Maintaining Mental Balance While Practicing Social Distancing
Published on Mar 19, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
Many of us are responsibly self-isolating to slow the spread of COVID-19. While social distancing is the right thing to do, it can take a toll on your mental health. Osmosis Medical Education Fellow Casey Gilman has your back with these 5 tips to find balance at home during this challenging time.
With our daily routines changing day by day, it is hard to maintain a happy, healthy balance. COVID-19 has impacted ALL of us in varying ways, but the following tips aim to help you find joy in the unexpected.
1. Take a break (and cherish it!)
For many, the first thing we turn to when in need of a mental break is our phones. Unfortunately, this one-simplistic sanctuary has become overwhelming, delivering a plethora of information: some of it is sensationalized, some of it is real—and most of it is stressful! As important as it is to stay up to date on the current state of affairs, I am here to remind you that it is okay to disconnect, even if it is just for an hour a day.
Think about it: when was the last time you got a real break? Without phones, without emails, without meetings, without classes... Our daily lives are busy, busy, go, go, go! Even now, in the midst of chaos, we're trying to figure out what’s next, what’s around the corner. Many of us are continuing to work or study from home. I encourage this, especially if it brings you joy, but don’t forget to take moments to observe, reflect, and be present in this moment.
So, lean into it: take that break, disconnect from social media, and practice moments of self-care.
2. Stay connected
Despite how important it is to practice social distancing right now, emotional connections can still be maintained without needing to be physically present. Through simple phone calls and video chats, you can maintain your social relationships without putting yourself or others at risk. Stay in touch with family and friends and don’t forget to check in. This is also the perfect time to reach out to old friends or people you haven’t talked to in a while. Conversation can be incredibly therapeutic and sharing sentiments may provide healing and solidarity during these difficult times.
3. Discover something new about yourself
When life gives you lemons, take out a piece of paper and a pencil. Okay, so it doesn’t exactly fit... but here’s what I’m getting at. Writing down what is going inside your head helps you to organize your thoughts and feelings. Not only does it give you a snapshot of what you are feeling in that moment, but it allows you to keep a record of your thoughts and their fluctuations over time. Journaling has numerous health benefits including reducing stress, clarifying thoughts and feelings, improving problem-solving skills, and prioritizing concerns, among many others.
And yes, I get it. You might not think journaling is for you. Yet, there are many types of journaling styles to try: bullet-style, answering prompts, self-reflection, and my personal favorite: mind maps!
Kind of like the scenes you see in Osmosis videos, a mind map allows you to express your thoughts using words, drawings, and symbols. It acts as a brainstorming tool that achieves organization from random thoughts. Most importantly, journaling can help you get in tune with who you are at present and where you want to go in the future.
4. Step out of your comfort zone
The guitar that’s been sitting in the corner of your bedroom collecting dust? Yes, it’s time to pick it up! This is the perfect time to embark upon something new. Knitting, painting, playing an instrument, and cooking are all great indoor hobbies, and YouTube has some amazing how-to videos to help you get started.
Learning a new hobby can be challenging, but it allows you to distract yourself in a positive way (and hey, we all need a positivity boost right now).
Don’t have anything new you want to learn? Refer back to tip #3. Let your mind map guide you.
5. Seek help if you need itWe're all living under the shadow of COVID-19, a situation that's extremely stressful and inescapable. This shared trauma is something we ALL need to talk about, whether it's with friends, family, or a therapist. Fortunately, online therapy was growing in popularity even before COVID-19 hit—now, it's more of an option than ever. If you or someone you love is feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, consider taking a look at these online therapy resources.
6. Find inner peace
It's human nature to try and seize control of anything we can when everything else around us is in free-fall. For example, we can control going to the grocery store and stocking up on all the items that we need to make us feel prepared, but when it comes to inner preparation, many people are at a loss.
This is where meditation comes into play. The physical and mental benefits of meditation have been thoroughly documented, and mindfulness is at the center. Entering situations with a clear mind allows you to process situations with reduced stress and increased gratitude.
Now, incorporating a consistent meditation practice is not easy. It is truly a practice, and it takes time to reap its benefits. Fortunately, there are many apps on our phones or channels on YouTube that make it easier to get started. Consider trying meditation in these next coming weeks to find inner peace amongst the chaos.
About Casey Gilman
Casey Gilman is a second year medical student at San Juan Bautista School of Medicine. She enjoys tennis, yoga, and helping others. She hopes to specialize in pediatric neurology and she has two twin dogs—Sadie & Boomer!
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