is still important, even when you’re stuck at home. Fortunately, you can get moving and de-stress through activities like yoga. Use a popular yoga app on your phone or practice alongside an instructor on YouTube each morning, evening, or whenever you need a break. This lets you stretch, relieve some tension and unwind while getting your blood pumping.
- Start a gratitude journal: In times of fear and uncertainty, it can be extremely helpful to focus on the good things in life—the things that bring you joy every day. If you catch yourself focusing on the “what ifs” and fears of the future, start a gratitude journal! As part of your nightly routine, write down one thing you’re grateful for—whether that’s good health, a happy family, a stable job or even something as simple as the ability to eat a healthy meal each day. Focusing on the good can help you outweigh the bad.
- Learn a new skill: With a lot of time on your hands, it might be easy to fall into bad habits or a spiral of negative thoughts. Keep yourself busy by diving into a skill you’ve always been interested in but didn’t have time to learn! Make a goal to spend an hour or so on this skill per day. You might begin to learn a new language, explore your artistic side through a new craft or even take an online class! Not only will you keep your hands and mind occupied, but you’ll grow a little (or a lot) in the process and perhaps even discover a new passion.
- Declutter your home: For a lot of people, cleaning or decluttering is stress-relieving and creates the feeling of a new start. If you have a spare afternoon, tackle that closet project you’ve pushed off for months or reorganize your pantry to make it cleaner and more functional. Exercising some control over your surroundings while jamming out to music or listening to an uplifting podcast can help you blow off some steam and make you feel more comfortable in your home!
- Call a friend: We can’t get through this alone. Everyone is feeling a little isolated and scared right now, but we can help each other ease those burdens by lending an ear. If you need to talk through things—or you’re willing to help others do the same—call a friend or family member once a day. Leaning on your support system can do a lot to relieve stress and remind you that you aren’t on your own.
Remember: You don’t have to be productive!
One last thing to note is that, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed with stress, it’s okay to not be productive. Even if your friends and family are organizing their homes, taking classes or exercising for hours each day, you need to do what is best for you to de-stress. If that means reading a book or just hanging out on the couch for a while, that’s totally fine!
First and foremost, you should use this period of social isolation to stay calm, relax and keep yourself mentally and physically healthy—in whatever ways work for you.