According to health experts, social distancing is necessary to prevent a truly disastrous health crisis. This practice is in everyone’s best interest. However, as humans, social interaction is vital to our mental health. Eating, exercising, and working alone can all make it hard to stay positive and upbeat.
Extreme stress, such as the kind that many people are experiencing right now can short-circuit the parts of the brain that is responsible for thoughts and emotions. This can cause what’s known as “cognitive fog,” which can make it almost impossible to make decisions that were easy before. You might notice that your brain feels foggy when you try to focus.
Your brain can also go into something that psychological researchers call a “threat response.” This response can be activated by either real or imagined threats. Your brain is triggered into an “alarm” mode that is constantly trying to locate and anticipate threats. You may feel shaky or easily startled, as a result.
Here’s a look at some other things that you may be experiencing during this time:
● Fear and worry about your health and the health of family members.
● Burnout resulting from the need to monitor yourself for symptoms.
● Anger, fear, sadness, and frustration.
● Anxiety or guilt about not being able to perform normal work or classroom duties.
● Extreme changes in mental health or emotional state.
So, what can you do to deal with the above issues? Here’s a look at three ways to look after your mental health during this #stayathome period.
#1 Let It Go
The gears are likely churning inside your brain. It’s very easy to get stuck in a funnel of trying to imagine what the world will look like a month, six months or a year from now. The burden of trying to figure it all out cannot rest on your shoulders. You will be part of the solution when the time comes. For now, staying home may be all that’s required for you to play your role in helping the world.
First, remind yourself that you are physically safe as you hunker down in your home to practice social distancing. Second, give yourself permission to address the necessary details of life when the time comes. Lastly, it’s important to recognize that the biggest role you can play right now is to simply let it go!
#2 Maintain Your Usual Schedule
Normalcy can be a real lifesaver when the world is tumultuous. It’s obviously not going to be possible to keep your “normal” routine if your day usually consists of classes, socializing or work. However, you can focus on trying to keep the same wake-up times, mealtimes and sleeping times that you usually practice. Try your best to get dressed every day and keep up with laundry to avoid feeling like you are trapped in a void where one day runs into the next. By doing this, you demonstrate that your life still has focus and purpose even though your normal routine has been disrupted.
#3 Stay Busy
Nobody is calling this quarantine period a vacation. However, it’s time to give yourself permission to catch up on all the household or leisure activities you’ve been falling behind on. Here’s a list of some simple, low-commitment activities that can help to keep you busy:
● Read a book or book series.
● Try new board games.
● Begin a crafting project.
● Organize your closet or pantry.
● Begin mapping out plans for a summer garden.
● Weed, prune or mow the yard.
● Join an online exercise class.
● Join an online game.
It’s important not to beat yourself up if you’re having trouble conjuring up the energy or initiative to get tasks done. There’s no pressure to “accomplish the most” while in quarantine. You may experience something called “context insensitivity” that causes you to lose motivation for even simple tasks. Also, inattention and cognitive fog are common in stressful situations like the one you’re facing now.
It will be important to find a balance between self-care and being easy on yourself in the weeks to come. One thing that must be said is that it is so important to avoid a temptation to turn to alcohol or substances to numb the unease or distress you’re experiencing. Remind yourself that your job right now is to focus on being in the best mind space possible to be a part of the solution when the world is ready to emerge from this dark time. Let’s call it a countdown to the blooming period!
This content is informational and educational, and it does not replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a health professional.
If you’d like to measure your current perceived stress levels, click here.