From long-term action plans to small bursts of positivity, here are 13 things you can do while in quarantine to improve your mental health while you stay safe from Covid-19.
The Coronavirus pandemic is such a sad time to be in. The disease spread itself all over the world, so quickly that we lost everything we considered normal just a couple of months ago. While traveling was considered a cool hobby up until Christmas, it’s now something we don’t even consider. While hustling at work was impressive just weeks ago, now we are legally mandated to waste our time watching TV. Being cooped up at home is the new normal, and the worst thing is, we don’t know how long this is going to last, how it’ll end up affecting our lives and whether we’ll even have lives left to be affected.
No matter where we look, the news of Covid-19 surrounds us everywhere. It’s overwhelming. No country is spared. No age group, no gender, no profession or financial status is spared. Good news is nowhere in sight and we’re all anxious, scared, and finding ourselves in new territory – the geographical extent of which humanity has never seen.
How to Improve Your Mental Health & Reduce Stress: 13 WAYS
In times like these, the upkeep of our mental health becomes more necessary than ever. Whether the disease is going to get us or not, we can’t live in turmoil. So let’s take charge of our emotions, and fight together to feel better while we try to stay safe.
From my personal experiences and ways to manage anxiety I have learned from the happiest people I know, I have made a list on how to improve your mental health during this pandemic that I believe will help everyone.
1. Find Ways to Reduce Your Stress
The first step to solving a problem is identifying it. So identify your pain points so that you can manage your stress. What’s your biggest worry? What can you do in the short-term to reduce it?
• If you’re feeling scared of getting the disease, work towards strengthening your immune system so that you give your body the best chance of survival (I’ll get back to this one later).
• Worried about being over-worked – balancing office and household chores? Communicate it to your family and distribute responsibilities.
• If you’re feeling anxious due to being cooped up at home all day, try to be productive so you can make the most of it. Being productive will also improve your self-confidence (you’ll love how much work you got done!) and thus, improve your mental health.
2. Be Informed
One of the best ways to be prepared is to identify the situation and understand the enemy. Learn about the virus as much as necessary. Make your own decisions based on information from credible sources, rather than depending on others to update you.
You can visit our Coronavirus Live Dashboard to find daily stats, helpful info and credible resources from around the web.
3. Focus on Preparedness, Not Reaction
It’s easy to feel helpless in this time, however, the best way to deal with this situation is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We know things are getting worse, and it’s our duty to prepare ourselves for bad times.
So make sure your pantry is stocked up, your family is well aware of the danger and you have the resources to work from home. Taking the necessary steps now will improve your mental health, since you’ll be less stressed. Make those hard decisions now, instead of waiting for things to go down. Keep reading for other important ways on how to prepare yourself.
4. It’s Okay to Feel Disappointed over Small Things
We’re all missing out on important things this year. Weddings and graduation ceremonies are getting postponed, exams are getting cancelled (okay, no one looks forward to them. We’re not Hermione. Never mind). Housing Day got cancelled for freshmen, and you cannot go out clubbing or partying during lockdown.
And it may seem that you’re somehow not allowed to feel bad for these trivial things while people are dying around the world. However, I believe that it’s okay to admit that this pandemic is inconvenient and you’re missing out on fun things that you were looking forward to – it doesn’t make you privileged.
5. Prepare Yourself Physically & Mentally
Things are bad, they may get even worse. We have to admit that Coronavirus may attack or even kill us. To ensure your body gets the best chance, improve your immunity. You can do that by eating healthy meals, eating on time, and exercising regularly.
Yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) focus on overall health, including mental health of the body. You can also do Zumba, planks, treadmill, dance or do other exercises at home. This will improve your mental health, because it’ll make you feel like you’re in-charge. You’re actively preparing yourself, instead of feeling helpless, waiting to be taken by the disease!
6. Positive Hobbies
Channel your energies into doing fun things that you enjoy. So instead of getting paranoid, live your life to the fullest with whatever you have.
Spend time with your spouse or kids. Good things to pass time at home are solving puzzles, building lego-sets, playing board games or card games. You can also focus on hobbies you don’t otherwise get time for, such as cooking, starting your own blog, building a six-pack you always wanted.
Do a movie marathon or catch up on that TV series your friend keeps recommending you. You can read books you’ve always wanted to read, or just listen to e-books. Write about your profession on CareerNuts.com, or share your opinion on something on OpiniOwn.com. Learn a new skill online, start knitting or learn coding. You can also write a book or start other ambitious projects. Who’s stopping you?
7. Go on an Information Detox
Avoid TMI about Coronavirus. The internet is currently flooded with information on the spread of the disease. Newspapers are putting out the worst information daily, brands are concentrating on fearmongering and it seems like every social media feed is made up of nothing but Covid-19. In fact, it’s so much so that any news piece that’s not related to Coronavirus now seems out of place – redundant.
In such times, it’s easy to feel that doomsday is upon us and nothing can be done anymore. But we can do something – try to also focus our energies on other things that matter. Over-focusing on the problem instead of the solution won’t improve your mental health.
A great step is to designate times during the day in which you have to avoid your digital devices. I allow myself no phone when I go for a walk, and I allow myself no internet-browsing and social media when I’m writing. Avoid over-reading about the Covid-19 updates, stop following each and every trending hashtag and you’ll feel so much lighter. A once-per-day disaster update is more than enough.
8. Do Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing
While government mandates are abuzz these days with the concept of social distancing, it’s easy to let being-at-home ruin your social life, especially for those who enjoy physically meeting their friends or going out as a form of regular socialization. Keep up your social life digitally. Talk to your friends and family, as everyone is in the same boat.
Well, take it from me – none of whose best friends live in the same city – that it’s very well possible to still maintain your best relationships even when you’re physically far apart. The trick is to still keep sharing your day to day thoughts, boring or otherwise useless goings-on with your friends. Tell them about the most memorable things that happen each day.
One of my friends used to be my tea-partner back in grad school. And we still invite each other from time to time to have a Whatsapp tea party, where we share pictures of our tea, and daily thoughts, while having tea “together”. Yes, it may sound ridiculous to many people, but it’s a totally normal and routine thing that helps us maintain our ten-year old tradition.
9. Eat Good Food
First of all, having a healthy diet has long term benefits. It’ll improve your dietary habits, making your quarantine worthwhile. Secondly, lots of good food items increase dopamine in the brain, making your feel good instantly. Some examples include yogurt, fruits, nuts and dark chocolate. Focus on feel-good aromatic herbs like rosemary, basil, mint and cilantro. They instantly make me feel good.
And wait – there’s more. Since we’re all avoiding restaurants these days, eating good food means that it’ll get you in the habit of cooking more. Creating a healthy, tasty meal takes effort and love. And loads of time. So it’ll make you feel both productive and happy. You’ll be too busy to be depressed.
Think of new ideas every day, look up interesting recipes online and improve your culinary skills. Try fun ingredients and new cuisines, and be very particular about mastering your signature foods. Wow, count me in!
10. Maintain a Journal
When your mind is full of thoughts, too many to properly organize in your head, it’s the best time to express them in the form of a diary. Diary-writing is a proven method of organizing your thoughts and identifying your opinions and feelings clearly. It helps reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mental health, as writing a journal feels like you just shared your deepest feelings or fears with someone.
You can write down your thoughts; in fact, get creative with your writing. Give it personality – make it funny, sad or thought-provoking. You can also share it in a blog, online journal or a social publication like OpiniOwn.com.
If you’re someone who meditates on a regular basis, you’ll already know how beneficial it is to do so. However, if you’ve never done it, let me tell you it sounds boring but it’s actually very difficult to meditate, especially when you’re stressed.
Meditation is a practice that many traditions vouch for, and it finds its earliest roots in Indian history. Traditionally, you close your eyes while sitting cross-legged (vajrasana) and try to concentrate on your breath. To do so, you need to be fully conscious of your steady inhaling and exhaling pattern, while completely emptying your mind of any other thoughts.
It’s easy to begin, but difficult to maintain this practice for even a full minute in the beginning. However, with practice, you’ll be able to empty your mind for a whole hour at a stretch. The habit of meditating for half an hour or an hour daily will help you be relaxed throughout the day. It’ll train your brain to concentrate on the tasks at hand, and will improve your mental health.
Read more here: Guide to Om Yoga | Your Gateway to Meditation & Stress Busting
12. Dress Well at Home
We don’t dress well just to go out. We do it for ourselves, and dressing well helps us feel confident and happy. Fashion is actually an underrated tool when it comes to ways to improve your mental health. So take care of your personal grooming and style even when you’re just by yourself, or with family. Do your nails, keep up your skin-care routine and wear comfortable clothes that you feel good in.
Also check out: Steps for Manicure at Home Naturally (with Pictures)
According to Abraham Maslow’s theory in psychology called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-esteem and confidence is one of the top-most human needs. According to my theory of why fashion and personal style are important, when we dress to please others, we do it to gain admiration, fulfilling the lower version of this need. However, when we dress up for ourselves, we gain self-esteem, thus fulfilling the higher version. I explained this theory in greater detail here in my video.
13. Lead by Example
Concentrate on your influence. You don’t need to be a celebrity to spread good thoughts and make a difference in people’s lives. Everyone is an influencer – be it to their kids, their spouse, parents, friends or co-workers. Now is the time to be a leader, and think of creative ways on how you can contribute.
However, many people channel their energies on negativity, calling people out for flouting social distancing rules on social media or criticizing them for posting messages that seem irrelevant to the situation.
Also check out on our other site, OpiniOwn.com: The Coronavirus & the Commoner
Instead of being angry at wrong-doers, think of positive ways to bring the change in your community. Educate your family in a way they’ll understand, let your house help or employees work from home or give them a few weeks of paid leave. Help your elderly neighbors or family members by doing their grocery runs. Help your extrovert friends by checking in on them and making them talk.
Hope this article was helpful in helping you create a plan to uplift yourself. What’s your happiness strategy during these tough times? Let us know how you improve your mental health and help everyone!
Shilpa Ahuja a designer and entrepreneur. She is the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion.
Fashion has traditionally been for the rich, white, thin woman. That’s how it evolved over centuries and that’s how it’s been represented in fashion media. But Shilpa believes that with the changing role of women in the society, fashion has changed, too. She believes that fashion is for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, color, body type and background. So she translates runway fashion into easy style advice that one can incorporate into their daily lives.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a professional degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. For feedback and questions, please email [email protected]