Your Guide to Fighting Social Distancing Blues (& All the Resources to Stay Entertained)

It goes without saying that things are really stressful for everyone right now. With so much going on and rapid, unprecedented changes disrupting all of our daily routines, keeping tabs on your mental health is more important than ever before. While it’s responsible to stay informed with current and accurate information about what’s going on, the news can quickly become overwhelming. It’s key to be aware of how your mental health is impacted by the type (and amount) of news you’re consuming, and to have resources for when the news gets you down.

Plus, let’s be real—social distancing, although important, can get lonely. It can get boring. It can get really repetitive. We can all get through this together, especially by doing our parts and staying home for a while, hopefully in a semi-enjoyable way. Let’s get our quarantine on with this comprehensive guide to mental health resources and ways to stay entertained, informed, and even active during this time.

Mental health resources

Know your limits

First of all, you have to stay in touch with yourself during this period. When your mental health starts to decline, and things become overwhelming, it strongly affects your physical health, too. To keep yourself going, you have to stay as stress-free as you can. One way to do this is by setting a time limit for consuming news each day, such as one hour in the afternoon. You might be wondering: what if I already feel like I’ve overdone it? Focus on the mental health resources and “distractions” below. My personal tip is to take a day where you don’t watch the news at all. Last week, I was constantly watching to see what was going on, and it really became overwhelming and left me feeling sad, stressed, and physically exhausted. Saturday, I spent the day eating healthy foods I love, being with my family, playing with the puppy, and watching Love is Blind on Netflix—no news for a day really made me feel so much better. Granted, I still checked on Twitter to make sure I didn’t miss anything huge, but a social media and news detox can really refresh you.

Know that regardless, you can gain a sense of control by making active choices about the media you consume during this time.

Apps for mental health

Calm

Calm is an app that helps you meditate and relax, and has been majorly successful in reducing stress for years now. Starting with a seven-day free trial, the app contains guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and soothing music. Even if you’ve never tried meditation before, the app will work for you. Once the trial period ends, you can either move to a paid subscription, or you can just keep the app’s free features, which includes the first day of each multi-day meditation, timed meditation options, the breathing bubble, and a sleep story.

Mindshift

Mindshift CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) helps you learn to relax and be mindful by providing tools that help with anxiety, worry, panic, perfectionism, and phobias. During this global pandemic, it might not be easy to access your therapist as regularly as you’d like. Luckily, this app is backed by evidence—the developers used scientifically-proven strategies behind CBT to create habit trackers and other tools that will guide you through your feelings. Plus, it’s free to download!

Happify

Happify is a free app helps you improve your mood through games, activities, and gratitude prompts that guide you through the process of shifting to a more positive mindset. By building new positive habits that focus on being positive and happy, you’ll be able to quickly recognize when something is wrong and hopefully remedy it without things going too far.

General mental health strategies

Write

Expressive writing, or writing about your thoughts, feelings, and desires, helps ease stress and improve mental health. Even if you’ve never journaled before, and you feel like writing is pointless or not your strong suit, physically list out the things that make you happy each day. I’ve done this for years—I call them “happy lists.” From big things, like an accomplishment at work or mastering the art of making croissants from scratch, to small things, like fresh flowers or a good phone call with a friend, list out everything that made you happy during the day. You’ll find yourself focusing on those things during the day, and life will feel a little less overwhelming.

Get some fresh air

Although we have to stay at home to keep everyone safe, it’s important to still get outside, breathe the fresh air, and get some movement in during this time. If it’s safe, take a walk. Sit outside and read for a few minutes. Play with your dog, or just step outside and breathe for a little while. On days where things feel dark, for me, getting outside has made everything feel a little calmer and more normal. Personally, if it’s possible to get outside, I do for at least half an hour per day, usually longer. It makes a huge difference in shifting my mental health to a more positive, healthy state.

Find balance in your day  

Most of us are being tasked with developing a new, entirely at-home schedule while dealing with the stress, worry, and overwhelm of the situation at hand globally. Be mindful of the times of day where you feel the most energetic or productive, and of the times where you feel stressed, tired, or in need of a break. Try to work around those ebbs and flows in mood and energy. Find balance in watching the news, watching Netflix, getting things accomplished, and spending time relaxing or having fun. It’s so important to keep your needs in check, and during this time, work matters (and can be a good way to maintain some normalcy) but so does taking breaks. One thing I want to note: some days, it’s going to be overwhelming, and you’ll feel a lot better if you let yourself relax and watch movies all day. Some days, though, it will get depressing to stay in your PJs all day, and you’ll feel a lot better if you can get up, get outside, and get things done. The most important thing? Pay attention to your specific needs. This is a really individualized, unique circumstance, so focus on what makes you feel the best in the context of social distancing.

Related: What to Do If Your Family Members Aren’t Taking Social Distancing Seriously

Social Distancing resources

A huge portion of mental health revolves around the ability to exercise, to try new things, to be entertained and engaged (beyond just watching Netflix) and to feel some sense of control. I’ve gathered up a list of amazing resources to use during social distancing that will provide these key areas.

Brit + Co courses

Brit and Co is offering their amazing classes for free through April 9th. The online courses, which usually come at a price tag for the amazing content inside, range from coding and business courses to cake decorating and illustration. This is a great chance to get detailed instruction on a new hobby, or continue building your skills for something you’re passionate about.

Tour museums around the world

Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 2,500 museums and galleries world-wide to bring you virtual tours and online exhibits, right from your home. Even though travel isn’t a possibility right now, you can still explore new places digitally with interactive tours! Plus, it’s totally free.

Skillshare for students

Skillshare as a platform has always been so valuable, but it also costs money to use. In the wake of school and university closures across the country, Skillshare is supporting educators and students by offering free premium access for two months. It has courses in illustration, design, animation, writing, business, lifestyle, and photo & film. Skillshare is also a learning community where you can communicate with other students in the courses.

Free online at-home workouts

Tons of companies are offering free online and live-streamed workouts. Check with your gym to see what they’re doing. In the meantime, Orange Theory is doing daily 30-minute “Orange Theory at Home” videos on Youtube. Women’s activewear company Bandier is now offering free live-stream workouts on IG Live every day at 4pm EDT. Another one I think is amazing? CorePower Yoga, a studio, is streaming live classes three (!!!) times each day on Youtube. No matter how you get moving, exercise can be a great outlet for stress and help you feel a sense of normalcy during this time.

Get groceries delivered to your door

Are you feeling anxious about going out to do your grocery shopping? I recently discovered Instacart, a concept that’s sort of like Uber, but for groceries. Once you input your address on the website (or the app), store options for pickup and delivery will pop up. You can select one and search for the products you need, then pay for your order. Either head to the store and pick up the groceries (which have already been shopped and packaged for you) or have them delivered to your door. It’s really easy, and so far in my experience, the customer service has been great.

I hope these resources provide some relief during these difficult times. Remember, we’re all in this together, and if we all do our part in social distancing to flatten the curve, we’ll get through this much more smoothly. You can still feel control over the situation, even in such difficult-to-navigate circumstances. You are not alone in this!

Have another resource to share? Let me know on Instagram @kaitlinmarks.