self-love

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health While Social Distancing

How are you doing? Okay, deep breath. How are you really doing? During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s completely understandable to be stressed in the wake of a national emergency, schools going online, and some states even enforcing residents to shelter in place. Social distancing is crucial to preventing the spread of the virus, but it can be hard on your mental health. Although it’s important to do your part in keeping everyone safe, you want to avoid psychological distress. “Self-isolating for days and weeks at a time in the absence of illness, without a mandated lockdown, may create other mental challenges and not be possible for everyone,” says Dr. Stacy Torres, a sociology professor at UC San Francisco. “We are social creatures.”

So, if you’re on week two (or even three or four) of social distancing and starting to feel the funk, here are a few pieces of expert-backed advice to keep all this at-home time lively and positive.

Find other ways to connect

IRL hangouts are discouraged right now, but there are other ways to connect with friends and family. Dr. Torres recommends trying to connect through social media, FaceTime, texting, and phone calls. Be sure to check in with older relatives who face higher risk of infection; it will mean a lot.

Related: Yes, You Actually Need to Stay Inside During This Coronavirus Pandemic

Binge-watch (with friends)

Although binge-watching Netflix huddled at home all day can seem lonely, it doesn’t have to be. A Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party allows groups of friends to binge-watch their favorite shows together. Quick tutorial: Go to netflixparty.com on a Google Chrome browser, install the extension, and make sure your friends have the extension too. Go to Netflix.com, play your show, hit the “NP” button in your browser, and send your friends the URL that appears. This way you can all watch together and enjoy some lazy couch time—from a safe distance, that is.

Keep moving

Dr. Torres recommends maintaining regular exercise because “it’s important for the body and the mind” in a time when protecting your physical and mental health is crucial. Although going to the gym isn’t possible right now, it is still safe to go on a walk or a hike, as long as you stay six feet apart from others. Fresh air and daylight are amazing stress reducers. 

Try to maintain a routine on weekdays

Try to create a routine that works for your life at home, because it will maintain a sense of normalcy when everything else happening in the world feels chaotic. Wake up, shower, do your morning skincare, have coffee, get dressed, catch up with friends, exercise, and do anything else to stay sane. You don’t have to follow this exact routine every day (weekends should still feel like a treat with lots of sleeping in), but find something that makes each day structured. 

Be soft with yourself

Try to do things you enjoy, whether it’s drawing, writing, painting your nails, or even just watching a silly makeup tutorial. Doing activities that make you happy under normal circumstances will help you feel happy now, and take your mind off of isolation for a moment.