10 tips for emotional wellness during self-isolation

A few months ago it would have been unthinkable to isolate yourself from friends and family. Now it is almost normal not to leave the house for days.

Isolation is necessary, but not good for our sanity. We are social beings, a fact ingrained in us from our ancestors, so it’s no wonder people are starting to get a little crazy and panicked.

Here are 10 tips from professionals to improve and maintain your mental health during quarantine.

1. Sticking to a Routine: Kristina Robertson, a consultant at Mountain Valley Academy, said one of the most important things a person can do is establish a new routine. This routine doesn’t have to be the same as it was before the quarantine, but it will help add a sense of normalcy and stability to your life.

2. Stay Active: Exercising is like killing two birds with one stone. Not only does it mean that you are physically stronger, but it also improves your mood, according to Robertson. Since the gyms are closed, the variety of exercises you may be used to decreases. From yoga to running, however, there are still many things you can do without going to the gym for now.

3. Eating healthily: “Eating well and remembering to eat is enormous,” said Robertson. A balanced, nutritious meal can greatly improve your mood and give you the energy you need to stay productive.

4. Take up a new hobby: Dr. Jane Tanaka, a Ramona psychiatrist, said that taking on a new hobby can help “keep you occupied” instead of focusing on the things you can’t control. You can bake, read a book, garden, knit – anything you find interesting. Use this time to improve!

5. Practice Mindfulness: Cynthia Rajcic, a therapist based in Ramona, emphasized the importance of practicing mindfulness or trying to spend time in silent contemplation and being present. “The average person has 40-60,000 thoughts every day,” said Rajcic. With all of these thoughts, along with the constant collective of fear, it is difficult to keep your mental state healthy. Practicing mindfulness, whether it be sitting down and being aware of your thoughts or taking a quiet walk, can be an opportunity to get inside.

6. Be Kind to Yourself: Robertson encouraged everyone to be “gentle and kind” with themselves. “This is a difficult time and it can cause a lot of fear,” she added. Understanding yourself as you would your best friend is important. Isolation is incredibly stressful, so relax.

7. No self-medication: An important tip from Dr. Tanaka is not treating yourself. Self-medication – including drinking more alcohol – can make you “more anxious and depressed” in addition to being dangerous.

8. Stay in touch with friends and family: During this time of isolation, contact with others is crucial. Even if you live alone, you can still socialize – whether you see your friends on social media, facetiming or talking to family members and friends on the phone. “Connection is the biggest thing right now,” said Robertson. She emphasized the importance of speaking to someone face to face, even if that face happens to be on a screen.

9. Practice self-care: Self-care can be anything you enjoy doing, be it riding a bike or dancing to your favorite song. But it is important that you spend some time focusing on yourself. Robertson compared it to “filling a bucket” and said it should be done on purpose.

10. Getting enough sleep: In quarantine, it can be easy to sleep just 3 hours a day – or 15 hours of sleep. But getting a healthy amount of sleep is one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy mental state. Experts note that sleep is the foundation of your entire routine and gives you the fuel you need to achieve your goals.

Kerrigan Pierce, 17, is a junior at Mountain Valley Academy and a Team Sentinel student reporter on our mentoring program for Future Gen Journalists.

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