Our daily routines have become trampled by the menace of COVID - 19, along with our feelings of security. During times of panic due to a virus, climate change induced or political unrest, our mental health is often the thing that needs the most help but receives the least. During self-isolation or quarantine, it is vital to consider your mental health and your general wellbeing. You’re not alone in this, and so here are tips to help your mental health during the Corona Virus, or just when you’re generally stuck at home for a while!
Times of uncertainty are scary, to people with mental illness, to people with poor mental health, and even to people with positive mental health! Humans thrive off continuity, we like to know what’s going to happen. Today and tomorrow and everyday on. We’re also built for survival, everything within us has been evolutionarily designed to thrive. And a virus? That puts a nasty pickle in our plan. So it is normal to feel scared, even if it feels irrational in the moment. It’s rational in your brain, and that is all that matters. Confront your fear, feel it, talk about it. Hiding it will only worsen it, as then alongside feeling scared about Corona Virus, you’ll feel scared about being the only one scared. And the truth is you’re not the only one scared.
Depression is hard to cope with. You could’ve been walking on that Spring time high, and then COVID - 19 ruined it all. When you’re dealing with emotions like fear, or spending a lot of time indoors, depression can brew. You’re not the only one. You may be the only one in your friend group - that you know of!- but you’re not the only one out there. It will pass, however long that takes. And following certain steps will hurry it up. Don’t beat yourself up for it, it’s a real issue and one that deserves attention and respect.
A separate point to being depressed, as they’re two different things, mental health vs mental illness. Even so, both are okay to feel! You may be feeling sad for a variety of reasons. Sad because you can’t work right now. Sad because you can’t see a friend or family member. Sad because you can’t take a certain trip, or do something you’ve been looking forward to. Or maybe you feel sad because I pointed all those things out and reminded you of them. Either way, it’s a sad time for a lot of us. So mope for a bit, be lazier than usual, that’s okay. Things aren’t the usual, so we don’t have to react as if they are.
Irrational anger is something we’re used to being ashamed of, or uncomfortable with. But it’s normal. Even if we understand something, we can feel angry about it. Our brains don’t skip emotion just because reason is supplied. Be pissed off. Fume for a bit, stomp around (unless you have downstairs neighbours, not cool then!). You are angry, experience it now so you won’t be stuck in it later.
So now we know that it is okay to feel these emotions during a health crisis, or any other crisis! But just because it’s okay, and normal, doesn’t mean we have to stay stuck in it. Confront the emotion, as uncomfortable as that may be, and then look at how you can move past it. This could be working through it, distracting yourself or replacing it with other emotions. And here are ten ways to help your mental health and emotions during the Corona Virus, or other crisis moments. Or even just on a bad mental health day, try these tips!
1. Get Outside
It sounds redundant. The minute you’re diagnosed with any mental illness, people love to suggest getting outside. But they do that because it actually can really help. If you feel fatigued or miserable, it’s likely you’ve barely left the sofa today. Self Isolation is about staying away from people and risk, so it is still okay to grab your coat and go for a walk. Try at least fifteen minutes, and let your brain drift and rest. Or do it with a housemate/isolation buddy and actually chat. It can work wonders. Maybe bring it up a notch and go for a run. Just because the gym is closed, doesn’t mean you have no way to move about. Those endorphins can redesign your outlook and mood on a day.
The real reason I go outside on a blue day? To spot all the dogs! Most owners will let you pet them and play with them, and it does wonders for my mood.
(You'll never find this furry friend inside!)
2. Call a Friend
Loneliness never helps. And while quarantine and self-isolation are vital aspects of controlling a virus or other pandemic, they can be difficult in the day to day. But you’re not alone, you’re together with everyone else in this situation. And social media simply doesn't do the trick.
So call a friend. Don’t text, don’t snapchat, call them. Skype them even, to see a friendly face. We’ve found nothing suggesting COVID - 19 can be spread vocally, so let's use our voices now more than ever.
Also call people who need it now. Call a family member, especially elderly ones. Make someone’s day with a quick chat. Why not challenge yourself to call one different person each day? You’ll end up talking to people you barely have time for usually, and it could be eye opening.
3. Watch Mindfully
No, this isn’t about mindfulness. That’s a great thing to focus on during these times, but I have little experience to share in that field. I’m talking about Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ and whatever else they’ve come up with by now! I’m talking about watching shows and films.
But here’s the catch. Don’t fall into the same trap we all do whenever we’re home sick or have a day off. We talk about all these things we want to watch; intellectual films, oscar winning performances, documentaries, or an Emmy winning show. Then when we have the chance, the window of time, we go for something more brain numbing, or something we’ve seen several times before so we can flick through Instagram while watching.
Stop it. Make a list of the films you’ve always wanted to watch, or the series, or documentaries. Do some research, ask for tips. And then actually watch them. Put your phone in another room, grab a warm blanket, and pay attention. Work through the list. Then when you can go back to your office or to a party, you’ll have plenty of fabulous conversation starters.
My series recommendation? Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. A fun, musical show that includes mental illness and other social taboo’s.
4. Read a Book
Time for another list! Lists are basically how I function in my daily life, and at any given moment I have about three I’m working from, so you’ll hear me suggest them often. Make a list of books you’ve always wanted to read. And no judging! It could be classics, but it could also be a specific fantasy series, the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, or finally getting around to Harry Potter - you must.
Read whatever you want to read, but just read. There are plenty of reasons to read more during isolation. Diving into a book is the best form of escapism, and in scary times like these we need it more than ever. It can be difficult to start reading again, so try for 15 minutes every evening before you sleep. You’ll sleep better than ever, and ease yourself back in. You can even connect with friends for a virtual book club!
Need a book recommendation? Check out the best books I read in 2019.
5. Work on that Project
Notice how I specify that project, not a project. Because I know you. There is something you have always wanted to do, either starting something or a hobby you don’t have time for. Maybe you want to practice an instrument, get back into painting, write that memoir. Reorganise your closet, learn how to code, train for a marathon.
Now is your chance. You may not want it, but you’ve got a big window of time and nowhere to be. Use this time, get something beautiful out of it.
Don’t have a specific project in mind? I know you’ll find something. Even if it’s DIY around your house, nail art, vlogging, photographing your pet or learning to cook. The latter could be difficult due to depleted supermarkets, or it could drive you to create more creative and new dishes.
6. Spring Cleaning
It’s Spring after all. May not feel like it, but COVID - 19 can’t quite halt time. This tip works in two ways. Firstly, it’s a great distraction. Deep clean everything in sight, it can be very cathartic and a great way to use up all your energy. It can be as fun as you make it, blast some tunes and put everything you have into it. Clean those nitty gritty spots you miss in your weekly (monthly? yearly??) clean and get them good. Clean the windows, wipe down kitchen cupboards, repot your plants. Incredibly satisfying.
Secondly, you’re going to be stuck in your house for a while. So you may as well make it a great place to be! Things are out of your control right now and that can be scary. But your home, these four walls, are your territory. Make the place look organised and cosy, so that your mind can feel more at rest here. On your daily walk, head to a nearby plant store and buy some flowers. Support a local business and brighten up your home!
7. Plan for the Future
My list obsession? Yeah, it’s pretty bad. But it also brings me such peace of mind. Whenever I’ve been feeling trapped, and thus unable to work on my goals, it really gets to me. I start doubting everything, feel helpless, feel useless. So I plan for when I can do things again. When I was recovering from my tonsillectomy, when I messed up my ankles again and couldn’t move much, or when I’ve been working crazy hours with no time to write, I planned ahead.
I plan my exercise schedule for when I’m out and about again. Corny, but it makes me feel good in my own body. It gives me goals to stick to, so that I can feel good about myself when I do.
I plan activities I want to do, fun date night ideas or places in my own city I need to visit.
I plan my next holiday, go through destination options and narrow it down.
I plan my upcoming projects, what month I want to finish what.
And yeah, I plan my future. Rachel Hollis inspired me with a fantastic task in her book “Girl, Stop Apologizing”. Write down 10 things you want to have achieved in the next 10 years, things you want to be, earn, do, learn. But write them as if you’ve already done it.
E.g. I am a published author, I am a New York Times bestseller.
It convinces the brain to start working on the task, minimizing the steps to get there. It’s also a big step to admit these things, even to ourselves, and it allows you to accept your own goals. Inspire yourself during these darker days, inspire yourself with YOU, because you inspire me.
8. Get Help if you Need It
This applies to all dark times, but now may be when you think it isn’t there. Help is still available, it is always available. It’s there in a friend you can reach out to - ticking off number two of the list in the process! It’s there in online tools, therapy apps, a call with a therapist or websites dedicated to what you need. Reach out.
You are not alone, and don’t fool yourself for a single second thinking that. We may be alone in our homes, but our homes are all together united in a goal.
9. Help Someone Else
Maybe you’re not the one needing help, but someone you know is. Reach out. It can feel helpless to know someone is struggling but not be there physically. But call them, text them. Send them a series recommendation, mail them a really good book. Send a funny video, a throwback photo or an inspiring poem. These small things make a big difference, because the meaning is the most important part. The fact that you stopped, thought of them, and reached out.
10. Be Creative
Can’t help but include it, and I love rounding out to an even 10. Like I said, use this time, as any time is precious. Bring out your creative side, and try new things. It can be really therapeutic to release what’s inside you, the fear or anger or sadness or happiness, use it to make something beautiful. Then use that beautiful thing to help others.
Here are some ideas for getting creative and keeping busy during the Corona Virus:
Ten ways to keep busy during self-isolation, but which will you choose? Do you have other tips on handling self-isolation or quarantine during the Corona Virus? Let me know in the comments below, I’m always looking for tips!
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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