FEATURE: KEEPING UP WITH MENTAL HEALTH DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE (TIPS FROM A PSYCHOLOGIST)
Anxiety. Depression. PTSD. Bipolar. These words get looked at like they are a weakness. They appear on questionnaires as a “disability” that employers want you to disclose. The truth, these are no different than being a diabetic or suffering from some other disease that you have to take medication for daily.
For comparison purposes, living in an involuntary quarantine situation for someone who has mental health disorders is like feeding a diabetic pure cane sugar. The person with diabetes cannot handle the sugar and can end up having adverse effects. The same applies to someone with a mental health disorder. Being shut off from the world, and stimulating factors feels like you are being forgotten.
Never fear, our Iris Writing team has a psychologist in its mist. We have asked their opinion and have put together tips for how you can mentally cope during these days of quarantine.
You don’t have to suffer from a mental health disorder to benefit from this list, but it just might help you understand what someone else in your life is going through.
MAKE YOUR DAYS COUNT
Times of quarantine can make your schedule change. Days bleed into each other, and one day you wake up and don’t know what day it is. This can be devastating to someone that has a mental disorder. People with mental health disorders fear the unknown. There is a simple way to combat making your anxieties about being quarantined any worse.
Make a routine and stick to it.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time to maintain a rhythm for your body.
Include time for work, family, and self-care measures in your schedule.
Clean yourself up.
Take a shower when you wake up.
Change out of your pajamas and dress like you would if you weren’t in quarantine.
Do your hair. Confidence boosting is essential at a time like this. Take some selfies of yourself and change your social media profile picture. Let people know that they don’t have to let staying home ruin their mood.
Get out and get moving.
Sunlight can do a lot for the human body. That is why people are statistically more likely to be depressed in the wintertime because they can’t enjoy the sunlight and get the vitamin D from it.
Find a time each day to be moving. Take a walk if it is possible. Do some Zumba on the television. DO SOMETHING. Being stationary for long periods take a toll on the body and the mind.
At least 30 minutes of physical activity first thing in the morning can give your metabolism a boost and make your day start on a positive note.
Eat right and stay hydrated
Eat healthier choices and drink a lot of water. Remaining hydrated does a great deal of good for the body and the mind. Making body-conscious choices when eating can help maintain confidence in yourself.
REACH OUT TO OTHERS
Try to reach out and talk to someone every day. The general rule for this is 30 minutes a day, so that you can seek a connection and provide a connection for someone else. There are plenty of options for talking to someone face-to-face these days. Facebook messenger has video calls, Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime are popular applications to accommodate this. Even if you are just sending text messages, make sure you are checking on others.
Loneliness is an instigator in the mind of someone suffering from mental health disorders. It can make someone who doesn’t have a diagnosed medical condition experience symptoms. By working together, we can combat the blues that are brought on by quarantine.
Your kids need the same kind of human interactions. Set up playdates with classmates via online platforms so that they can see and talk to their friends. Teachers around the United States have been setting up Zoom chats with their students so that they can all keep in contact during this time.
MAKE A SELF-CARE KIT
This kit is going to be different for each person, depending on their personal tastes. The idea of the kit is to involve sensory components to keep you engaged. These components stimulate all of your senses, including touch, taste, hearing, sight, movement, positive pressure, and smell. The structure of the box can also be to serve as an emergency kit for adults and children when they feel overwhelmed by their feelings of isolation.
Things to put in your kit:
Soft items can bring on a calming effect to those touching it. Another fun way to help alleviate stress is by using slime or putty and simply playing with it. Take a slime break and run it through your fingers. You would be surprised how calming something like that can be.
Put different snacks and drink options in your kit. Chocolate can be a nice pick-me-up when you are feeling down. Have different textures too. Put some pretzels for crunch and the salty, chocolate for the sweet, soda for the fizzy, and water for hydration.
Make a playlist that pumps you up and one to mellow you out. Use the one with the beats and happy music when you are feeling down or sad, and use the one to mellow you out if your senses are in overdrive due to an overactive mind.
Put pictures of things you love in your kit. A relaxing vacation you took, your family, anything that stimulates the part of your brain to make you happy. Coloring bright pictures is becoming more popular. Order a coloring book and an assortment of markers and start creating your own brightly colored pictures.
Find yoga online to work through to help with guided breathing and stretching to get rid of your stress. Get some Zumba going and knock out exercise and self-care in one blow. Anything that gets your body moving so that you aren’t stationary.
Things like weighted blankets help calm those who are overly anxious. You can stimulate multiple senses by making your weighted blanket instead of buying it. Not to mention, making it helps bring about a sense of accomplishment, which is good for your body and mind.
Aromatherapy practices have taken off as a means of naturopathic medicine. Did you know that the smelling orange or other citrus fruit can stimulate your senses and make you happy? Citrus scents boost the body’s serotonin levels. Different essential oils can help with other situations. Lavender is often used for calming. Peppermint can help with headaches. These can be applied to the skin or in a diffuser.
HANDLING THE EXTRA STRESS WITH YOUR FAMILY
It is going to happen at some point, and tempers are going to flare up. The situation could be your significant other and you are arguing, your children being overly emotional, or even you snapping over someone asking for a cookie. Accept that it is going to happen and move on. Understand that you are not the only one experiencing stress during this time of quarantine.
Try to spend more time playing with your children or have a family movie night. Create an impromptu date night with your significant other by having dinner alone on the porch. Simply be together during this time, but create a safe space too.
Everyone should have a spot that they can go to when they are overwhelmed by the quarantine situation. Your children can go to their room, go outside, someplace that makes them happy. You and your significant other can retreat to your own designated spots as well to regroup before addressing situations.
It is essential to refrain from holding grudges against each other at this time. Human beings are notorious for holding grudges from arguments or when they feel they have had wrong done against them. Let it go. Easier said than done, but for the sake of your mental health and your family’s mental health, try as hard as you can to let the anger and resentment go.
Expect behavior issues from your children. Children thrive on routines. They know that they get up, go to school, come home, eat dinner, bathe, and then go to bed. Right now feels like a continuous weekend with homework for them. Don’t hold this against them. Try to incorporate a new schedule for right now that gives them some semblance of normalcy. This may help reduce the number of meltdowns and tantrums.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA SPARINGLY
Everyone has something to say about the Coronavirus. They have opinions, and they can incite panic for no good reason other than for the drama of it. Look what happened with toilet paper, someone did that. So limit yourself to a few trusted news sources and limit what your children know about it. They don’t need to be panicked by something that is out of their control.
The same theory applies to you too. Don’t allow yourself to panic without knowing the facts. The only thing you have control over right now is your home, and if your home is safe, you are safe. Make this your mantra.
Instead of buying into all the social media hype surrounding the virus, spend time each day posting pictures of what your family is doing in quarantine. Start assigning different dress-up days. See just how many people you can get to go along with it. This is another way to keep morale up while being stuck at home.
TAKE ON NEW PROJECTS
You can do this as a family and on your own. We don’t know how long this self-quarantine is going to last, so the more ideas you have for the long term, the better. As a family, take on a large activity. Draw cards to send to local nursing homes. Find a large puzzle to put together. Start a movie or television show marathon that will take several days to complete.
For individuals, learn a new talent or skill. Crocheting offers a good repetitive motion that is said to be calming for people. Learn how to play an instrument. YouTube is a goldmine for “how-to” videos to help you learn something new.
LOOK FOR THE LIGHT EVERY DAY
This is a hard time for everyone. Nobody knows how long it is going to last, and it is this uncertainty that can cause mental health problems to get worse. Try to look for something to laugh and smile about every day.
Watch a stand-up comedian to watch and then hold your own stand-up comedy show with your family. What is better than laughing at yourself with others?
When you start to feel overwhelmed, find your safe space, and remind yourself that this is only temporary. We may not know when it will end, and the timeframe changes almost daily, but we can be grateful that we have today, and we are on the brink of tomorrow. Appreciate your small victories and don’t punish yourself when you feel like you didn’t do what you set out to do.
Think about how this may be the most memorable time of your children’s lives. They are home with their parents, having family dinners, watching movies together, and enjoying childhood. Find solace in getting to enjoy your family too. Once this is over, it will be business as usual, and everyone will be back to their old routines.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
All too often, those who suffer from mental disorders find themselves trying to handle it on their own. If you weren’t completely overwhelmed before taking on your own mental health, you are now. A lot of therapists are making telehealth appointments at this time. This allows you to continue your mental health care. If you don’t have a therapist, find one if you need to. Call your primary care provider and have them refer you to one.
Just because the Coronavirus has taken over the medical industry’s primary attention, doesn’t mean that your mental health is a trivial issue. Taking things on without help has the potential to put yourself in a bad place. I cannot stress enough the importance of reaching out for help.
Right now, statistics are circulating that people who have suicidal tendencies or are recovering addicts are at higher risk of sliding back into old habits right now. This is no time to be a hero and handle things on your own.