Managing Mental Illness During A Pandemic
6 ways to manage your anxiety and depression amidst a mandated quarantine
The entire experience surrounding a pandemic and mandated quarantine is foreign territory for many of us. The ‘fear of the unknown’ and what’s to come next rattles with the anxiety, depression, and mental distress that already exists for nearly 60 million Americans on a regular basis. The reality that several countries are under total lockdown and there seems to be no definitive end in sight has become the catalyst for full-on panic attacks and emotional breakdowns all across the globe. This has been (and will continue to be) one of the most challenging chapters of many of our lives and it can feel impossible to get a grip on any variation of a solution while stuck indoors. The lack of answers to questions can make it easy for those struggling with anxiety and depression to catastrophize the outcome into complete dread.
But there are many things that can be done while in the confinement of your own home, that can help alleviate some of the challenges that come along with either one and can help you to manage both:
1. Rather than telling yourself, “I am stuck inside,” consider saying, “I can finally focus on my home and myself.”
As dismal as the world may feel right now, reframe the mandated ‘work-from-home’ policy as an opportunity to internalize your focus. Try doing one productive thing per day and notice how it begins to lead to an inevitably better and more positive attitude. Set your sights on the tasks you have long-avoided and use this time to create something you have always wanted. By approaching this time with an intentional mindset of self-focus, you are avoiding the additional stress that the mindset of feeling trapped can carry. Slow down and reorganize your list of priorities so you are now at the top.
2. Limit the time you invest in research about the virus.
With all of this time on our hands and access to the web at our fingertips, it can be easy for us to fall down a ‘Google rabbit hole,’ but doing so can significantly challenge your headspace. If you do choose to do research, stick with credible sources, such as the CDC or WHO. In addition, limit the time you spend reading up on the latest regarding the virus and pandemic to a maximum of 30 minutes per day. Anything past that can put your solace at risk.
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3. Stay as close to your normal routine as possible.
Though it can be exceptionally challenging to stick to a routine that typically involves getting up and leaving for work in the morning, there are ways of establishing a routine while under quarantine. For those who have kids, sticking to a routine might be easier; however, as you work from home, it can become tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which has the tendency to lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals that consist of quality nutrients, shower, get out of your pajamas, and adapt your exercise regimen accordingly. Do laundry and clean as usual and do not let the priorities of your routine fall to the wayside. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active, productive, and less likely to spiral, it will also make it much easier to readjust to the outside world once it is time to return to work. Ultimately, try to maintain some level of semblance to the pre-quarantine days.
4. A chaotic environment is a catalyst for a chaotic mind
With the amount of uncertainty happening outside of your front door, keeping the inside organized, predictable, and clean can make a world of difference for your headspace. Setting up mental zones for daily activities can be helpful in order to organize your day. For example, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa. Instead, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk (just as you did before). When you loosen these boundaries, all it does is muddle your routine and can make the day feel miserably long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy, overwhelmed, and claustrophobic of your environment so do yourself the favor and keep it tidy.
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5. Start something new
With all of this newfound time, why not make something special of it? For example, have you been talking about getting into an exercise routine for months, but haven’t found the time because you’re always at the office and shuttling the kids around? Well, guess what’s possible from the comfort of your living room now! Another example might be starting a daily journal to jot down the thoughts and feelings you can reflect on later. Or maybe it’s taking a walk every day at 2 pm and connecting with your relatives over Facetime every morning. Maybe consider picking up a new hobby or finally getting around to that home project you’ve been talking about, yet putting off for months. If you have children, this could be the perfect opportunity to set an example and manifest this time in a way that nurtures your relationship and encourages resourcefulness.
6. Use Telehealth if things become unmanageable
Many licensed psychologists and psychiatrists are offering remote services via Telehealth. These are appointments facilitated over HIPAA-compliant video chat platforms. Remember, you do not have to navigate your anxiety alone and if it becomes too much, do not hesitate to reach out to the people qualified to provide support. If your anxiety and depression are beginning to reach proportions that are unmanageable without professional health, make it a point to turn to Telehealth or your current healthcare provider.
Letting go of illusions of control and finding peace in the fact that you are doing your part to “flatten the curve” will certainly build mental strength to combat the stressful situation the whole globe is experiencing.