Mental Health in Isolation

Daily practices to battle mental burnout

When the news started coming in about more and more places closing their doors due to COVID-19, I knew it would only be a matter of time until the Peninsula Pulse needed to follow suit. When the time came, I was prepared.

Determined to be productive, I set up a place to work. I settled in, poured a cup of coffee, turned back to my computer and paused. This would be my workplace for the foreseeable future – a fact I hadn’t thought about.

Considering that my own mental-health issues are exacerbated by isolation, even I’m confused as to why I had not thought that part out. Maybe it was because everyone was so focused on taking care of physical health. Who knows? But I hadn’t considered how any of this was going to affect me mentally. 

And now, as more people quarantine and self-isolate, we’re finally starting to see coverage about taking care of our mental health as well. This includes providing more support and remote access for those with addiction. Even people who have no prior history of mental-health problems are at risk because many are used to the comfort of interacting with others on a daily basis. And, adjusting to life in isolation may not be a person’s only difficulty: existing relationship, health, financial, legal and other issues may continue or get worse during this time.

All of this means that now is the time to make sure you have remote access to therapists and counselors. Now is when you need to be diligent about keeping your appointments. Along with that, now is the time for everyone to take care of their mental health as much as their physical health.

To help, here are a few things professionals recommend to stay in good spirits while isolating.

Maintain your routine. Although it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, get dressed. Keep up with your regular sleep schedule; stick to your regular hygiene routines (this includes showering); and engage in plenty of self-care. Stick to what is normal for you, even though things right now are not so normal. 

• Stay connected. Luckily, there are many ways to stay connected to friends and family. Set up a time to video chat or talk on the phone, and send supportive texts and emails to loved ones. If you’re looking for a fun activity, try out Houseparty – a social-media app that allows people to play group games while on a video call.

• Change your environment. Don’t confine yourself to one space at home. If you work remotely, set up a place to work – and only work. Have a separate space for relaxation – try not to let one facet of your life overtake the other. If you aren’t working, divide your time between productive tasks and “free time.” What’s that one project around your house that you’ve been putting off? Now is the time to get it done!

Stay informed, not overwhelmed. One of the best ways to battle stress and anxiety is to be educated. Stay up to date on the news, but don’t let it overtake your life. Overconsuming will only add more stress.

• Exercise. I’m using the word “exercise” loosely here. In general, just take time for movement throughout the day: stretch out for a few minutes; take some time for deep breathing; stand rather than sit for a while when you’re working at a computer; take a walk (while practicing proper social distancing) to get some fresh air. If you have the means, engage in even more activity by following along with online exercise videos.

If you have family or friends who need a little extra support right now, take the time to offer it. If you’re experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1.800.273.8255.