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Mental Health Guide to Surviving Quarantine

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

During this time when we are all asked to stay at home it can be hard to disconnect from work and make the weekend feel like a weekend. Studies have shown that Americans are working more and longer hours since the shelter in place orders started. For the nearly 3/4’s of Americans who are unable to work from home and many who have been laid off or furloughed the lack of routine and stress from financially insecurity adds another layer of anxiety. So how can we practice self-care and find a small semblance of normalcy in a most abnormal time in history?

If you’re working from home, one of the most important ways to save your sanity is designating a specific work space. Set boundaries around when you’re on and off the clock and don’t “go to work” when your off. Stick to those hours. Not only will this help you disconnect from the work week, it’ll also develop better boundaries and impulse control. The automatic reaction to check each notification and respond right away can be draining but if your job doesn’t require immediate action turn off the notifications. You may even want to let coworkers know you won’t be responding after a certain time or on weekends. If that seems like too much, give yourself an hour a day that Slack doesn’t intrude on your personal life. You’re still allowed to have a personal life.

Whether you’re working from home or not,  of the best ways to break the redundancy of Netflix and social media is to go outside. Get some sun and fresh air. Go for a walk, run or ride. The exercise and outdoor life will also help with sleep at night, which is something that can benefit so many of us.  Being outside can reduce stress, improve concentration and memory and restore mental energy.

“Katie, I’ve been going for walks everyday and I still feel like poo,” you say? To you I ask, what were some activities you enjoyed pre-quarantine? How can you modify them to make them compatible with social distancing? Did you have girl's night once a month? Try getting your friends together on FaceTime, houseparty or Zoom. Hold a game night. Did you go to the movies every weekend? Set up a movie theater in your house by making popcorn, a pretend movie ticket, order snacks. Maybe you miss traveling the most. If parks and hiking trails are open, go somewhere new. Finding ways to have new experiences and also create a new normal will help us adapt and maintain a sense of well-being.

Possibly the biggest complaint for most of us right now is loneliness. Fortunately, we have the technology available to connect with others from a distance. We may find ourselves reaching out to friends and family more often than before. This is also a great time to be more open and practice vulnerability by sharing our struggles with others. We can strengthen our bonds with loved ones while we are forced apart. We can support those who are struggling. Many organizations are finding ways to support their communities by soliciting and sending cards to the elderly or making masks for healthcare workers. Connect with local government and nonprofit organizations to see how you can be involved.

Whatever you decide to do with your time during this period of isolation, be gentle with yourself. This is a challenging time and everyone is struggling in some way. We are only alone if we chose it.

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