According to a 2018 national survey by Cigna, loneliness has reached an epidemic level with almost half of 20,000 U.S. adults reporting that they sometimes or always feel alone. Despite the reason for this, that should sound an alarm considering that social isolation is associated with serious health risks including depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, higher blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
Now, combine that with self-isolating or social distancing because of coronavirus (COVID-19) and it’s easy to understand how you may currently be struggling with your well-being. Thankfully, there are some ways that you can still protect your mental health during this trying time.
Exercise, art, and a sense of routine.
Physical activity, whether self-quarantining or not, is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your mental health. Even just going for a short walk outside for 10 to 15 minutes can do wonders. “There are many reasons to walk for exercise,” Ann Green, M.S., told NBC News. “Walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduce the risk for cancer and chronic disease, improve endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on…”
As for your mental health, walking can help you generate new and creative ideas and relieve anxiety. Plus, you’ll get the mood-boosting vitamin D from the sun.
If you can’t get outside, then look for options in your home, such as walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary. You could also try online workouts on YouTube and meditation.
“You can also distract yourself with an art activity, like coloring, painting, drawing, listening to music, or playing music if you play,” Angelique Porter, a social worker and psychotherapist at a community behavioral health center in University City, told The Inquirer. “Those distractions have been proven through research to reduce stress, which in turn can boost your immune system.”
Angelique Porter, a social worker and psychotherapist at a community behavioral health center in University City also recommends creating a routine by writing down what you’re experiencing.
“If you approach this like, ‘What are some things I can do to help myself feel a sense of control?,’ it helps you lean into the fact that this is happening,” Gallagher said. “What’s happening is a big change for a lot of people that came quickly. We thrive in our routines, and we like knowing what’s coming next and having a sense of how our day looks.” Additionally, this may be a great time to start a gratitude journal.
Speaking of routines, try to keep your current routine intact. For example, even if you’re working from home wake-up at the same time and start work at your normal time.
Nothing beats face-to-face interactions. But, since this currently isn’t advised, your best alternative would-be video calls. Thankfully, there is no shortage of options that you can use to stay connected with friends, family, or co-workers, such as FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, and WhatsApp Messenger.
Another way to stay connected would be to finding online communities in topics that interest you. For example, if you’re a fan of Marvel movies, then you could join a Facebook community that discusses these films. Or, you could play online games against friends, family, or even just strangers you are also looking for a distraction.
Take a break from the news and social media.
It’s tempting to constantly check the news right now. And, while you should stay informed, consuming too much news is detrimental to your mental health.
Limit your screen time and news consumption by setting boundaries. For example, only set dedicated times to watch the news or check your social feeds, like from 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. After those 30 minutes, focus on something else like your work, playing with your children, reading, meditating, or doing something meaningful like cleaning your home.
Have a sense of humor.
“It is very easy to be very serious about everything right now,” Art Markman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, tells Health. “Of course, this is serious. There are people who are sick and people who are dying. But if you look throughout history, the worst situations, the people who get through it feeling best from a mental health standpoint are those who keep their humor.”
Markman says that there’s a reason for “gallows humor,” which is grim and ironic humor during a desperate situation. It makes the situation a little less scary. “To joke with friends about being alone is an incredibly valuable thing,” he says. Our “ability to find humor in anything” is one of our more valuable traits, he adds.
If you need help, reach out.
If you feel lonely or in a state of crisis, please do not hesitate in reaching out to a loved on. You can also turn to mental health apps or work with a mental health professional who offers teletherapy, such as DPS.
If it’s an emergency, contact 911 or 1-800-969-HELP (4357) immediately.