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Five tips for managing mental health while social distancing

Spending a lot of time isolated due to remote work, sickness, or choice? Here’s a healthy perspective to help you maintain your mental health.

Your overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being can have a big impact on how you feel, think, and make decisions [1]. Mental health is an important consideration no matter the circumstances, but it is especially important during times of heightened anxiety. Your mental health is influenced by relationships with others, social distancing, isolation, and how you handle stress [1].

Five tips for supporting overall mental health while social distancing:

1 – Have an emotional support system in place: There are a few things you can do to ensure you have an emotional support system ready to go for when you need it. Try keeping contact information for close friends and family at your fingertips, have information for free in-person and online support groups on hand, and know what resources are available should you need help and support. We all need someone to lean on once in a while, so stay aware of your situation and prepare for the times when you do!

2 – Structure and routine: Structure and routine can provide stability in times of uncertainty and stress [2]. Try to maintain a normal work routine (even when working remotely), take regular and planned breaks, and maintain a daily ritual to bring a sense of familiarity and expected value to your day. Your normal routines are likely to be interrupted during social distancing. Make an effort to replace them with other healthy habits that strengthen mental health.

3 – Stay connected: Feeling a sense of social connection can help keep you mentally healthy [3]. In the age of technology, there are many ways to stay connected via technology like videoconference, email, and social media. You don’t need to be alone if the social mood strikes you; simply video calling a family member or friend to chat can have a profound effect on your well-being.

4 – Use online tools/resources: Online tools are becoming increasingly popular for managing mental health. Mobile apps (like Brain Manager or Odyssey, hotlines, and telemedicine are all supporting people virtually, offering a new avenue for getting help when you need it. Knowing that these tools are available can be half the battle when trying to get assistance in times of need.

5 – Exercise: Researchers have found that aerobic exercise, like jogging and walking, can improve mental health by reducing depression, anxiety, and negative moods [4]. Get moving to drive away the blues and boost your physical wellness at the same time! Exercise can also help with stress management, self-esteem, and social withdrawal [4]. If you find yourself stuck in a thought loop, try practicing a healthy activity—like yoga—or taking a short jog around the neighborhood. Some movement can break down toxic thought patterns and shine light on new opportunities and perspectives!

Keeping tabs on your mental health is particularly important right now because it changes over time and can fluctuate depending on our demands and the ability to cope [1]. Those who are feeling significant changes in their mental state may also want to reach out to a health care provider for support or additional resources.

Social distancing can be difficult for those not accustomed to spending a lot of time alone, and we should all be patient with those around us as a result. If you notice loved ones or friends struggling with their mental health, encourage them to seek help or try some of the mental health boosters we’ve discussed above!

 References:

1Mental Health in the Workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated April 10, 2019. Accessed April 7, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html

2Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources. National Alliance on Mental Illness. April 2020. Accessed April 7, 2020. https://www.nami.org/getattachment/About-NAMI/NAMI-News/2020/NAMI-Updates-on-the-Coronavirus/COVID-19-Updated-Guide-1.pdf

3Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak. World Health Organization. March 18, 2020. Accessed April 7, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf

4Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. Exercise for mental health. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2006;8(2), 106-106.