In the blink of an eye, the way our lives are lived has changed. We have been relegated to our homes, with social distancing the new normal, leaving everyone to adjust to a different, and optimistically, temporary, way of life.
Even if you don’t struggle with mental health challenges, this new routine and the current air of global uncertainty brings with it stress and anxiety. These feelings of ambiguity leave us searching for the best way to handle a constant flow of mandates and directives, all intended for our good.
So how do you cope? What is the next right step? The best suggestion, and one that you have most likely heard many times in the wake of this National (and global) Emergency, is to follow the recommendations of the United States Centers for Disease Control.
It is important to point out that social distancing does not equate to isolation. Connecting with others is essential during times of uncertainty. It reminds us that we are not alone in the midst of the chaos. Phone calls, texts, video chats and other tools are great ways to stay connected and talk about your concerns. The CDC also recommends taking a break from the news – shut off the television, read a book, play a game, watch a movie, even take a nap.
Another excellent way to manage mental health challenges is to spend time taking care of yourself. In addition to getting plenty of rest and eating well, it is important to exercise. While social distancing is currently robbing millions of Americans of their routine, exercise is something it does not impact.
Research has shown that exercise can be a valuable part of managing mild mental health challenges. As the National Alliance on Mental Health points out, not only is exercise free from negative stigma, it produces positive side effects (when done appropriately with regard to your current level of fitness and doctor’s recommendations). Exercise has been shown to increase the brain’s level of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, while normalizing neurotransmitter levels which can help to provide a feeling of balance and well-being.
So, what does exercise in the era of social distancing mean? Consider taking a peaceful hike in the woods, playing with your dog, or kids (or both!) in the backyard, do some yoga or light stretching, or even run on a treadmill or around the block. The important thing is doing something that consistently gets you up off the couch and moving.
In addition to self-care, it is also crucial to give yourself, and others, a wide berth of grace. What is going on in our world right now is unprecedented. No one knows how to react because it is a situation we have never had to face. With that in mind, take some time to talk with a family member, friend, or even a professional, who can help you work through your feelings. Above all, in this time of uncertainty, we wish you peace, health, and the reminder that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Mental Health Resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357
- Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-366-8288
- Emergency: 911