By Sara Donofrio
Unfortunately, in our current dysfunctional world, we must sacrifice many things for the greater good. Our independence, freedom to breathe fresh air without a mask, weekends out with our friends, and even communal seating. We all have to do our part in making sure this pandemic doesn’t stretch beyond 2020. This comes at a cost; loneliness and depression are at an all-time high due to the COVID crisis, and not even simply because of the high unemployment rates. Here are a few ways to keep calm and collected during this global crisis, whether you’re working or studying at home.
For kids especially, it can be hard to maintain a sense of normalcy when stuck inside, without the daily routine of waking up and taking the school bus, chatting with friends on the rides home, or even just going to playgrounds after school. A routine is a perfect solution for anyone who struggles with the limbo that is quarantine.
Professor of psychology at Adelphi University, Deborah Serani, PsyD, and author of Sometimes When I'm Sad says, “[s]tudies in resiliency during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day…[t]his means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking up and exercising at set times, and maintaining social (socially distant) contact. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety, or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.”
Starting an at-home exercise routine is another great way to allow some pattern to your day, and it kills time while you’re staying safe inside. Not to mention lots of workout programs are free online and help your mental health immensely.
Another way of staying sane, which is pretty undervalued in our current society is getting outside in nature. There have been studies done proving that this helps not only mental health but physical health as well. “Physical activity in a natural outdoor environment has been associated with reduced negative emotions and fatigue, increased energy (Bowler et al., 2010, Thompson Coon JB et al., 2011), improved attention, as well as greater satisfaction, enjoyment, and a greater intent to repeat the activity (Bowler et al., 2010).”
Many people forget another strategy, a way to clear their minds and homes, is to declutter, organize, and clean your home if you have time. This has been proven to reduce stress and allow you to spend your time doing something productive without having to worry. However, it’s important not to become obsessive, so that it doesn’t do the opposite for your mental health.
A way that many people overlook is meditation or simply slow breathing which has been proven to reduce depression and anxiety. This has been linked to a study with mice that “...found that a tiny subset of neurons in the area of the brain known to control various types of breathing also seemed to house a group of neurons that controlled the animals’ level of arousal. Knocking this area out made mice uncharacteristically calm—and the team believes that slow breathing might also tap into this area of the brain and have the same effect.”
Although it might be difficult, keeping in touch with friends and maintaining a sense of community is crucial for mental health. We are fundamentally social beings and socializing is one of our basic psychological needs that is unfortunately very difficult to satisfy this year. However, ways in which you can aid this is by doing daily or weekly Zoom calls with your friends or another form of video chatting. Or social distance in person, either way, make sure to keep in touch with your peers.
Being of service to others is another great way to not only help yourself but others in the process. Studies have shown that helping others has a strong and immediate positive effect on mental health. A few ways you can help at a local level are helping neighbors or friends get food and supplies, ordering takeout from local businesses, and helping fundraise to help the financial crisis our country is currently in.
This one might be difficult given the unfortunate state of our country and world, but it’s important to remember to remain grateful for the things you have. “For instance, in one of the first key studies on the subject, the researchers found that writing down five things one was grateful just once a week was significantly linked to increased well-being.” Says Forbes writer, Alice G. Walton in her article, “9 Practices To Help Maintain Mental Health During The Coronavirus Lockdown”.
Linked to the previous strategy in staying sane, is to let yourself off the hook. If you slack a little or if things aren’t necessarily going your way, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone’s in this together and trying to figure out how to live our new normal.
Sara Donofrio is an editorial intern who is passionate about the written word and all things social media/entertainment.