With most of America staying home in isolation, it can become difficult to maintain proper mental health. However, local mental health experts are recommending simple tips to help keep a healthy mindset and proper mental health.
“Oftentimes, when we are in a situation where something has come up and we are having to revamp how we do things, the solution is finding the adaptation from the norm that still lets you fill those (health) needs,” said Whytney Mask, director of crisis services for Texoma Community Center.
Here are five tips for maintaining mental health during the ongoing public health crisis:
1. Set up and maintain a routine
For many people, a set routine and schedule brings a level of comfort and peace of mind. However, with the ongoing health crisis and many people working remotely from home, that routine has been broken.
Despite the crisis, Mask said that people should do their best to keep to as close to a normal schedule as they can.
“When you are a person who relies on a schedule, like getting up at certain times, getting ready, going to work ... once you get out of that schedule for an extended period of time,” Mask said. “This is especially true when it wasn’t a choice, and it tends to wear on people’s mental health significantly due mainly to that loss of motivation.”
The loss of a routine can have residual effects that also impact mental health. As an example, Mask said household chores and cleaning often get pushed aside, and a messy home can further depression and anxiety.
When setting a routine, Mask suggested getting up and going to bed at the same time each day.
Meanwhile, Rochelle Govindasamy, behavioral health director for Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center, said there are mental health benefits of getting dressed rather than sitting at home in pajamas all day.
2. Maintain a good diet and exercise
“Those are two things you always hear related to your physical health, but they also affect you mental health,” Mask said.
During a crisis, Mask said that it is easy to fall back on eating a lot of snacks or junk food, but this can negatively impact mental health.
Rather than relying on these foods, Govindasamy recommended that people practice meal prep while at home. Through this, people can better regulate what they eat while also working toward maintaining a routine. Additionally, learning new recipes and trying new foods can stimulate the mind, she said.
While exercise is almost always recommended, the loss of activity can be even greater for those who are used to maintaining a high activity level.
Mask recommended simple exercises, including going outside and getting sunshine as a way to help promote positive mental health. Breathing exercises and meditative activities can be done that promote mental health and help calm the mind.
“One of the things we teach patients at TCC is breathing exercises,” she said. “It is something innate in our body; we just do it and your body does it when it needs to. Sometimes we forget to stop and think about that and make sure we are taking those long deep breaths and finding a time that we can calm our heart rate.”
Govindasamy said exercises can be as simple as taking a walk through the neighborhood. Exercise in general can help promote the release of endorphins, which promote positive mental health.
3. Set up a home work space
For people now finding themselves working from home, Govindasamy suggested setting up a specific area for work that is separated from the home space.
“You need to make sure you have good division in your space,” she said. “You need work space and then you need to have a home space.”
“Your work space should be identified as a place in the house where there is decreased noise, distractions and activities,” she continued. “This is especially true if you have other people in the house.”
This separation includes knowing when to stop working and switch to home life. If someone is done working for the day, she suggested not taking calls and use the remainder of the the time to focus on home life.
4. Socialize remotely
Maintaining an active social life can be a major source of positive emotions for many people that doesn’t need to be sacrificed during stay-at-home orders.
Rather than meeting in person, both experts said alternatives exist. As an example, Mask suggested making a routine of nightly phone calls with friends and family.
For those wanting a more visual approach, programs like FaceTime allow users to make video calls to other users.
Meanwhile, Govindasamy suggested a buddy system between friends and family. Through this, people can create support networks while also connecting with friends and loved ones.
5. Limit technology and media time
While keeping up with current events is important, Mask suggested against too much time with technology and media.
“Especially if we are sitting in the TV news and media,” she said. “Sometimes we need to find positive things around the home. You have those little wins ... taking big pride in those little wins, the things you are still able to do.”
As an alternative,s he suggested spending the time reading or learning a new skill instead.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.