Quarantine tests our emotional bandwidth and intensifies our feelings. Rage, anxiety and irritability can overwhelm us or make us do things out of character. But, guilt from taking a pause is all-consuming, a universal feeling. This imbalance not only stunts productivity but it harms mental health, thrusting us into a vicious cycle. But, there are some tricks to beating the quarantine blues!
“Always validate whatever emotions you’re feeling,” said Gainesville Sage Wellness’s Dr. Jennifer Martin. “Usually, we ignore it, brush it to the side or tell ourselves we’re overreacting. That only causes the emotion to get stuck, and emotions don’t just go away on their own.”
Take a mental health day as often as possible, or at least once a week, said Robert Edelman, a mental health counselor and CEO of the Village Counseling Center. Mental health days look different for everyone, but it means allowing time for self-care, mindfulness, rest and recuperation. Not everyone has the luxury of taking time off of work each week, but consider scheduling time during the evening or weekend to recharge. Sunday night may be a good time to reassess needs for the week ahead, especially for those who work. Martin recommended taking time off every quarter if not once or twice a year.
Although we cannot control the world around us, we can focus on ways to recharge amidst an uncertain time. Give yourself permission to adopt these self-care habits for your next mental health day!
Good Sleep and a Proper Diet
Be your own parent. Set a bedtime so you get a healthy 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Avoid heavy screen time before bed. Alcohol and tobacco use also interferes with sleep. Meal planning holds you accountable for eating regularly. It’s all the basics for your foundation, said Edelman.
Feel your heart flip once you check off a box. The littlest step forward is enough to rebuild self-esteem and hope. Something as simple as walking around the block for 30 minutes or reading a new book every month gives you something to look forward to and practice, said Martin.
Prioritize self-checks. Don’t feel pressured to pen an entire diary entry. Instead, write down your thoughts, stress levels or mental symptoms. It’ll make you mindful of your mental health and help you process your feelings.
Dampen high energy with breathing. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds. Breathe out through your mouth for seven seconds. Do this for as long as you need. The exhale decreases your heart and relaxes you. Intense exercises like jumping jacks interrupt panic, anger or high irritability so you can bring yourself back to a steady state and analyze what you’re feeling.
Find Your Movement
Exercise decreases depression, according to Edelman. Focus on activities that are rejuvenating rather than relaxing to refill your emotional energy, said Martin. Take a vigorous walk or hike a few times a week!
Soothe Your Senses
Infuse a warm bath with smells like flowers and lemon that make you happy. Smells trigger comforting memories, and nostalgia is one the most powerful feelings. Revisit fond memories by looking at old pictures. Immerse yourself in the world outside by gardening or listening to birds chirp.
Surround Yourself with Good People
Hearing other people talk about their struggles normalizes what you’re feeling. Socialize with people who support your self-care habits. Avoid self-isolation by video calling friends for quality face time. Keep your distance from toxic people who are negative or engage in unhealthy behaviors.
Find Altruistic Activities
Giving back to the community helps us cope with stress and anger while keeping us grounded, said Edelman. We can donate food or help at animal shelters without comprising safety.
Some people enjoy watching sad movies when they’re feeling down. Try watching a comedian you enjoy or an upbeat show. Dance to upbeat music for a boost or listen to calm music to soothe you. Puzzles and games also keep your mind distracted.
Recognize When You Need Help
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or significant other, mental health counselors have virtual sessions, said Edelman. People open up more during these online calls, he said. Some clinics now offer in-person appointments with temperature checks, hand sanitization and mask requirements. Crisis centers remain open.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Alachua County 24-hour Crisis Line at 352-264-6789.