As quarantine continues, more and more people find their mental health suffering. Locked indoors with little face-to-face interaction with others and the world seemingly falling apart around them, the state of the world is rather grim. Countless are struggling with issues brought on by the pandemic, and mental health is one that many are having a hard time with. Fortunately, there are numerous things that people can do to improve their mental wellbeing.
All types of health—mental, physical and social—are closely linked. Neglecting one or multiple may lead to the others failing as well. When trying to take care of mental health, it’s important to focus on physical or social health. Staying in touch with friends, eating healthy and staying active are valuable habits that will ultimately help you feel better in the long run. While it’s harder to stay in touch during quarantine, checking in with friends, setting up times to hang out over the internet or finding online communities are good ways to socialize. Staying active doesn’t have to mean doing a hardcore workout every day—it can be as simple as not sitting all the time and taking the effort to stand while doing work. Taking the time to stretch every once in a while is an easy way to be more active. In the same vein, eating healthy can just mean an occasional effort to eat more than junk food and trying to eat fruits and vegetables as often as possible. Getting enough sleep is also crucial, but any efforts to move closer to a healthy sleep schedule is a good place to start. Consistent sleep and wake times help you feel better and boost your brain performance. As with anything, any progress is better than no progress. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do very much, or if you slip up once in a while.
Self-care is an action made with the express purpose of taking care of your health. It’s the conscious choice to take care of yourself. The goal isn’t to do anything draining or taxing, but rather something enjoyable to improve your life. While taking care of your health, like eating balanced meals, is an important part of self-care, any action that helps you feel better can be self-care. For example, binging a TV series or painting, if those are things you enjoy. For emotional self-care, set boundaries, be aware of your emotions or meditate. Small things like cleaning, doing the dishes, or opening the windows can all be very helpful. Another critical part of coping with stress is removing stressors. Keeping up on COVID-19 news can be important, but it’s also stressful and demoralizing. However, while self-care is an essential practice, it’s also crucial to find a balance; while too much stress is unhealthy and damaging, small amounts of stress can be healthy and productive.
Other day-to-day habits can help move you toward a healthier mindset. Creating a schedule to stick to, for example, can be a good way to keep your spirits up. In a time where we have little to no structure, it can provide a valuable feeling of stability. In addition, planning your day to include time to focus on your health ensures you have a place to practice self-care and take care of yourself.
Next, it’s also important to try to be kind to yourself. Do your best to cut out negative self-talk, even if you privately think it’s true. Being hypercritical won’t help you improve; it’ll only damage your self-esteem. Try instead to notice what you do well and what you can make progress on. On the other side of the spectrum, self-deprecating jokes are just jokes, but they can still be harmful. If you say something enough times, you’ll eventually believe it. Instead, you could try making jokes that exaggerate your own ability. For example, if you’ve just messed up a math problem, something like “Move over, Einstein.” There are many ways to joke around and help your self-esteem at the same time. Additionally, try to acknowledge your strengths. Note things that you’ve done that you’re proud of, or turned out well, or try some positive affirmations.
Lastly, it can be hard to improve your mental health, especially if you’re struggling with a disorder like depression. Sometimes you can’t get better completely on your own, and you need help from others. That’s completely normal—no one can get anywhere without support, even if they don’t realize it. Ask close friends to check up on you and see if you’re taking care of yourself or join an online community that does so. Being able to open up and talk about how you’re feeling is an important skill. Therapy and counseling can also be incredibly helpful, and it’s still available during quarantine. The Bellevue College Counseling Center has moved online, and appointments can be scheduled on their website for free. Other resources are also available.
It’s a challenging time for everyone. However, taking time to think about your mental health and how you can improve it can make everything a little easier. Improving your mental health can help you deal with other challenges during quarantine, and problems moving forward. Despite the world supposedly falling apart, you can take the steps to move forward and improve your life. Quarantine can be a time to establish healthy habits that stick with you throughout your life. Just remember, you’re not alone.