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A man trapped in a circle of ropes to represent social distancing and mental health issues during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How to Maintain Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Apr 2, 2020 | 6 min. read

The practice of social distancing is incompatible with the hyper-connected, busy world we’re used to. Here are some suggestions for adjusting to the new reality we find ourselves in.

Remember the good old days – before anyone had coined the term “social distancing”? So far, 2020 has been marked by an escalating global crisis fueled by the spread of COVID-19. Now that the United States has joined the list of countries with widespread cases, we’re coping with the tragedy of human loss, the financial impact on our communities and our pocketbooks, and the shared responsibility of slowing the spread of the virus.

The adjustment to increasingly strict restrictions on social interaction and movement has been difficult at best. After all, individualism and freedom are at the core of American culture; in other words, we’re used to doing what we want to.

In addition, the American Psychological Association warns that the disruption in our routines and lack of social stimulation can cause loneliness, boredom and even depression. To avoid these negative outcomes, make sure you’re proactively incorporating structure and connectivity into each day. Here are some tips you may find helpful for maintaining your mental health during COVID-19:

1. Create a routine.

You’re no longer going into work, dropping the kids at school, or meeting up with friends. It’s tempting to stay in your pajamas all day and float from one thing to the next, but don’t do it. Using whatever system or software you’re comfortable with, create a daily schedule and stick to it. Knowing what to expect every day takes the anxiety level down, promotes productivity and models appropriate behavior for those around you.

2. Get outside.

Smelling the roses is more important than ever. Take a walk, sit on the porch or work in the yard. Fresh air and sunshine can help clear your mind and give you a more positive perspective.

3. Learn a new skill.

Have you ever wanted to learn a second language, finish your degree or become a master chef? Well, now’s your time to shine. Many organizations are opening up their online classes to the public at reduced rates. In fact, here’s an article about Yale University offering its most popular class for free.

4. Clean out.

Now that our calendars have been cleared, there’s really no excuse for putting off that “honey do” list. Make a list of household chores that need to be tackled, including minor repairs and cleaning out closets. There’s never been a better time to declutter your home – not only will it give you a sense of purpose and productivity, it will make your “quarantine” space seem larger, cleaner and more inviting. 

5. Limit screen time.

Reaching for the TV remote, computer or Xbox controller is a natural response when boredom sets in. But studies have  shown the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt sleep patterns, and excessive screen time has been linked to obesity.

Now that schools have shifted to online learning, it’s natural for your kids to spend more time on the computer, but make sure they’re also engaging in age-appropriate “old school” tasks such as working out math problems on paper, coloring or reading a book.

This guidance works for adults, too. Don’t get sucked in to the 24-hour news cycle. Pick one or two reputable news sources and limit yourself to reading or watching those broadcasts once a day. If you’re working from home, turn your computer off at the end of the workday. Last, substitute excessive binge-watching and video games with board games, reading or listening to music.

6. Focus on wellness.

It’s well documented that stress is bad for your health and can cause problems such as headaches, insomnia and mood swings. Take care of yourself by getting plenty of exercise and practicing relaxation techniques. Outside activity (within social distancing guidelines) is always a good idea, and now there are countless exercise and meditation classes offered at a discount or no charge online.

7. Reach out.

Traditional forms of socializing are out, so make time to telephone a friend or relative, join (or create) an online book club or send an email to check on your neighbors. Interacting with others can lift your mood, and there’s no better feeling than making someone else’s day.

Here are some other creative ways to practice kindness in your community:

  • Give blood. The American Red Cross is experiencing a severe blood shortage due to the coronavirus.
  • Buy a gift card to your favorite local shop or restaurant for later use.
  • Put out your Christmas lights to brighten up the neighborhood.

The COVID-19 crisis is hard on all of us and can put a strain on mental health. Do your best to stay connected and active, and know that the First Command family is with you in this unprecedented time. If you’re feeling anxious about your finances, please reach out to your First Command Financial Advisor.

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