Hang in there: Managing your mental health while staying at home
Updated: Mar 24
Globally, we are working through a very strange and uncertain time right now. I struggle with anxiety so my brain is running wild, and I know that this is the same for a huge bulk of the population. However, I believe the right coping mechanisms and distraction techniques can work wonders when you set your mind to it.
I just wanted to share a bunch of things that have helped me, and may help you and your loved ones too. I've seen heaps of articles and accounts recently giving great tips of what to do if you have to stay at home, so I would like to share them with you - as well as some of my own ideas!
First off, follow @stayhomeandchill on Instagram. They regularly post fun and silly ideas for how to enjoy yourself in quarantine and keep things light and positive (which are the vibes we need right now!)
Read this article from Pebble magazine on how to keep busy and help the environment - https://pebblemag.com/magazine/doing/things-to-do-at-home-that-still-help-the-planet. You can find out more about the game that they mention called Nudge here.
EDIT: Also check out this from Highsnobiety https://www.highsnobiety.com/badge/work-from-home/ for plenty of entertainment when staying at home.
Jigsaw puzzles. So whether you live alone or not, it's always important to take time for yourself. If you start feeling a bit lethargic after watching Netflix for hours (which we will all still be doing of course), perhaps give your brain a wake up call by settling in to a good puzzle. It's like a one-person boardgame! I've recently started a 1000-piece one that I got for just £1 at a charity shop. Usually, my anxiety runs wild when I realise how much time I've spent on a puzzle, but when time at home may be all we have right now, it's a great activity to take up. Just leave it on a table somewhere to go back to when you feel like it!
Similarly, you can always get a good crossword or sudoku book out, or play patience with a pack of cards. Then, if you don't live alone and everyone feels like it, whack out the Monopoly or Cluedo once in a while! (I'm a huge boardgame advocate, can you tell?)
I also highly recommend listening to some good music or a podcast while doing this kind of activity. Unless you prefer silence, this'll keep your senses happy and if the podcast you listen to is Off Menu (with Ed Gamble and James Acaster) or something similar, you'll have a good laugh too!
(A couple other podcasts I would personally recommend include Hip Hop Saved My Life with Romesh Ranganathan, Song Exploder and David Tennant Does a Podcast With...)
Take up mindfulness. If there's any time to do so, this is it. Whether it's a quick 10 minutes out of your day to wind-down, or a strong hour-long session of meditation, being mindful can work wonders for your mind and body. If you're unsure where to start, there are a variety of great free apps on iOS and Android that can help. Headspace offer a good range of free courses, and you can pay a yearly or monthly fee (with discounts regularly available online) if you really get into it! There are also similar apps like Calm and Oak.
If you experience any moments of sheer panic after reading a particular news article or hearing something from a friend, you can also practice taking - and focusing in on - 10 long, deep breaths. This has helped me out of many panic attacks over the years (and it's so simple!)
Another activity that incorporates mindfulness and breathing techniques, but also keeps your body active, is yoga. The classes I went to weekly have recently been cancelled indefinitely, but there are lots of ways to practice at home - there are heaps of YouTube videos and apps that offer great classes. I used to practice with Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube and I think she's great. She has a variety of classes on her channel for all difficulties, and offers 30 day challenges to really motivate continuous practice.
Go for walks or runs. You may be quarantined, but heading to a quiet park or nature reserve for a walk or run in the fresh air will always make you feel great. You've left the house for a bit, you've gotten some exercise, and you've freed your mind for a while. If you need a bit more help staying mindful on a walk, Headspace offers tailored walking exercises (including ones for walking at home if you don't fancy going out). Similarly, going out in your garden or balcony regularly for a breath of fresh air is so important (and particularly lovely now Spring is setting in).
Play video games and binge TV shows. So these activities are not so mindful, but it's okay (and healthy) to use escapism to cope too. It's only natural to want to immerse yourself in a fantastical or made-up world for a while. Sims is a great way to explore your creativity, and action games are a sure fire way to let go of any anger or tension you may be feeling. Similarly, binging shows on Netflix or Prime allows you to enter a different reality for a while. Just make sure that you take regular breaks to eat, drink water, and stretch your muscles.
Set an alarm, shower and get dressed. So you're at home all day, what's the point in doing these things? Continuing with a regular morning routine is a great way to keep your mental health under control. If you get into a habit of waking up late and staying in your PJs, you'll only let cabin fever and depression get the better of you. Look after yourself, and if you're working from home, separate your workspace from your relaxation space.
Most important of all, stay in contact with friends and family, eat well, drink plenty of water, and try not to let yourself get overwhelmed. (But, if you do, don't beat yourself up. Let it happen and know that it will pass). Just remember that we're all in this together.
Best wishes and stay safe :)