Covid-19, also known as Coronavirus, has swept the nation, and the world, causing anxiety, confusion, and fear. One of the latest outcomes from this deadly new virus is the topic of staying indoors and isolating oneself to protect themselves and others from the spread of Covid-19.
The fear of catching or spreading the virus is enough to cause anxiety, but what about the troubles that come from merely being required to stay indoors for weeks or even months?
There must be something we can do, right? There are indeed several things we can do to prevent the negative effects of social distancing and isolation during this pandemic.
Here are the 7 best things to do when sheltered indoors.
1. Stick to an active routine
Working from home might be a pandemic bonus to some folks who love to hangout in their pajamas every day while listening to whatever music they want. That being said, there are many stressors that come from not having a set routine.
One thing we are missing from the regular going-to-work equation when staying at home are “micro lifts” that appear in our lives throughout a regular workday, says Dr. Lucy Atcheson, a counselling psychologist. A micro-lift is something that you do in your day to day life that gives you a boost of energy or happiness which translates to serotonin and dopamine in the body. It might be saying hello to that one coworker in the elevator every day or coming home after a long commute to sit on your couch with your dog. Since staying at home disrupts this, our little moments of joy throughout the day are cut short. When your body predicts little bursts of serotonin and dopamine and then does not get them, anxiety starts to increase.
Routines also simplify the unexpected, give us predictability, and make us feel safe.Having a set routine anchors us and gives us a purpose, something which makes life seem normal.
Some suggestions on how to maintain a productive routine during this pandemic:
- Wake up at your normal time. Your body has a circadian rhythm that is used to a set schedule. Getting lack of sleep by changing this rhythm is a recipe for disaster, as lack of sleep can make you more anxious. Start your day off on the right foot by setting your alarm and waking up at a familiar time.
- Get ready for work. Putting on work clothes or styling your hair and putting on makeup can put you in the workplace mindset and improve your overall performance. Although it might be comfier to stay in pajamas, you might end up losing motivation throughout the day.
- Set up a work-space somewhere that makes you feel productive. If you’re used to sitting in front of a window, sit in front of a window. If you usually wear headphones, wear headphones. These small tasks can keep you feeling productive and normal throughout the day.
- Schedule time to chat. If you feel like you are missing that workplace banter throughout the day, see if you can spend some time to text, message, or even Facetime work friends. If you don’t feel comfortable or are not allowed to do so, communicate with friends or family members to replace that human interaction your mind is used to getting every day while at work.
You might find yourself not holding yourself accountable, as you are now fully responsible for your day to day activities. Todoist, Google Keep and Google Calendar are great apps that can help you hold yourself accountable for getting things done. You can schedule your whole day the night before and these online task managers will remind you throughout the day to keep up with your productivity.
2. Learn a new skill
There is no doubt that more time at home can lead to different coping mechanisms than you are used to. Learning a new skill also will save you from developing these poor habits. Anxiety and boredom are an outcome of self-isolation. With a surplus in anxiety and boredom during this time of self-isolation, the rate of bad habits, drinking too much, playing video games too long, etc. has a chance to skyrocket. While in moderation, these activities might temporarily relieve stress, but over doing it might lead to a bad habit that sticks around long after the stay at home restrictions have been lifted.
Learning a new skill can give you something to look forward to and distract yourself from the bad habits that call your name when anxiety and boredom creep in. Adding a new skill to your schedule every day is a great way to combat this. Schedule a block of time out of your day to get started on learning a new skill.Try Yousician to start learning how to play that guitar that’s been sitting in the corner of your room since forever ago.
Headspace and Calm are great places to start if you want to pick up meditation.
Check out Skill Share, Udemy or Linkedin Learning, an online teaching platforms where you can explore new skills or deepen existing passions.
3. Learn a new language
Learning a new language is a skill that you can fit into your new at-home routine that will benefit you in several ways. Learning a new language can lengthen your attention span, something anyone will need while working from home. The decision making that goes into a bilingual person deciding when to use the right language in what context trains the brain to be better at focusing on filtering information, according to a study in the journal, Brain and Language from Northwestern University. Being bilingual increases a person’s inhibitory control, meaning they become better at focusing on one thing at a time and pushing unusable information away.
This can be an extremely beneficial practice to incorporate now when staying on task at home can be a difficult thing to do when your dog and your bed are six feet away.
Also, in this time of the world coming together in a mutual struggle, what better a time than to educate yourself on a new culture by learning their language?
Duolingo is a great app to get started in learning a new language.
4. Take a online exercise class
Exercise is absolutely an area of importance to focus on at this time of quarantine. During regular life, we move our bodies to get from point a to point b. Even if it is just climbing a couple flights of stairs or going in and out of stores while running errands, your body is used to moving. Staying indoors means less opportunity to get the natural amount of movement your body is used to. According to the CDC, “Not getting enough physical activity comes with high health and financial costs. It can contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, and obesity.”
Movement also is heavily associated with the health of your mind as well. While being self-isolated can cause major anxiety or depression, exercising can combat these worries. Physical activity boosts endorphins, which is the chemical produced in the brain and spinal cord which gives you feelings of happiness and euphoria.
Anxious thoughts and feelings can infiltrate your mind during this time. Exercise has been found to reduce this flight or fight response our bodies create. In a study done by Jasper Smits, PhD, Co-Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Smits and co-writer, Otto, of the book, “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-being” found that when engaging in regular physical activity, you can train your brain to not have as heavy of fight or flight instincts. However, when working out, the person knows they are safe, not scared. Working out is essentially shaping the brain into believing that those feelings of shallow breathing and increased heart rate are just a part of exerting energy.
Working out daily is something to add to your routine to get yourself out of bed, give yourself a purpose, and make you feel accomplished while being forced to stay indoors.
Watching television might be a way to escape, but reading has been found to do much more for your mental health than watching a show or movie. Reading a book gives you insight to imagination. When watching something, we don’t have to try hard to imagine anything because it is right there in front of us. Reading forces you to concentrate on reading the words on the page and simultaneously envisioning what the words are saying.
Why does this matter? Especially with everything going on right now, giving yourself something that requires a little bit of extra concentration and separation from the world we live in can be beneficial for your mental health. While doing other activities, you might be thinking about worrisome topics in the back of your mind, but since reading requires a huge amount of your concentration, it is hard to think about anything else while being fully invested in a bookTry out Good Reads or Amazon Books if you need help deciding what book to read next.
If you would rather listen to a book read to you, Audible is a fantastic source.
6. Learn to cook
Cooking is not only essential as many restaurants have closed, but can also have positive mental effects as well.
One of the best things about cooking is the sense of accomplishment you get when completing a recipe, especially if it was difficult or time consuming. During this time of staying indoors, having a sense of purpose is extremely important. If you lost your job or just feel incomplete in your purpose while staying indoors all day, letting your creativity and hard work come out in cooking might be a beneficial activity to do.
According to social cognitive theory, “cognitive theory might explain why a successful food system that relies on cooking would benefit from activity that promotes positive mood, self-confidence, and self-esteem” based on the mastery of skills and innate human desire to cook it takes to accomplish cooking. What this means is that since humans are used to cooking and have been since we discovered fire, humans reap the benefits of what feels natural to us. In a population-based survey of 8,500 New Zealanders, they found self-reported cooking ability was positively associated with better family connections, greater mental well-being, and lower levels of self-reported depression. (Utter, Denny, Lucassen, and Dyson (2016)).
Try out cooking during this time and see if you feel the positive effects it brings to yourself and your family Tasty, BBC Good Food, or SideChef are all great resources to get started on developing your cooking skills.
7. Keep up socialization
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PHD who is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, states in a meta-analysis that she co-wrote, “A lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder.” She also identified that social isolation and loneliness are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. (Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2015).
This is terrifying news that the very thing that we are supposed to be doing to keep us safe, social distancing, is the very thing that could be making us sick in many ways. There are ways to combat the negative effects social distancing can cause and one of them is communication.
Spending time every single day to force yourself to be social is essential during this time. We usually don’t have to think about our socialization levels naturally: your friends go out every weekend, you chat among your coworkers every day without thinking about it, you make small talk with the barista at a coffee shop. However, these things are no longer present in our lives and, since we are social animals, mental health, and physical, can really suffer as a result of no human connection. We have all seen Castaway with Tom Hanks, right? Be intentional with scheduling in time to chat with friends or family every single day.
Get creative in how you communicate. It might be natural for you to just text friends here and there or occasionally call on the phone, but face to face interaction takes it a step further and feels more like real life socializing than the other forms of communication
Doing the activities you would normally do while hanging out with friends, significant others, or family members is better. If you like to cook with that one friend, prop up tour screen and chat. If you have a group of friends who always go to happy hour, setup a Google Hangout and drink your beverages together.