These days Mental Health has taken on a whole other meaning as COVID-19 has changed the rhythm of our daily lives—Just. Like. That! With little preparation, life as we knew it was cancelled and substituted by a stay-at-home, shelter-in-place way of existence.
Jobs were either shifted to home, furloughed or lost, with the exception of our frontline heroes diligently working within the hospital setting and others employed by “essential services.” Schools were shut down and suddenly millions of teachers were tasked with finding the means and ability to continue to teach their classes by developing virtual curriculums and parents became teacher’s aides, if they were lucky to live in a well-organized school district, and teachers, if not. Sports events, concerts, practices, school events, senior proms, were cancelled. We were asked to stay at home as much as possible and when we did go out to the stores we all had different approaches on how to stay corona-free. Gloves, masks, bandanas and a whole host of creative barriers were put to use in hopes of protecting ourselves and loved ones.
We are literally with the people we live with 24/7 and that arrangement has pros and cons depending on our relationships, resources, stresses, creativity, attitudes, etc. So many factors play into the home environment and for good or bad we are stuck in it, for the time being.
These events and parameters, unprecedented in the lifetime of most of us, can rattle the most mentally healthy person, not to mention those more vulnerable and prone to mental health challenges. What can be done to stabilize mental health in these constricting and unpredictable times?
I believe we have to seek out the light and look for the opportunities these dark times are providing us. What are our opportunities?
Opportunity for introspection. We have time to access how we’re doing in our roles as a family member, a work member, a community member and global member of society. We are human and as such our lives are complex and demanding, most of the time. Proper balance is a constant pursuit among an ever- changing list of priorities. Figure out what is going to make you happy and allow yourself plenty of grace as you work towards that.
Opportunity for improvement. If we are brave enough to self-evaluate, we can use our time to set goals to improve. Improvement allows us to have a focus, and control change in a good way, amidst all of the external change we cannot control. It also allows us to become a better version or ourselves, which benefits everyone. We can improve on our cooking skills, developing a new talent or hobby, exercising, eating right, and home projects. The list is endless.
Opportunity to connect. We can start with the people in our home. How connected are we, really? What do we know about each other? What do our interactions look like? With so many activities cancelled we are together a lot and the more togetherness the more opportunities to have meaningful interactions. We can cook and eat meals together, go on walks, discuss important topics, play games, binge-watch series, recreate tik-tok dances, document our days by taking pictures, snuggling, crafting, etc. All interactions are meaningful, and because these interactions create memories, let’s make them good ones and improve our connections.
We can also connect with those outside our home by utilizing technology. Stay in touch via texts, Marco Polos and emails. Host zooms or google hangouts to see and interact with one another. Write a letter. Call or facetime someone on the phone. Post uplifting quotes and comment on friends’ posts on social media. Have virtual book clubs or game nights. My kids and I have done virtual game nights with my parents, siblings and their children twice and have had a great time laughing and catching up.
Opportunity to appreciate nature. Taking walks has been my biggest saving grace. There is such relief, solace and revitalization to be found in getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, getting a dose of Vitamin D, taking in the views and getting your body moving. Whatever you choose to do outside, and in some places this is limited by closures, of course keep the appropriate distance from others. But get outside!
I hope these opportunities provide some ideas that help you to not only endure this time at home, but to endure it well. Take care and please know you are not alone. We are all just doing our best and that looks different every day! And that’s okay!