We’ve all seen the advertisements for those scary 2000’s zombie apocalypse movie -a virus breaks out, and suddenly plagued creatures are running around trying to eat your face off and you’re either A: Holed up in your house with stockpiles of food and weapons, or B: On an insane never-ending quest for Hostess Twinkies. It’s not as if we don’t understand the reality behind words like “quarantine” and “out-break”-We’ve experienced these kinds of things throughout history, ranging from the Black Plague to the Swine and Bird flu. But we always assume, know I did, that these kinds of things aren’t going to affect us; history books are almost another form of fiction because it’s been a lifetime since we’ve gone through the strange and scary things we hear about. Now, we are experiencing something odd and, quite frankly, terrifying; suddenly quarantine is expected to be a part of our every-day lives and our governors are telling us we can’t even go to school. Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 effects EVERYONE. Whether you’re close to someone who is at-risk, you fear you may be at-risk yourself, or you’re suffering from perpetual boredom and lack of toilet paper. This out-break has thrown our every-day routines right out the window and replaced them with a harrowing new “normal”.
The immediate effects of this situation are in plain sight, we can no longer leave our homes unless absolutely necessary, and in-person communication has been almost completely obliterated. We fear for those who are elderly or suffer from underlying medical conditions, and we fear that it may be a long time before anything goes back to normal. In addition to all of this, quarantine has the potential to take a serious toll on your mental health. Isolation has the ability to increase levels of depression, decrease sleep quality, and can even have some effect on your cognitive ability. This, combined with the stress of a declared pandemic is a scary reality to face for an entire nation, an entire globe. This being said, this doesn’t have to be a completely awful situation. Luckily, in the age of technology and innovation, there are a multitude of ways in which we can all try to make this experience not only tolerable, but potentially even meaningful as we, as a nation move forward. These are some ways you can help maintain your mental health during these stressful times so that you may be a happy, productive human, for now and for future reference.
First and foremost: Take care of yourself. This applies to your situation on a basic level (eat well, hydrate, rest, ect.) but it also applies to your mindset. It’s important that we give ourselves some grace, because this is a stressful time, and we are all human which means that we are all flawed. It’s okay to feel worried and upset and bored and unmotivated. You don’t have to like the situation, but you will push through. Whatever self-care means to you, whether that be physical activity, a movie night with your furry friend, your favorite music, or a warm blanket and a good book; now is the ideal time to practice what makes you happy.
Up next: try limiting technology use. This is a task much easier said than done, as everything from school to basic social interaction is completely online during this time. But just a few hours a day spent logged off can increase your cognitive ability as well as your sense of happiness and satisfaction while decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Obviously, you should reach out to those you love and maintain contact with teachers and peers–but you may be surprised by the things you can do once you log off of that screen and onto real-life.
Another great way to refresh your mind to stay sane during quarantine is getting outside. The weather is starting to warm up, and there are a ton of outdoor activities you can do while still making sure to practice social distancing; that could be a simple walk, run, stroll with your dog, or maybe a photoshoot of our beautiful mountains and fresh, sunny skies. This can help remind you that you are still surrounded by beauty, which means it isn’t the end of the world after all. Getting outside is a great idea for everyone right now, as it is a perfect way to connect to the world around us peacefully and safely.
This next method for maintaining your mental health during quarantine does take some effort and consistent practice, but is also incredibly important during this type of situation–Stay positive! Yes, this is an odd, anxiety-provoking experience for everyone, but it’s essential to understand that there is still plenty of good being done out there. For you, staying positive may be closing out of your news feed and watching some cute cat videos or your favorite comedy special. It could be tuning to one of the countless live dance parties taking place on the internet right now. It could be spreading some happiness to the people you know are having a hard time with isolation. It could simply be enjoying your favorite breakfast and reminding yourself that one bad situation doesn’t mean everything is ruined.
Finally: attending your online classes and working hard on your assignments can actually be very beneficial to your health right now. According to a study done on learning and its effects on your mental health, setting your own learning goals and achieving them can genuinely improve your self-esteem and make you feel happier overall. Going to your classes every day and taking a little extra time to study material that perhaps you are struggling with could make you a lot better; and really, why not try it? We all have plenty of free time here.
There is no denying that what is going on right now is sudden and scary, but understand that we are all in this together(yes cue high school musical soundtrack). Maybe you’re enjoying the added free time, or maybe you’re really being affected by all of this social isolation; but either way, you are not alone. We are literally experiencing these strange routines as an entire nation–and more than that, an entire planet. While trying to remain calm during this time is difficult, it is more than obtainable. By putting just a little more time into the things that make you happy, you are doing your part in pushing through this and moving forward. As simply and adequately stated by the great Anne Frank, “Think of all the beauty still left around you, and be happy”. Stay happy and healthy, Panthers.