As cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to rise, society is faced with a new reality that few have ever encountered. In an unpreceded move to ‘flatten the curve’ and avoid further spread of the disease, government agencies have enforced stringent travel restriction policies and implemented ‘social distancing’ protocols. Undoubtedly, this isolation will have an impact on how we feel about ourselves, our relationships, and the larger world. Though this separation is likely to affect mental health, there are several ways to make the best of this forced retreat. Here are helpful tips to help you through this social isolation:
Limit News Intake: While it is essential to stay up to date on the current news regarding coronavirus disease – but moderation is crucial. Try to set a routine as to when you’ll check for updates or choose only to read critical news releases. Staying connected to 24-hour news channels will only increase anxiety and limit your ability to engage in other pleasurable tasks.
Reach Out to Others: Though you may not be able to connect live in-person, technology allows us to communicate in many new and unique ways. FaceTime, the Houseparty app, or Skype are fantastic services for connecting. If someone you know isn’t able to access these technologies, phone calls are still a viable way to reach out.
Create Boundaries on COVID-19 Discussions with Friends: During difficult times it’s essential to relate and share with others. However, if you don’t put boundaries on discussing your anxiety with others, the conversation can spiral quickly. Be mindful of your communications and ask yourself, “…is this helping me feel better or making me more stressed?” If it’s making you stressed, try changing the topic to something else. Try to strike a balance between exploring your feelings and discussing more positive issues.
Create a Flexible Routine (with breaks!): Humans crave some routine. Although it doesn’t need to be structured, try to stick to a basic regimen for your day that includes when you will eat, sleep, and work. This routine will need flexibility given the current situation, however, it’s still good to have a general plan.
Enjoy Nature: If you can, take a walk in a park, your backyard, or some other natural space (just remember to keep 6 feet of distance!). Connecting with nature helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Take Time Alone: Remember to take time alone if you are in isolation with others (especially partners). We often still need quiet time when isolated. Just be sure to have a conversation with your partner/family/roommate, so they know it isn’t a personal sight, and that you need space.
Limit Time on Social Media: It can be easy to get caught up on social media. Though it can be a great way to connect – it also has many downfalls. Avoid reading to many fearmongering or non-credible articles. Remember to avoid comparing yourself to others and what they are doing in isolation. It’s OK to relax and rest.
Get Physical: Going to the gym might be out of the question; however, you can still stay active! Many gyms are offering free online programing that requires little or no equipment. Research tells us that one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety is to stay active.
Don’t Expect Perfection: It’s impossible to expect yourself to be able to operate at full capacity during a crisis. Practice self-compassion when things don’t go the way you’d like them to and extend this compassion to those around you.
Society has come together like never before to eradicate the coronavirus. We all have our part to play in trying to reduce its spread and keep those around us both physically and mentally safe. Following these tips can help to nurture your mental health during these difficult times. If you are feeling alone and in need of help, skilled clinicians at CFIR can help you better understand your experiences and support you during this difficult period. Secure and confidential video and telephone sessions are available.
Joshua Peters, M.A., R.P., is a Registered Psychotherapist at CFIR. In his clinical practice, he works with individual and couple clients who are experiencing a diverse range of emotional, self, identity, and relationship struggles. With appropriate guidance in therapy, he can help you to get at the emotional roots of your distress as well as help you to become in touch with the concerns, goals, and needs that underlie your experiences.