As social distancing, quarantine, and self-isolation become normal parts of all our vocabularies while we deal with the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the general vibe for people of all ages is…not so great. For most of us, it is trying to work, parent, and exist primarily from home alongside health and financial concerns – which can be stressful and anxiety inducing.
The effects of quarantine and isolation can cause boredom and the over-indulgence of things like alcohol consumption, overeating, or spending too much time on social media. The effects of extended isolation and quarantine could also result in depression and anxiety.
Developing a new routine can mean anything from organizing your day by activities or times to keep the day from stagnating, or even compartmentalizing areas of your residence for certain activities or roles, like finding a place for a daily workout or a place to read.
Here are seven healthy evidence based practices to help regulate an overactive stress response during our shelter in place order, according to the Center For Youth Wellness.
Supportive relationships: Those of us who rely on friendships to share experiences and vent frustrations when friends seem far away may be feeling lonely or sad because we feel disconnected from our support systems. Even while confined to the house, we can maintain those relationships, and perhaps even strengthen them. Technological tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and FaceTime are great ways for families and friends to video conference with each other to sustain those connections.
Sleep: Getting enough sleep is one of the most important factors in strengthening our immune system. Good sleep hygiene means following a routine each night in order to program our bodies to get into sleep mode and to wake up at a consistent time each morning.
Nutrition: In times of great stress almost all of us do it – resort to indulging in junk food. This sends our already taxed system into a tailspin as consuming too many processed foods can cause agitation, scattered concentration, fatigue, and moodiness. When we nourish our bodies with nutritious, whole foods, we give ourselves the best chance at having a positive and productive day.
Exercise: Physical activity is a great way to manage stress and to ease feelings of anxiety and depression. Gyms, playgrounds, and other public areas may not be options right now, but there are plenty of exercises you can do using items you already have around the house, in the safety of your own backyard, or even within your neighborhood when practicing social distancing. If you do better with the motivation of an instructor, there are free and fun online yoga and aerobics classes to help keep you moving.
Mental healthcare: If you find the added stress and unpredictability of COVID-19 too much to handle on your own, check in with your counselor (if you already have one) or your primary healthcare provider to get connected with someone to talk to. If you do not have access to responsive healthcare at this time, there are many free resources you can use to get through these exceptionally tough times, including the SAMHSA Disease Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
Nature: Research has a shown being in green spaces (lakes, streams, and trees) can reduce stress and depression. With many parks shutting down due to social distancing protocols, you may not have access to green spaces. The good news is that even viewing scenes of nature can be effective in reducing stress. Yosemite and Yellowstone offer virtual tours and Netflix offers a variety of nature programming.
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: Many of us have been feeling scared, powerless, and ashamed of some of our natural responses to sheltering in place. Now more than ever, we must learn to be kind to ourselves and accepting of our feelings, as we navigate this uncertain time together. Stay healthy and safe.
Humans are creatures of habit, and now since coronavirus has disrupted almost every aspect of our daily routines, it is natural to feel a sense of turmoil. But as this quarantine is extremely important in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, we must follow these little steps to keep ourselves entertained, busy and healthy until it is again time to resume our daily schedules.