Discover how easy it is to gain control of your life again
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This is an unusual time in the world, especially for people who fall in the high-risk category for the novel coronavirus. Self-quarantine brings additional challenges, as bouts of loneliness or boredom may spring up due to taking extra precautions to maintain your health. In order to stay both mentally and physically healthy, be mindful about your habits, coping strategies and outlets. To help you, we consulted with different experts to help you navigate this unique situation.
This is an unusually stressful time. You are likely feeling more anxious than normal, and the mental impact can affect your physical health, too. As such, it is essential to establish good habits to keep you feeling as good as possible—no drastic changes necessary. Small changes, like a short walk each day, can have a big impact. Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, a Family Medicine Doctor and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor tells us, “Staying healthy and active is known to be beneficial for mental well-being, with one recent study claiming that as little as 15 minutes of walking a day may reduce symptoms of depression by 26%.” Such a big payback for a small amount of time and effort may be particularly effective right now.
If you feel uncomfortable walking in your neighborhood (even while wearing a mask), consider walking in your yard or spending 15 minutes stretching on a porch or patio. Dr. Judy Ho, clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and host of the SuperCharged Life podcast, suggests even the smallest efforts can offer a big reward. She says, “Whenever possible, try to get outside, even for a few minutes a day… Research shows this is especially effective in the morning hours to align with human beings’ circadian rhythm, which can also help promote better quality sleep. If you are unable to get outside, open the shades [to] help ward off claustrophobia and boost your mood.” It can be tempting to hide indoors during this time, but even the smallest amount of sun and fresh air can truly turn your mood around.
If you find you want to resort to creature comforts to help you feel cozy and safe, you are not alone. Many people are indulging in comfort food, regular movie nights and more frequent cocktail hours. While enjoying these comforts in moderation is fine, it is important not to overindulge. The break in your usual routine can make it easy to spend too much time in front of a screen or start that cocktail hour earlier each day. To combat this, stick to your usual routine, with some necessary adjustments, and strive for healthier coping methods. For example, Kellie Brown, LMHC, NCC, MCAP at Quiet Water Counseling, recommends, “Keep up your routine. Try to do everything you normally would do, just do it at home instead. You might have to get creative, but routine is great to maintain your mental health.”
Moreover, many people find that they fixate on the latest coronavirus news, which can lead to more anxiety and fear. Dr. Lisa Lovelace, owner and clinical psychologist of Synergy eTherapy, proposes staying educated, but setting limits. She advises that, to combat anxiety, loneliness and depression, you should, “Reduce your preoccupation with coronavirus news, know your own risk of catching coronavirus, use correct preventative methods, create a plan of action and talk to a mental health provider.” It can be empowering to stay up-to-date on the latest news, but stay away from endless scrolling and watching the news at all hours. If you are too tempted, consider a hobby, says Noreen Iqbal, LCSW and psychotherapist at Olive Branch Therapy Group. “Now’s your time to reconnect with a hobby that made you happy. Many of us even have the tools needed for these hobbies and projects. Work on it on a porch or balcony to allow yourself to get some fresh air and sunlight during the quarantine. Hobbies are a great de-stresser and keep your mind sharp.” Find new and more enjoyable ways to spend your time so you are not tempted to spend all your time on the news.
Make the extra effort to keep in touch by reaching out to friends and loved ones, and staying in touch with your own thoughts and emotions. Try keeping a journal to record your feelings and keep track of anything you might be struggling with during this time. Brown advocates that you “write down any concerns you have so you can track how you feel. You might want to include other notes in your journal, such as how well you slept the night before and your appetite level. All these things are important and can affect your mental health.” It can also come in handy if you need to use telehealth for your doctor visits. Aragona notes, “This can be helpful for people to track symptoms or anything that would concern them. Journaling not only helps clinicians, but it can also be a useful way of managing and coping with anxious or sad feelings.”
Keeping in touch with loved ones is also vital to your overall health, so make sure you commit to staying connected. Ho recommends finding creative ways to socially engage, mentioning that, “We can do this by making sure we touch base with loved ones in real life by calls or video chat. This can be additionally bolstered by having a shared experience. For example, eat lunch or dinner with a loved one over video chat. Watch a movie together while on video chat and share commentary and opinions about the film during or after.” Ho suggests committing to this kind of social engagement a few times a week to combat feelings of loneliness and maintain contact and connection during self-quarantine. It’s helpful to have something fun to look forward to each week.
The key to staying healthy through self-quarantine is to be intentional about taking care of your mental and physical health. Follow the advice of these experts to stay connected and aware, while keeping a schedule filled with positive coping skills and activities. With a little extra effort, you can stay as mentally and physically healthy as possible.
 “More evidence that exercise can boost mood.” Harvard Health Publishing, May 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood
 Kennedy, Madeline. “Morning daylight exposure tied to a good night’s sleep.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 18 May 2017,