Here are some ways to nourish your mental health and help curb cabin fever while you stay indoors. Here are some ideas to consider.
1. MAKE A LIST
Because our sense of time during the pandemic is distorted, Dr. Michael Rich, founder of the Centre on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, says time feels longer than it did pre-pandemic. One thing that can help adults cope is to not give up all sense of routine. Even if you don’t have an external schedule, create one so that we continue to feel that we’re accomplishing something. Additionally, having a sense of schedule allows us to get quality sleep and be functional during the day.
To ease the disappointment of looking at a blank calendar as more and more events get cancelled, Dr. Leela Magavi, psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry in Newport Beach, California, recommends writing down a list of new activities.
“Create a schedule of tasks and fun-filled activities in advance to gain a sense of control and alleviate anxiety. These schedules can include allotted time for exercise, mindfulness, socialization, and learning. Every time you’re tempted to glance at your blank calendar, look at your new schedule of tasks instead.
2. KNOCK OUT PROJECTS
While your social calendar once kept you from finishing your to-do list, now’s the time to tackle it. Make a list of all the indoor projects you’ve put off, such as cleaning closets, purging cabinets, clearing junk drawers, painting, creating picture albums, and more. “The satisfaction and pride that comes from accomplishing a task is motivating and can spark further creativity… Take some time to finish it up and find new projects that encourage you to rediscover old passions.
3. HELP OTHERS
If you’re able to lend a hand to family, friends, or neighbours who can’t grocery shop, shovel snow, walk their dog, or get to a medical appointment, doing so can reap benefits for them and you. “Doing a good deed for someone helps release those feel-good chemicals in our bodies and is good for both mental and physical health… Even the smallest acts can have a big impact. In other words, people with whom we can show our weaknesses and fears, and they compensate with their strengths. It is through helping others that we’re going to help ourselves. Additionally, altruism has a built-in reward system: gratitude. People are most thankful for those who exercise kindness through some act.
4. MOVE AROUND
While lockdown and wintertime make it tempting to avoid exercising, especially if your gym has temporarily or permanently closed, push yourself to get up and move every day. Rather than using the extra time at home to remain in front of your desk, sleep, or sit on the couch, use the time to move your body and stay active. Exercise of any kind releases serotonin and endorphins that promote happiness and cultivate a healthier lifestyle.
5. SLEEP, STAY NOURISHED, AND BE MINDFUL
To maintain energy and motivation, establish a sleep routine and maintain a balanced diet. Individuals with low levels of vitamin D may experience fatigue, and thus vitamin D repletion may improve individuals’ energy level. Some studies suggest an association between vitamin D deficiency and depression, although causality has not been established. As you practice self-care, add breathing exercises to your day, too. Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths and stretching intermittently throughout the day can release stress.
6. THINK SOMETHING POSITIVE
When you wake up every morning, drum up a positive thought before you get out of bed. Listing positive affirmations in the morning can help individuals start their day on a positive note. A positive mindset is a key contributor in preventing poor mental health, especially during these times where negative feelings about oneself or regarding the state of the world may surface more frequently, now is a pivotal time to practice habits that foster happiness and promote gratification.
7. USE SCREENS WISELY
As much of our lives have quickly shifted into the digital space, including work and school activities as well as socializing, finding balance is key. Think about what we are consuming in terms of screens the way that we think about food. In other words, we should think about media diet just as we think about diet. As with nutrition, there are things you don’t want to eat too much or can’t be eating all the time. Connecting with friends and family virtually is an option, especially when isolation becomes overwhelming. Scheduling regular video chats with friends and family members could alleviate anxiety and feelings of loneliness.