We know to wash our hands, sanitise surfaces and practice social distancing to protect our physical health during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis – but what about our mental health?
With work, schools, governments, churches, sports, and special events taking dramatic steps to slow the coronavirus’ spread, daily routines are disrupted, and increased social isolation is an unfortunate reality for millions of people across the country.
Whether you’re working from the kitchen table or caring for a loved one during the pandemic, clinical psychologist Andrea Graham, Ph.D., in a conversation with Fox News, recommends healthy ways to cope with social isolation and stick to a routine during these unprecedented, trying times.
Graham is an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University in Illinois.
FOX NEWS: What are some healthy ways for people to cope with social isolation during the ongoing outbreak?
Graham: Catching up with friends and family through messages, phone calls and video chats can be helpful for enhancing mood. If you are working remotely, connecting with colleagues via videoconference so you can “see” each other rather than only communicating by phone or email can increase feelings of connectedness.
Relaxing activities, like listening to music, watching movies and meditation can be helpful for maintaining a positive mood. Practising deep breathing can be helpful when things start to feel overwhelming and the anxiety creeps in.
FOX: What are some tips for staying well and sticking to a routine during self-quarantine or extended periods at home?
Graham: It can help to continue to eat healthfully and engage in physical activity, such as going for walks and trying to stay active with some indoor workouts. Keeping a positive mood is helpful, which can be supported by talking with family and friends and doing activities you enjoy.
For routine, it can help to go to bed and wake up at regular times and to try and follow a schedule during the day.
Accomplishing tasks can also improve mood – so now might be a good time to do that at-home project or start a new hobby you have been wanting to try! And of course, continue to wash your hands.
FOX: From a medical perspective, why does continued isolation affect mood and mental health?
Graham: Research has shown that being social and having social support can buffer against the impacts of stress and low mood, meaning that remaining connected to others even if physically separated can be helpful.