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Mental Health Month — Breaking The Self-isolation Blues

By Susan Kozak
As seen first on New Pittsburgh Courier

Months ago, the idea of staying at home with few obligations or commitments may have seemed appealing. But now that it’s become our new reality, many long for structured days at work, the regularity of school schedules, and enjoying ‘nonessential’ outings without a second thought.

Monotony has set in and days are running together. While this extended period of isolation may be a necessary measure for public health, unfortunately, it could also have a detrimental impact on our mental health.

Create structure working from home

Structure helps us to feel stable, but when work routine changes, consider creating other routines that feel ‘normal.’ Dedicate a space to your work that has few distractions. It may be helpful to dress in work clothes as you usually would, but no one will fault you if you decide to be comfortable). Schedule times when you work and times when you take breaks.

Prioritize self-care activities throughout the day, such as taking breaks to move your body and have lunch. Not spending in-person time with colleagues can be challenging, especially for those with mental health challenges and people living alone. While nothing can fully replace seeing people in person, technology can be extremely helpful. When speaking with colleagues, consider using video, rather than just phone calls and emails.

Combat quarantine loneliness

Being quarantined or isolated is difficult. Start by planning your day and following a regular schedule. There’s satisfaction in ticking off tasks from a list and can help make the day more productive.

There are countless studies that show the direct benefits of activity and exercise on the mind. Boosting endorphins is one of the best ways to improve both physical and mental health. As the weather gets warmer, go for a walk. Or try working out at home, there are tons of free online programs and classes to keep it interesting.

Maintain your connections with others as much as possible. While we are practicing social distancing, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to stay in touch which is good for both parties.

This is an ideal time to finally try your hand at that something you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s painting, writing or learning to cook or garden. Many of us have extra time on our hands and staying productive and learning new things can be therapeutic.

It’s safe to say that most of us have logged in more binge-watching movies and favorite TV shows than ever before. Be mindful of your screen time, whether for work or pleasure. The blue light from smartphones, computers and TV can be disruptive to your sleep and overall wellbeing.

For many people, we are feeling information overload. Listening to the news right now can be incredibly overwhelming and the same goes for social media where everyone has an opinion on everything, and all those posts won’t help your mental health. If you’re experiencing anxiety and depression while in self-isolation, try giving the news channel and your social media accounts a break.

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