Kevin Lutz, MD, FACP
Jun 1 2020

Stuck indoors, worried about an uncertain future, concerned for your family or friends: the pandemic is a stressful situation for anyone to contend with.

COVID-19Mental Health

Stuck indoors, worried about an uncertain future, concerned for your family or friends: the pandemic is a stressful situation for anyone to contend with. During these challenging times it is important to do what we can to support both our physical and mental well-being. Even if you’re working from home it may still feel like there is lot of time to fill during the day. Whether becoming fitter physically, improving your diet, learning a new skill, or re-connecting with people, there's so much we can do to come out of stronger. Make a routine, set some goals and try to stay positive – you’ve got this!  

Identifying and choosing healthy behaviors is the first step to help you take control of your mental and emotional health. Instead of sitting on that couch, go outside and get some fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Exercise naturally creates endorphins, the body's feel-good hormones. Eating healthy, staying away from excess alcohol (a depressant) and getting plenty of sleep will also put your body and mind in a better mood. Below are more ideas to achieve a healthy mental state during this pandemic.

Be Kind to Yourself. 

This is a time of great uncertainty, and meanwhile, other challenges in our lives continue. You may be dealing with a chronic health issue or supporting a family member with on-going health challenges completely unrelated to the Coronavirus. There may be other issues within your family that are troubling, or with your job. You may struggle with anxiety or depression on a daily basis, or other mental health challenges. Now is the time for self-compassion. Be as kind to yourself as you are to a precious loved one.

Be Intentional. 

Use any extra time very intentionally, don’t drift through the weeks. Pick one or two things you’ve wanted to learn or teach yourself. Plan to come out of this quarantine with a new skill or hobby. Devote one hour of your daily schedule to work on this new skill.

Schedule Check-Ins with Friends. 

Many people are reaching out to friends to offer support if they need help during this time. However, asking for help is often something people struggle to do as we default to the expected “I’m fine” response. Try to avoid this maladaptive behavior during these trying times by proactively scheduling times to check-in with family and friends, especially if you live alone. This might be as simple as arranging a weekly video call, or you could take advantage of some of the online gaming apps to give you another way of interacting virtually with your loved ones. You could even make a point of reaching out to an old friend or someone you’ve not spoken to in a while. Remember, everyone is in the same boat and feeling disconnected from human contact right now, so it’s likely they’ll be pleased to hear from you!

Plan Regular Exercise Sessions. 

Most people fall into two camps when it comes to quarantine and exercise. There are those fitness junkies who fill their time with workouts to help them stay in the best shape possible. Then there are those of us who don't exercise regularly but feel like we should and may not be sure where to start. If you’re in the latter camp, it’s important to find ways to exercise where you can. Being physically active will not only keep you fit and healthy during lockdown but is also a productive way to use your time, especially when exercise is one of the few reasons you’re allowed to leave the house. Even more so, evidence shows that exercise can make you happier, something we all need help with during this time. Schedule regular exercise sessions to keep you focused, even 20 minutes a day will make a big difference! It does not matter how you do that. Jump, walk from one corner to the other, do push-ups, sit ups. Just push that sweat out of your body and it will boost your mood into a far better condition than you would ever think!

Start Cooking or Do It More. 

Cooking is like exercise in that most people either love it and do it often or know that they don’t cook fresh meals as often as they should but aren’t sure how. Cooking can be a great way to manage both your mental and physical health. Challenging yourself to try new recipes or simply cook a healthy meal from scratch instead of ordering take-out can help focus the mind and give you a sense of achievement at the end of the day.

Limit Exposure to News Media. 

Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, listening to or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).

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