17 Mental Health Tips for Quarantine From Therapists
From small goals to your news intake, here's how to protect your mental health in quarantine.
Social isolation is not ideal for our overall wellness. Most humans are used to some sort of social interaction every day, no matter how small it may be. However, social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic means we have to limit those social interactions, and that can be hard on both our bodies and our minds. Whether you're quarantined alone or with friends and family, these mental health quarantine tips from therapists will help you remain healthy and sane during these hard times. And for more ways to make it through social distancing, check out these 9 Tips on How to Stay Calm During the Quarantine.
Limit how much you complain to the people you're quarantined with.
A lot of people are confined to a small space with friends or family members for the time being. And while it may be easy to spend your time complaining to and with those people, that can take a toll on both you and them, creating a hostile environment in the home.
"We're all tired, our nervous systems are taxed, and we're a little short on patience," says Robyn D'Angelo, LMFT, founder of The Wild Grace Collective. "This might have you thinking [the people with you] are the only ones you can vent to. They're not and they shouldn't be. Call a friend. Text your neighbor, if you know them. Or seek out a therapist."
Make time for love.
Just because you're stuck inside with someone for most of the day doesn't mean you're actually allocating time to spend with them. D'Angelo recommends creating moments in the day to express your love for your loved ones.
"Carve out little moments for hugs, making someone's favorite meal, complimenting your partner on their finest conference call pajama pants, or just telling someone you love and appreciate them—especially while things are really tough and scary," she says. "Just make time to show those who are nearest to you that you love them. Every single day, in some form."
But also set aside alone time.
At the same time, however, being stuck inside with other people can make it hard to feel like you ever have time to yourself—and most humans need some amount of alone time every so often. Whether there's tension in the house or you like the people you're quarantined with and just need a moment, clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly says it's "absolutely acceptable to take time-outs" from them. Take the space to listen to music, read a book, or watch some videos by yourself. And for more ways to spend time alone right now, here are 17 Things to Do by Yourself While You're Social Distancing.
Focus on the basics of self-care.
Many people have fallen behind on acts of self-care during this time because it may seem pointless. However, no one is asking you to throw on a face mask or make a bubble bath just for the fun of it. Instead, Dallas-based licensed clinical psychologist George Ball, PsyD, says you should make sure you're still focusing on the basics of self-care.
"This means you need to be shooting for eight hours of sleep per night, eat as clean as you can given the circumstances, and exercise at least three to four times per week," he says. Throwing in some things to pamper or treat yourself—like a face mask or bubble bath—may be helpful, too, but if that seems too daunting, make sure you're a least covering the basics for the time being.
Stay connected virtually.
In a time where most people are experiencing the "same anxiety and fear," licensed therapist Marcy Melvin with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, says it's important to stay "visually and verbally" connected with friends and family. After all, a new Kaiser Health report shows that nearly half of the people in the U.S. feel that their mental health is being harmed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Use FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom to allow for that extra visual interaction when checking in with loved ones during hard times. And for more tips on keeping in touch right now, learn 7 Easy Ways to Stay Social While in Isolation, According to Experts.
Maintain a sense of normalcy.
Patricia Celan, MD, a psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada, says "maintaining a sense of normalcy" is an important part of managing your mental health right now.
"Go through the motions the way you would if this was not happening, by waking up, working, eating, and exercising at the same times, with adjustments made for restrictions in going out," she says. "Focus on the things you can control in your life at this time, rather than obsessing about the uncontrollable state of the pandemic."
And find ways to safely keep plans you already made.
And that sense of normalcy means keeping as many plans as you can that you made prior to social isolation. Raleigh-based licensed clinical mental health counselor Latoya Nelson says this will help you "stay connected with relationships and friendships you had" outside of quarantine.
"If you had a happy hour with friends every Friday night, continue to do that virtually. Have everyone show up with their favorite beverage and the recipe to share," she says. "And move group conversations to group text messages. This is important because the drastic change of very engaging socialization to isolation can cause a shock to the system and feelings of anxiety or depression."
Set small goals for yourself.
Set up small goals every day that you can reward yourself for, says psychotherapist Kathryn Smerling. And nothing is too small to be considered a "goal." It may be "cleaning your bathroom, calling someone you haven't spoken with in a year, or even baking a new recipe," she says. The rewards you give yourself for these small goals can help you have something positive to look forward to, while still maintaining a sense of accomplishment in the routine day-to-day of quarantine. And if you're look to shake up that routine, try these 9 Genius Ways to Mix Up Your Daily Routine During Quarantine.
Limit your access to the news.
The news is especially grim these days as the coronavirus pandemic looms over everyone's heads. Due to this, Nelson say it's very important to limit how much news you take in every day.
"Limit your access to the news to just twice a day, max," she recommends. "This is important to decrease the mood swings that negative news can cause. It's important to understand that you will not miss anything, but you will gain a peace of mind knowing that you are not always going up and down based on what you hear from the news outlets."
Create work life and home life boundaries.
It's also important you set boundaries between your work and your home life if you're working from home, says Nelson. She recommends setting up a "designated area" to work, and only doing work there during your mandatory work hours. And if you normally have commute time after work, she suggests walking during that time or engaging in "some activity that will mimic the transition." Even if you're at home, you still need that time to decompress after work. And for more tips on making WFH easier, discover 7 Genius Home Office Hacks That'll Make Working from Home Way Better.
Try to go outside every day.
Alexandra Grundleger, PhD, with Grundleger Therapy, recommends going outside every single day—while still following social distancing guidelines—for any amount of time.
"Try to go outside every single day, even it is raining outside, in order to get your body moving, feel the sun against your face, say hello to neighbors, and get your heart rate up," she says. "While it is difficult to manage this with children and a job, just do the best you can and appreciate what you are able to do. Studies show that increasing heart rate and staying active has huge positive impact on our moods."
Engage in a mindless activity every day.
Although it may not seem like it, many people's minds are on overdrive right now. If you're not thinking about school or work, then you're most likely thinking about the pandemic. This can cause a lot of stress, says therapist Rachel McCrickard, LMFT, CEO of Motivo. This is why she recommends you take time to do something mindless every day, whether that's "pulling weeds in a garden, completing a puzzle, drawing, or watching a comedy."
Stay technology-free in the morning.
With not much to do while staying inside, it can be easy to be attached to technology 24/7. Masha Maritnova, former psychotherapist and current life coach, recommends using the morning as a constant technology-free time. That includes news, social media, and Netflix. Instead, take this time to make breakfast and engage in any technology-free activities, like reading or writing, before your work or school day begins.
Don't feel guilty for indulging.
There's no "right" way to get through this pandemic, says Austin-based psychotherapist Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW. During this bizarre, unprecedented time, he says to acknowledge that you may not be "the best version of yourself" right now.
"Embrace this side of yourself and allow yourself to 'go there,'" he says. "Go ahead and have that extra bar of chocolate or drink another glass of wine. Do so without shame or guilt and truly allow yourself to indulge and transgress. You may need it in ways that under normal circumstances you wouldn't."
Set up time to virtually talk to a professional.
You don't need to meet in person to talk to a therapist or life coach during this time. Life coach and motivational speaker Aimé Mukendi, Jr. says many professionals (himself included) are still providing one-on-one calls during quarantine, based on an individual's needs. You can use this time to vent, map out a personalized quarantine plan for yourself, and get into a new routine.
Focus on the present, not the future.
With so much uncertainty and so many unknowns out there right now, it can be stressful to think about "what is coming" or how long things "will last the way they are," says Candice Seti, PsyD, founder of Me Only Better. Instead, stay focused on the present, taking everything day by day as a way to "curb future anxiety" and keep yourself centered.
But remember that this will pass.
National certified counselor Kathryn Ely, host of the Imperfect Thriving Podcast, says recognizing that this hard time will pass is one of the most important ways to keep your mind healthy. It's not forever, although it may seem like it now.
"Remember 9/11? The financial crisis of 2008? It seems as if everything in our world is changing or shutting down," she says. "This can be super scary, but it is temporary, and we will bounce back. We did then, and we will now."