We’re all following the guidelines to help keep ourselves and others safe during the pandemic: washing our hands frequently; staying in; and limiting our contact with others outside our homes.
But that last point might be easier said than done. Humans are social beings, and being isolated from other people can take a mental toll on us.
If you live alone or have a loved one who does, read on for suggestions to keep yourself feeling your best, plus get resources for mental support.
Mental Health Resources During the Pandemic
It’s perfectly normal to feel a range of emotions during this time: Frustration, anger, sadness, fear, or numbness are all natural responses to the pandemic situation.
If you had a mental health condition before the pandemic, the CDC advises that you continue with whatever treatment plan you were following. And if you didn’t have a preexisting condition, monitor yourself for these signs of distress:
- Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety, or fear.
- Changes in appetite, energy, and activity levels.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, and upsetting thoughts and images.
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Anger or short temper.
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
If these symptoms continue for days or weeks and impair your ability to live a normal life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You have a few options:
- Setting a virtual appointment with a local therapist, counselor, or clergy member.
- Contacting the national Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
- Texting the keyword “HOME” to 741 741 for the National Crisis Helpline
In an emergency situation, you should always call 911 for help.
How Can I Stay Connected at Home?
It can be difficult to stay connected when you can’t share the same space as someone else. But there are ways to boost your social interactions with others at the same time.
In an article for NextAvenue, Sara Zeff Geber suggests creating a social network of family, friends, and loved ones during this time. Make a list of the people you regularly talk to, and set up dates for phone or video calls with them.
You can take this a step beyond and use your network as a way to check in with people who might need help - or request help yourself, if you need anything delivered to your home, for example. If anyone in your network lives alone, contact them at least a few times a week to see if they need assistance.
If you’re looking for something to do as well as stay connected with others, see if anyone in your network would like to become a pen pal. A handwritten letter is something to enjoy and cherish - but for ease, an email would work well, too. Sharing stories, jokes, favorite quotes or verses, and recipes are all ways to foster connections with others.
Learn more about video call options you can try here.
Tips to Boost Your Mental Health
Did you know that taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health, too? Try one of these tips to keep yourself well - body, mind, and spirit.
- Get plenty of sleep. Adults of all ages need about 8 hours of sleep a night. Getting less can make you more prone to stress, worry, and irritability.
- Eat nutritious meals. Limiting processed foods and those high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar can help boost your brain power. And have you ever heard of someone feeling “hangry”? Regular meals keep your blood sugar balanced and can help you stay in a better mood.
- Exercise at home. A stroll around the block or a workout video can do wonders for your attitude. Learn more about exercise guidelines for older adults.
- Limit your exposure to the news. Bombarding yourself with news won’t make you feel better. Limit yourself to a few quick checks - maybe once or twice a day - and then move on to something else. You could also try to balance every negative story you read with a positive one.
- Practice deep breathing. Controlling your breathing and clearing your mind can make for a calmer mental state.
Taking care of your body will also help your mind function at its best.
Find Ways to Keep Busy During the Pandemic
Occupying yourself with meaningful tasks, hobbies, and skill-sharpening can keep your mind off of negative news and give you purpose.
Read our blog article of 11 meaningful activities you can try indoors and add a new pursuit to your staying-in schedule.