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Around the world, almost no one has been left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outbreaks of any kind can be stressful, and not just because of the disease itself. People aren’t just afraid of getting the virus, or having someone they love get sick. On top of this expected health anxiety, people are also stressed out by the impact the quarantine has had on their jobs and social lives.
Besides fear and anxiety for your health and that of your loved ones, forms of stress during disease outbreaks can include changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty concentrating or sleeping; worsening of chronic and mental health conditions; and increased dependency on alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. Everyone reacts differently to stressful conditions, with children, the elderly, and those with existing health conditions being hit the hardest. But no one is immune to stress.
Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to maintain your mental health during this difficult time. As the enforced quarantine nears its end, keep in shape mentally with these tips.
Remember Why the Quarantine is Important
Humans are remarkably resilient, but we tend to cave under pressure if we don’t have a strong purpose behind our actions. If you’re feeling frustrated and cooped-up, remind yourself why the quarantine is important. If there’s any chance you’ve been exposed to coronavirus, then social distancing is an altruistic choice, because you’re minimizing the risk for others. And if you aren’t particularly at risk yourself, you’re still doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19, which could save lives. Keep the reasons for current conditions in mind to help yourself maintain perspective and calm during this time.
Make Sure You Have Good Health Insurance
Medical care is expensive, and it can seem even more expensive now that so many people are out of work. If you and your family aren’t on a good health insurance plan, the possibility of getting sick to be a serious drain on your mental health. That’s something you should look into right away.
If you can’t afford insurance, you may qualify for a government program. Each day, around 10,000 different people turn 65, which makes them eligible for the government-providedhealth insurance program. You don’t have to be over 65 to get free or low-cost healthcare, however. Visit your state’s social benefits site for more information.
Watch Out for Addiction Relapses
During quarantine, many people are living in complete solitude. Between the loneliness, boredom, and circumstantial stress, not only can it be bad for mental health — it’s also fertile ground for relapses into old addictions to sprout back up.
If you’ve been battling a dependency on alcohol or other substance recently, you might want to take extra steps to avoid relapsing during quarantine. Early recovery from addiction is a time of high relapse rates.
Experts know that the more support an individual has, the better their chances are ofremaining sober. You may not have people living with you at home, but you should still stay connected as much as you can through the phone or social media.
Don’t Skip Essential Care
Many people are avoiding hospitals altogether for fear of contracting COVID-19. Sadly, that includes many people who genuinely need medical care. While it may be wise to postpone elective care procedures until after the quarantine has ended, make sure you get any essential care you might need. Good physical health is important for good mental health, so don’t ignore this important part of your life during quarantine.
If you find yourself in need of emergency care, you might feel safer going to a local urgent care center instead of the emergency room. Around 22% of patients claim to choose urgent care over other care sites because they expect wait times to be shorter; 21% said it was because the location is more convenient for them. Either way, if an urgent care center near you treats your condition, you might be more comfortable going there for health services.
Try a New Hobby or Lifestyle
Time alone is best spent in reflection and trying something new. Why not explore new hobbies or lifestyles, such as starting a vegan diet, picking up an instrument, or learning a second language?
Being creatively engaged during periods of high stress can help keep your mind going in a positive direction, which is essential for good mental health. By focusing on a new, interesting challenge, you’ll be better equipped to avoid spiraling into depression or anxiety.
Take a Break from the News
Everyone knows that the news media isn’t particularly encouraging. In fact, many suspect the media has a bias towards the negative. While you should consume enough media to be responsibly informed, be careful not to become inundated by bad news. There are plenty of horror stories in the world, and it’s easy to find them if you’re looking for them. But most of those things aren’t likely to affect you directly, and worrying about them in advance will only make you more stressed and unhappy right now.
To help relieve stress, try to focus on positive content during the rest of the quarantine. Listen to encouraging, upbeat music, and watch movies with positive, uplifting stories. Your brain doesn’t need any help feeling stressed out, so give it a break by being mindful of what you’re watching and listening to.
Stay Connected to Those You Love
Isolation for long periods of time isn’t good for people. While there may not be anything you can do about mandated social distancing, you can at least stay connected to those you love, especially if there are others living in your home.
To keep connected at home, eat regular meals with your family or roommates. Besides giving you all a chance to enjoy some interaction a few times each day, having regularly-scheduled meals is good for your health and mood.
For friends and relatives outside the home, be sure and check in now and then by phone. You could take this opportunity to experiment with different forms of communication, such as instant messaging, video calling, and even old fashioned email. Remember our point about avoiding media over-consumption, and avoid social media if it causes you emotional distress.
One of the best ways to feel better during times of stress is to support others who are worried. You surely know many people who are experiencing anxiety, whether over money, work, or their loved ones’ health. If you feel up to it, try to be an encouraging voice during these times. Simply listening to someone as they vent their fears and insecurities can really help them out. Just make sure you’re not taking on too much for your own good, and you’ll probably feel better yourself just by helping others feel better.
And there you have it: our top tips for maintaining your mental health during quarantine. Hopefully some of these ideas have been helpful to you!