By, Katy Cable/A 7 Min Read
Here in California, we’re nearly four weeks in on our “Stay-At-Home” quarantine. Around the globe, wherever you live and whatever the rules, nobody is completely escaping the wrath of CoVid 19. Now more than ever we all need to do whatever possible to stay healthy, safe AND SANE. The following are my favorite, most helpful tips that will not only have you “surviving” but THRIVING through this crisis! I wish to thank my inspiring, brilliant friend, Kiersten Short, who, in addition to her beautiful artwork, provided some useful, practical tips she collected from therapists, life coaches and mental health experts.
MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE
- When life is spinning out of control it’s important to create and stick to a routine. Having a consistent schedule will help you have some normalcy and feel in control of your day. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care. Be flexible but have a plan.
- Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get up, shower, put on a bright colored, cheery outfit and watch what happens. It’s fine to flop around in jammies with your hair in a top-knot for the entire week but your mood will improve if you can “dress as if!”
- Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are at high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It’s amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits. I sat out on a remote stretch of the beach and listened to the waves. I’ve read a book under a palm tree. I took a walk in the rain. It’s therapeutic to be in nature.
- Find some time to move each day for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes. Join a dance party on social media, or just turn on the music and have one with your spouse, kids, or alone!
- Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, social media, Skype, Zoom, phone calls, texting — connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc — your kids miss their friends, too!
- Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, in sweets and processed foods and forgetting to drink water. This can be a great time to get everyone involved in planning and cooking some fun, new healthy meals. I fill a pretty glass full of water and add mint and lemon and blueberries. I put it by my desk, take it with me out on walks and fill it 4xs per day to stay hydrated.
- Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, ginger ale, frozen Popsicles, are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use for first-aid when overwhelmed.
- Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children — it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.
- Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this. Instead of engaging, step out for a short walk alone. Take a quiet bubble bath or step away and call a friend.
- Have everyone find/create their own retreat space. It is important that people have their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. For adults it can be outside in their vehicle or in cramped city-living quarters, a small section of the home should be set up. It’s important to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.
Especially for those with children at home:
- Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time.
- Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.
- Limit COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2 — 3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children — they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear. It’s hard enough for adults to process this but it only further traumatizes children.
- Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well! This can be a fun project and bonding experience to do together.
- Reach out for help — your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day — although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
Staying healthy is the best thing each of us can do. In this unprecedented situation, that’s often a tall order. Now more than ever, we all need to put our own “Haz-Mat” suit on first. We’re no good to others if we ourselves are sick and need to be cared for. I hope applying these tips to your “Quarantine Routine” will help you stay healthy and even THRIVE! ❤️