The COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus11 has caused governments around the world to lockdown cities and people in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.
These lockdown measures have disrupted our normal everyday life. Social activities like going to work or school, or seeing your friends in the gym and in restaurants have been postponed until further notice. These measures are designed to decrease the chances of contracting the virus and/or transmitting it on to someone else. However, these measures also increase the chances of mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, avoidance behavior, alcohol and/or drug abuse have all been associated with staying in isolation and quarantine2.
Being isolated, away from your peers and social life can foster negative emotions such as confusion, anger, anxiety, depression, and worry about the future2. Additionally, financial insecurity and unemployment exacerbate negative emotions2. Furthermore, those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 may bear the burden of being stigmatized and discriminated against, adding an additional negative-emotion burden15.
Isolation and social distancing is associated with negative mental health states; however, there are things we can do to avoid negative emotions. Below are some evidence-based tips that we have prepared and we also provide resources if you or anyone you know needs some extra help during these difficult times. Although the situation may be difficult, this can be a time to work on personal development. We believe that we have the power to come out stronger from all of this.
Digesting the News Properly
Consuming the news about the unfolding pandemic may itself be a source of anxiety, stress, and fear1. So, here’s what you can do to limit stress from the news while still staying up to date what’s going on:
- Don’t expose yourself to coronavirus-related news all of the time9,1: the news feed about the virus will continue to overwhelm media reporting for weeks if not months to come; if you find this influx of information stressful, it’s best if you dedicate a small time during the day (e.g. 10-30 minutes at noon) to get all the latest developments and most important updates at once. Try to avoid repeatedly checking the news throughout the day9.
- Get the facts right: It is helpful to stay mindful of your sources of information1. For example, to learn how to protect yourself, or what to do if you get sick, consider sources such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which has a dedicated page on the current coronavirus outbreak. Social media can be a tricky news source and may cause additional anxiety16. If you use it please make sure you follow up with trusted media sources. We recommend peer-reviewed articles (Google Scholar, PubMed) for the most correct information.
- Stay optimistic and positive: The news can make us feel anxious or depressed9,1. A lot of news sources are valid, but many news sources are designed to capture your attention and lure you in. Healthy skepticism can help keep nerves calm.
Steps to Maintain a Social Life
Staying at home means that we are all sacrificing a huge part of our social life. Thankfully, we can all use technology to connect with colleagues, friends, and family:
- If you are working from home, schedule regular online meetings with your colleagues. Use these meetings not only to discuss work but also to have a chat as you would normally do when you are in the office.
- Ask your friends and/or family out on a dinner date and drinks over a video conferencing app (Skype is free!). Even if you are not able to see them in person, it’s important to stay in touch with the people you love the most, and keep your relationships going. Those video calls may be an excellent opportunity to share your feelings and release the stress that you may be experiencing.
Most people in isolation feel stressed, anxious, and/or depressed2. Now may be a good time to set up an appointment with a professional therapist or counselor using Telehealth methods. These professionals are trained to help us deal with difficult emotions and situations.
Create a Workout Schedule at Home
Staying at home doesn’t mean that we have to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Physical inactivity is a well-known risk factor for depression, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and plenty of other health conditions17,12. In addition, physical inactivity may also disturb sleep and affect our immune system8,13.
There are plenty of ways to keep your body moving:
- If you sit at a computer, make sure you take regular breaks at least every 40 minutes or so. Try to substitute for your morning commute with a few stretches, a walk around the house, or doing some light activity (e.g., push-ups, sit-ups).
- Dedicate a routine to working out at home. Create a regular schedule. For example, you can exercise 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 10 in the evening. Whatever it takes to keep you moving.
- If you need motivation with a home workout, look for a yoga or workout instructor online.
Seize every opportunity to move around. If possible, take an hour every day to walk outside if you can and practice social distancing. If you can’t go outside now, walk around your home.
Staying Home with the Kids
Parents probably face more challenges since their kids are at home. Below are some tips that may help you support your children:
- If possible try to maintain a regular schedule and routines. Bed, meal, and play times should be the same. When children have an idea of what their day is going to be like they are more relaxed and less anxious7.
- Stay positive and keep making plans. Research has shown that children who have an idea of what the plans are for activities are more positive as they are assured that you control the situation7. Creating a virtual play date with your children’s friends can be helpful in building and maintaining social skills3,7;
- Introduce new home activities for your kids every other day or so, such as playing a new game, baking cookies with them, or helping them learn a new skill7,3.
If you have a teenager or young adult at home, it’s important to:
- Be as supportive, talk to your teenagers. Allow them to express their feelings (e.g., disappointments from canceling plans and from sacrificing their social life)10. Encourage them to meet their friends virtually. Be their friend and remind them that we are all on the same page. Try to engage them in meaningful activities such as signing them up on an e-learning site (e.g. edX, Coursera), learn a new recipe or learn how to play an instrument together.
- Help them maintain healthy habits. It’s equally important for young adults to get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly in order to maintain a positive mood and meet academic expectations10.
Eat Healthy to Maintain Your Immune System & Good Mood
The best food for your mental well-being is generally the healthiest food6. Eating healthy is a must if we want to maintain a strong immune system when we fight chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, and now–more than ever–it’s super important to stick to this rule. Eat vitamin-rich and nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains6,14. These foods are rich with complex carbohydrates5, contain more fiber and release energy more slowly; they are not only good for weight and/or cholesterol control but also work well as mood stabilizers6.
We Are All in this Together
The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for all of us, especially those who are most vulnerable. Now more than ever it’s important to act united as a community.
If you feel that someone close to you has been down lately, talk to them, cheer them up and be their source of encouragement. If you see that your child is struggling with emotions or performing poorly at school or other activities, talk to them and reassure them. If there is an elderly person who’s living alone next door, call them and ask them if they need any assistance. Bring them groceries and make sure that they take the latest precautions from the CDC seriously4. Be an example yourself. Take good care of yourself: exercise regularly, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, avoid alcohol and drugs, and be kind. As humans, we mimic behaviors from one another, so you never know whose role model you are going to be.
Even in this difficult time remember that we’ll get through all this together, and the Light Lounge team is also here to help you in any way we can. Call us to reach us out or message us on Facebook or Twitter. We are here to help you and support you.
Resources if Someone Needs Help
Information about COVID-19
Colorado Department of Education resources for Learning at Home
Colorado Crisis Services:
Or text TALK to 38255
If you are feeling sick and need medical advice:
Call the Nurse Line: 800-283-3221