Here’s a fun game: Turn on the news and start counting — one, Mississippi, two, Mississippi, three. See how high you get before you hear the word coronavirus. Did you make it to 10? Maybe 3?
Probably not. It feels like a barrage of bad news. And now we’re being asked to avoid human contact — a basic and essential human need. Phew! The negativity can take a toll.
Fortunately, staying healthy comes with plenty of advise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tips for everything — from washing your hands to keeping your community safe. The World Health Organization includes an international perspective on the crisis.
Every country’s health ministry is tackling the ins-and-outs of keeping its people healthy.
Staying calm, maintaining focus and feeling safe are another matter. Mental health is bound to take a hit as we quarantine and isolate. At the extreme, prolonged fear and anxiety can become major problems for physical and mental health.
Here are tips for combatting loneliness during self-isolation and managing stress during a global crisis:
1. Make a list of things you find relaxing
Some activities you normally participate in for relaxation could be off the menu if they involve close interaction with others or violate quarantine rules, so you’ll want to make a list of what you can safely and easily do.
What are some healthy things for your list? Watching movies, reading a book, listening to music, completing a puzzle, soaking in a bubble bath, stretching on the floor. Walking outside, doing yoga or other calisthenics at home. Playing games with people in your home or finding online versions so you can play with others. Calling or video chatting with a friend or loved one lifts your mood and allows you to stay connected.
There are so many activities that nurture your mind, body and spirit. Get creative! Maybe you’ve got beads to be strung or paint brushes that are calling for you to dust them off and put them to use.
Do something every day. Relaxing on a daily basis allows you to stay calm and to feel some respite from the drudgery and worry that accompanies an event of this magnitude.
2. Keep your mind active
Many people are now working from home. Maintain a typical workday by setting limits for yourself, including a reasonable time to respond to emails. Just because you are working from home does not mean you’re working 24/7.
Try to keep your work contained in one area of your home. Psychologically, it’s best to avoid any space you normally use for relaxation. Harvard tips on healthy sleep suggest eliminating work activities from the bedroom, so you associate that room with sleep and nothing stressful. If you don’t have an in-home office, consider creating a designated workspace that won’t infringe on others in your home.
3. Don’t overdo it
The weight of stress and anxiety can be gradual. Human emotions are complex, and not always easy to trace or navigate. One good solution is meditation.
Meditation calms the mind and relaxes the central nervous system. Meditation can lead to feelings of rejuvenation and can offer clarity for problems that stick in our minds or circulate like a pop song we heard last summer.
If you regularly meditate, you know the benefits. If you’re not sure where to begin or need a boost to your practice, there are many guided meditations online and there are good tips in this series on Mindfulness Matters by Yogi and CPA, CGMA Amy Vetter.
4. Take good care of yourself
Take time to check in with yourself. Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? Am I breathing deeply?
Self-assessment and self-care is so important during this difficult period. And feelings are healthy! Feelings are not wrong. They reflect your current state of mind and will lead to insight of what you need. Understanding and acknowledging how you feel is empowering. It can lead to personal growth and can guide you to share openly with others. Chances are, they can relate.
Like all challenges, this will pass. Like previous hardships, you will endure. Things will return to normal. In the interim, be sure to be good to yourself. Your well-being is worth more than gold.