Updated: Jan 20, 2021
C-Oh(!)vid-19 stress, and the associated social isolation, as we batten down the hatches in order to reduce community transmission, not overwhelm our healthcare system, and keep ourselves and our loved ones in health, is not a fabulous recipe for mental health.
"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength." - Arnold Schwarzenegger
For many of us it is time for social isolation and an end to the routines we have build for ourselves; the routines that keep us feeling mentally well. Under these circumstances it is normal to experience some problems with mood, so here are some quarantine mood management tips to help.
Feel free to take this list, change it, throw stuff out, and add to it. We’re all different, what works for one, won’t work for all. Experiment, until you create your new ‘normal’.
These are a mix of tips from things we all do to stay mentally well and some therapy ideas.
Develop a routine and stick to it. Routine helps us feel that life is less ambiguous and ambiguity tends to make humans feel unsafe, it also helps reduce procrastination, allows you to ensure the important things are prioritised, and allows for a sense of organisation and achievement. A routine will also help you to ‘chunk’ your quarantine time and it won’t seem so endless if you know that in an hour you’re watching a show, or starting a crochet project, or working out with a friend over Messenger, or have a work Zoom meeting.
Keep your sleep in a healthy, socially appropriate pattern. One of the most important things you can to keep your sleep healthy is get 7-9hrs and wake up at the same time every day.
Expect some irritability, overwhelm, boredom, or moodiness. Notice it, name it, and make a plan ahead of time for pleasurable activities to shift your mood. We have a few lists of pleasurable activities on our website, you can find other fun activity catalogues all over the internet for some new ideas. Have a look at this one from The Centre for Clinical Intervention, one of the psychology centres I have a lot of respect for.
Get up, get dressed as though you are going to work or out to socialise. You won’t feel like it but putting some effort into your appearance: get showered, wash your face, get dressed, and put your shoes on. Doing this everyday makes you feel like you are investing in yourself because you are worth it. Tip #3 and #4 from this blog of speaking to people with depression talks about the importance of these basic routines.
Stay on contact! As an official member of the human race you have a biological need to feel connected in a meaningful way. Social isolation and feeling lonely are worse for you than smoking and drinking alcohol at unsafe levels. Phone people, send texts, or reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to (This gets the added mood boost of doing something good for someone else). Here are some suggestions: a) play games with each other across the internet connection (e.g., Words with friends; Houseparty; or a YouTube workout over social media); b) Form a WhatsApp group and check-in each week, or; c) send out a group email and send a funny/helpful video (this video has swears).
If you’re struggling with your mood, try something different; a meditation, a walk, talking to someone over Skype, schedule in a regular teleconference date or event (perhaps a coffee or a workout session?), or reach out to a mental health professional. Where telehealth is usually only available in rural and regional areas, many governments have loosened this rule and are allowing Medicare bulk billed teleconference appointments with psychologists.
Get out, and get moving, even if it’s just once a day. Check your local rulings, and pick an activity that fits that jurisdiction while getting you outside. Go sit in your garden, go for a walk, bike ride, yoga, use your treadmill, stretch, or kayak. If you’re not able/allowed to be outside as you’re at high risk then try opening the windows, practicing a guided meditation with nature sounds while stretching, or blast the fan while lifting some weights. Being outside, in nature, is naturally calming for your brain, and getting exercise releases a whole host of happy/healing chemicals, like serotonin and human growth hormone.
Look after your health in simple ways: a) eat well and eat regular meals, and; b) stay hydrated. Stress can lead us to mood management through food. For you, this may mean over eating, snacking on boredom busting chips (crunchy foods have a sonic appeal), or restricting. Whatever you identify with try to notice this and make plans to notice, manage through other activities, and/or minimise the amount you’re engaging with this activity. Keeping your body healthy is so important for your mental health so you release all the right neurotransmitters (did you know high fibre helps you release serotonin, a happiness brain chemical?) and also for keeping your immune system functioning well.
Spend time playing, whether with you’re at home with children, your partner, your pet, or yourself. Strengthen your connectedness with others by making time for play. Play is crucial for a child’s brain development, but it also builds feelings of social connectedness, busts stress, and boosts mood.
If you have children in your home, practice patience and expect some behavioural issues. Kids will often “act out” or be “overly emotional” when out of routine, bored, or feeling strong emotions. To try reduce this behaviour try to limit their exposure to social media on Covid-19, extra play-time with them, empower them with something positive they can do (like talking to Nan on the phone or making a charitable donation), get them out in the backyard, give them sensory toys to play with (e.g., playdoh, paints, sand, smelly pens, a tactile box, blowing bubbles, chewing gum or ice blocks (if age appropriate)), do craft, limit your expectations around school and achievement, and focus on well-being. When you are faced with frustrating behaviours, take a moment to cool your own feelings, breathe, label their feeling for them (“You’re feeling…” or if they’re older, “Are you feeling…” mad/sad/frustrated/bored etc.)
Make, and respect, a space to retreat. Ensure everyone has a way of removing themselves from communal spaces and can retreat. If someone does retreat, respect that space. If space is at a premium, be inventive: make a pillow fort, a secret space behind the couch, a reading nook, a shared lounge room where you can schedule alone time, or announcing you want to be alone and heading to the garden. However, if someone is retreating a lot you may want to ask, “Are you okay?”, it could signal low mood.
Give people the benefit of the doubt and check in with your automatic thoughts and assumptions and give yourself compassion too! With everyone stressed, there are bound to be some social faux pas, blow-ups, and general grumpiness. Try not to add to the situation by hearing your automatic reaction to it, “What a jerk!” and questioning yourself as to why they may have engaged that way. Use assertive communication, once the situation is cooler (try at least a 20-minute gap), if it keeps happening: “I wanted to talk about something with you. Is now a good time?”, if they agree, then, “When you were …, I felt…., I need you to…” (It feels dorky, but it is a great sentence to use), if they say not now, ask for when. Focus on connection and respect.
Limit your exposure to stressful stimuli, this could include certain people, places, and/or social media. You’re already working under duress, don’t add to it more than you have to.
Practice gratefulness. You can do this informally by being mindful and noticing the goodness in the world or more actively by writing 3 things each day that you are grateful for. Gratefulness is a demonstrated mood booster, even for those with clinical depression.
Find something you can do, whether that’s helping someone else, sticking to a routine, re-organising the pantry, or learning a new skill. This will give you a sense of control and certainty while there is a lot of uncertainty. You may have always wanted to learn a new language, play the piano, sort out the shed, study something, teach your dog agility skills, have a 15-hour Dungeons and Dragons session, crochet, read an entire book series, or start a blog. Now is THAT time!
Even when you don’t feel like it. Laughter is great medicine for what ails you: it decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells, which equals good for your mood and your health! There is heaps of good comedy on YouTube or you might take up a karaoke challenge in your lounge.
Make yourself an individualised self-care kit. This may include things you can smell (e.g., special person’s perfume on a handkerchief, lavender essential oil), taste (e.g., chocolate bar or ginger ale), touch (e.g., squeezie/stress balls, gak, or sandpaper) hear (e.g., ocean noises or comedy track), see (e.g., colouring or photos), ways to move (blowing bubbles or simple stretches), and/or feel physical pressure (e.g., weighted blanket or a cuddle). Check out these distress management boxes and compassion kits.
Try out mindfulness and/or meditation. You’ve got some time on your hands. You’ve heard about the brain boosting, immune buffering, mood lifting benefits of meditation and mindfulness. So now is the time to give it all a try. You could try this simple, 9-minute, mindfulness of the hand activity, or this 15-minute guided progressive muscle relaxation for a start. Challenge yourself to a daily practice.
On a final note, remember this too will end. Remind yourself daily and especially when you’re overwhelmed. This is a moment. One moment. It will end.
Hopefully, these 19 tips to beat covid-19 will be some help. This is not exhaustive, if you find others that work for you, share them!
Also, check out our Insomnia program for insights and techniques if you or someone you know is struggling to sleep during covid-19.
Michelle, on behalf of the myThereo team.
This article is for information purposes only. Please refer to the full disclaimer and terms and conditions before making use of this information.
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