While sheltering in place and social distancing can help slow the spread of the coronavirus, they also present a number of other challenges — besides forcing you to always study at home. Feeling isolated and anxious can pose a risk to your mental health and psychological well-being, which is understandable since the quarantine has severely disrupted your daily routine of activities like attending classes in-person, working out at the gym and hanging out with friends.
"One component of mental health is the ability to foster social relationships," Dr. Brandon Dominguez, a mental health nursing instructor at West Coast University-Ontario, explained. "In times like now, being quarantined can increase the risk for social isolation. It’s absolutely essential that you consider your mental health and keep your feelings of isolation from turning into depression or something even worse. Fortunately, there are some simple coping mechanisms you can practice every day."
Tips for coping with the mental health effects of quarantine
- Get physical. Do some form of aerobic exercise for 20-30 minutes. This causes the body to release endorphins, which boosts your mood and energy for up to 24 hours. If possible, exercise in your backyard or outside where you have direct contact with sunlight away from others. Sunlight helps synthesize Vitamin D, which is partially responsible for your mood.
- Think it over. A simple act of reflection can help keep you goal oriented. At the end of the day, make it a point to ask yourself, “What’s one thing I enjoyed today? Were there times I didn’t feel so good? What can I do to make a change for tomorrow?” This is a great exercise that can help ward off cognitive distortions — when your mind starts to believe in things that aren’t true.
- Make social contacts — responsibly. Studies show that when physical interaction isn’t possible, video chatting or texting with friends and loved ones can alleviate feelings of depression. But, make sure to stay positive. Don’t focus on all the negatives in the news.
If these tips don’t lift your spirits, you can turn to outside resources for help. Dominguez recommended the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) National Helpline. This confidential 24-hour hotline can provide referrals for resources such as free publications, support groups and more.
Remember, managing your mental health and psychological well-being right now are just as important as taking steps to not contract the virus.