In order to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being asked to practice social distancing, and many people wonder how a person can maintain their mental health during this time. Social interactions are key to good mental health, and there are still ways that people can socialize while maintaining a distance of at least six feet or two meters away from non-household contacts. Here are four ways people can maintain their mental health during this challenging time.
Related resource: Ranking Top 30 Most Affordable Doctoral Programs in Psychology
First and foremost, a person should practice self-care while social distancing. Self-care measures include getting seven to eight hours of sleep every day, exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, staying hydrated, showering or bathing and spending some time in prayer, meditation or quiet. Practicing good sleep hygiene will help, too. Although most states and communities have closed gyms, fitness centers, pools, and other recreation places, going outside for a bike ride, hike or walk with the dog is still allowed. Even a pedicure or manicure at home can work wonders for a bad or sad mood.
Turn Off the News
Exposure to too much media has a negative effect on mental health. A constant barrage of information about cases, deaths and new rules or regulations could quickly overwhelm a person. Choose a few reliable resources, such as a state health department website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Dedicate a specific amount of time for reading or viewing the news. Avoid reading or listening to news about the pandemic before going to bed. Know how to identify rumors and false information when looking for online information.
Connect With People in Other Ways
Individuals who miss in-person human contact can turn to other ways of connecting with their friends or family. Smartphones offer a wide range of ways to talk with others. Video calls are an ideal way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect while avoiding in-person contact. People who would typically gather on a weekend night with their friends could do a Zoom call or video with up to 100 people. Those who are in a book group, knitting circle or gaming group could also do one of these events that focus on technology. It is also okay to talk to a neighbor from at least six feet away.
Choose Nutritious Foods
When a person is stressed and not sleeping well, they often crave carbohydrates, explains CNN. Eating too many simple carbohydrates can lead to weight gain, sluggishness, and other health issues. It can also lead to a sense of guilt or shame. A person should choose healthy foods, with a focus on lean proteins, whole grains and an array of fruits and vegetables. People should also only consume caffeine or alcohol in moderation. Excessive caffeine consumption can increase anxiety and sleeplessness, and excessive alcohol consumption may lead to or exacerbate addiction.
For people who are used to going out and spending a lot of time with their friends, coworkers, and families in a variety of settings, social distancing can be stressful. By considering what a person can control, coping may be easier. Each of these four tips helps a person maintain their mental health during social distancing in a productive and positive way.