Physical health has been the main topic of almost every news outlet in the world for the past 3 weeks, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. While staying physically healthy is part of our physiological needs as per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our safety needs have been shaken up with the fear and uncertainty of the results of this pandemic, and this can take a big toll on our mental health. We as humans biologically crave order, predictability and control in our lives, and when we lack that, our internal balance can shift.
All that aside, being confined to the indoors for 3 weeks (and with no idea how much longer it’ll last) can give a person a serious case of cabin fever. While some of us live in homes with backyards and in countries with greater space to roam around, some are confined to tiny apartments or live with high risk household members, so can’t even break up the day with a grocery run. If you feel like the more time that passes, the more you’re going down the rabbit hole, here are a few tips on how to prioritize your mental health during quarantine:
1. Identify Your Stressors
Are you feeling more anxious than usual? Is it when you check the news, or is it when you look at old pictures? The first important step is to identify your stressors. The next time you feel anxious, consciously pause and think about what you had done prior to, that triggered an emotional reaction out of you. Take an inventory of all the things that are causing you to feel stressed out, anxious or down. Once you know what they are, you can create a plan of action on how to diffuse them.
2. Set Boundaries
Now that you know what your triggers and stressors are, you need to set boundaries with yourself to make sure they aren’t taking a toll on your mental health. If it’s checking the news, stop checking. If you really need to know what’s going on, ask a household member or friend to update you daily on the big picture – often, especially during a crisis, people tend to exaggerate and hysteria leads to false information being transferred. Some people can filter through news in a more detached manner than others – know yourself, and know your limits. The most important thing right now is that you take care of you.
3. Try Journaling
If you find yourself not so much anxious as you feel a little depleted, or lost, your first step should be to journal; specifically starting with free writing. Open a blank page and start with: “Dear me, we are stuck in quarantine, but that isn’t really the issue”. From there, isolate yourself somewhere you won’t be disturbed for a while, and allow yourself to write for 15 minutes with no specific end goal. Don’t worry about structure, don’t erase, just write. This isn’t supposed to be published – it’s going to provide a raw, unedited version of your subconscious thoughts that will help you overcome the block you may be facing.
If, on the other hand, you know why you’re upset, you should still journal. Write your thoughts during this quarantine; write a letter you’ll never send to the person your emotions are directed towards. Let it all out.
4. Find Your Outlet
Even in these home-bound times, you need to find your positivity outlet. Whether it’s an activity that’s more active like daily workouts, or something more creative like writing, singing, or playing an instrument, or more of a brain workout like learning a language or studying for an exam, you need to find your outlet. Maybe it’s daily Houseparty chats with friends or binging the latest true crime documentary on Netflix. Either way, you need to keep doing things that make you happy.
5. Don’t Resort to Unhealthy Habits
It can be very tempting at this time to resort to old, unhealthy habits you gave up. In order to cope with either anxiety or even boredom, many are drinking excessively, taking drugs or consuming tobacco, and while it may not be comparatively bad: texting their exes. Do not rely on unhealthy habits to get through these tough times – instead, form new habits. Be elastic, and adapt to the times we’re in. Don’t fight it or sulk; do your best to make the most out of the situation, and set yourself up so that once quarantine is over, you come out of it an improved version of yourself. You may not be fluent in Italian, but you’ll be more self-aware – you mentally (and physically) survived a global pandemic, and that’s emotional strength in itself.
* If you are in need of serious mental health care, please reach out to a physician.