stay home self-care: 20 tips for mental health care during quarantine
by: miranda melquist, lcsw, pmh-c
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Caring for our mental health can be especially challenging during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The uncertainty and isolation that comes from our Stay at Home order can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. YEP Member Miranda Melquist, LCSW, PMH-C, of Nurturinse shares her top 20 tips for taking care of your mental health during shutdown mandate.
- Find a routine: Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time. Write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
- Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have: Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, and brush your teeth. Take a bath or give yourself a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
- Get outside: Get out at least once a day for at least thirty minutes. Go for a walk and take in the sunshine and fresh air. If you do not feel comfortable going outside or are at high risk for infection, open your windows and curtains and turn on your fans. Utilize resources on YouTube that offer free movement classes. If all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
- Stay connected and ask for help: Reach out to others for —you guessed it —at least once daily for thirty minutes. FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health professionals on the ready to help you through this crisis
- Stay hydrated and eat well: Stress and eating often don't mix well. We find ourselves over-indulging or forgetting to eat and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good, nutritious foods and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
- Develop a self-care toolkit: Successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, movement, and comforting pressure. Grab a soft weighted blanket, light a candle, do a yoga flow, chew some gum. Whatever helps you cope.
- Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and a wide berth: A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.
- Find a personal retreat: Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. Identify a space in your home where you can escape to when you need to unwind.
- Practice radical self-acceptance: We are doing too many things in this moment—working, homeschooling, parenting—under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call "radical self-acceptance": accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback.
- Limit media consumption: One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily).
- Find the helpers: There is a lot of scary, negative and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counterbalance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
- Be a helper: Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop for your parents, check in with elderly neighbors. Helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.
- Find something you can control and control the heck out of it: In moments of big uncertainty and feeling overwhelmed, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.
- Find a long-term project to dive into: Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
- Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements: Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping, etc.) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
- Find an expressive art and go for it: Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel.
- Find lightness and humor in each day: There is a lot to be worried about and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
- "Chunk" your stress: We do not know what life will look like in one day, one week, or one month from now. Engage in a strategy called "chunking"—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time and move through stress in pieces.
- Remember this is temporary: It seems this quarantine will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy and connected in the days ahead.
- Find the lesson: This crisis can seem sad, senseless and, at times, avoidable. Think through the potential positive outcomes you can affect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?