The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic changed our socialization habits seemingly in an instant, and while physical distancing measures are slowly being lifted in different parts of the country, there are still many who are self-isolating or will need to again in the future.
Whether you’re self-isolating or simply social distancing, you’re probably feeling anxious, sad, stressed, and a multitude of other feelings — all of which are perfectly normal!
The isolation brought about by COVID-19 gathering restrictions has brought about a unique set of problems, requiring creative solutions, but, there are simple steps you can take to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
It’s easy for our thoughts to spiral out of control when we have nothing to keep us occupied. Start by making yourself a schedule (and doing your best to stick to it!) for things like sleeping and waking, working, exercise, meals, and leisure activities. Continuing doing activities you normally do such as crosswords, TV shows, and reading to help keep yourself occupied.
We believe good nutrition lights the spark to thrive in all of us, no matter who we are, what our age is, or where we live. One of the best and easiest ways to support good mental health during isolation is to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs.
Stick with simple meals that are easy to prepare, focusing on getting adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fat at every meal — with vegetables making up at least half of your plate.
A good quality multi-vitamin can also go a long way, giving extra nutrient protection at a cellular level. The Nurture by Metagenics Multi-Vitamin provides a concentrated blend of plant extracts that are rich in phytonutrients — enhanced with quality vitamins and minerals. Phytonutrients provide important nourishment to promote healthy cellular function and communication in the body. They also provide antioxidant protection against potentially damaging free radicals that increase with age, poor lifestyle choices, and pollutants, which is why health experts recommend eating more phytonutrient-rich foods to help you thrive and live your best life.
And don’t forget to hydrate! Research has found that dehydration causes brain functioning to slow down or not function properly, and has also been linked to depression and anxiety. Water is an essential nutrient your brain and body needs. Set yourself reminders on your smartphone to help you get your daily water intake, and keep a large bottle beside you during the day.
By connecting with others, you create experiences that inspire a more positive, proactive, and motivated mindset for a healthier, happier you. As many health experts are quick to point out, just because we are physically distancing ourselves from others, doesn’t mean we need to socially distance from them.
Connecting with friends via video apps, a telephone call, or even a good old fashioned letter in the mail can help give a sense of connection and make isolation seem less lonely. If permitted in your area, you can also make an in-person visit to friends and family, being sure to observe any health and safety protocols recommended by local health authorities.
By paying attention to the small things, we gain an appreciation for everyday wellness and acts of kindness. It’s easy to feel like we’re missing out on things during periods of isolation, but it’s important to remind ourselves of the positive aspects isolation brings.
Instead of saying “I’m stuck at home” tell yourself “I’m safe at home” and see how that shift in language affects your mood. If you’re still able to work from home, remind yourself that is not something everyone can do.
Take some time each day to go the extra mile and bring a little joy into someone’s life as well as your own. This type of thoughtful acknowledgment doesn’t have to be limited to just your family and friends. While grand gestures are one way to show your appreciation, even small acts of appreciation such as a quick smile or a warm “thank you” are more thoughtful and genuine than some flashy, forced gesture.
Isolation is a stressful situation for everyone, and some people may be finding it especially difficult to cope. This may result in difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much. But, you can help control your stress by getting enough sleep each day.
The American Psychological Association notes that “adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night.” Make sure you’re getting a good night’s rest by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, implementing a calming pre-sleep routine, and creating a comfortable sleeping space.
Not only does exercise help reduce stress levels while improving mental health, it might also protect against a deadly complication of COVID-19 — acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. A review by Zhen Yan, PhD of the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that “medical research findings "strongly support" the possibility that exercise can prevent or at least reduce the severity of ARDS, which affects between 3% and 17% of all patients with COVID-19.”
There are plenty of free online workouts, as well as subscription-based services that can help you maintain or start a fitness routine while in isolation. You can always start with the “fab 4” — pushups, planks, squats, and lunges — and go from there.
Always speak with your physician before starting any exercise regimen to determine if it's right for you, especially if you’re dealing with any health conditions.
During these times of uncertainty, it can be difficult to plan ahead, which can result in excess stress — especially for type A folks. But, doing what you can to plan ahead to avoid the unexpected can help ease your anxieties. Start by making a plan to ensure you have enough supplies such as food, water, and medication should you become ill or be unable to leave your home. Additionally, keeping a list of important phone numbers at the ready can let you know that help is just a phone call away should you need it.
While isolation can be a scary and uncertain time with significant impacts on your mental health, with a proactive approach you can help lessen some of the effects and better manage your stress levels.