Whether you’re used to staying at home for work or new to it, or even if you're one of the essential workers still going into work each day, the shelter-in-place order that started Tuesday, accompanied by the period of social distancing before it and uncertainty that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic, may be taking a toll on your mental health. Jennifer McNally, program director for Isabella County Services at Community Mental Health for Central Michigan, has several tips for staying mentally healthy during this difficult time.
1. Keep a routine
If you don’t have to leave your home for work, it can be tempting to sleep in, stay in pajamas all day, and skip regular meals during a shelter in place. However, McNally says avoiding that temptation will help you stay mentally healthy.
“Structure and consistency is important for our wellbeing, esp. our mental health. Get up, take a shower, and get dressed for the day,” she says. “Do those things you would typically do because it helps set the tone for your day.”
2. Take advantage of technology to see family and friends
The feeling of isolation can be overwhelming during a shelter in place. That’s one reason McNally suggests using the technology available – Facetime, Zoom, or just a phone call – to interact with people outside of your own home, whether it’s a coworker you’re used to seeing every day or a friend you haven’t seen in three months.
“We really encourage people to reach out and have connections outside of their home,” she says.
3. But don’t use technology too much
While technology can be beneficial for keeping in touch with people outside of the home, it can also be detrimental to your mental health if used too much – especially if used for social media consumption.
“Sometimes we can inundate ourselves,” McNally explains. “There’s so much out there about coronavirus right now. We encourage people to limit their time on that, maybe schedule a time to go on, or take breaks from it. Especially for people who already have anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress, it can create additional stress and problems for them.”
4. Stay physically active and take care of yourself
Taking care of your physical health during this time will also help you stay mentally healthy, McNally says.
“Eat food on a regular schedule, sleep the hours you need, and get physical exercise. It’s important for adults, and it’s especially important for our kids,” she says.
McNally suggests looking online for a variety of meditation videos, free workouts on Amazon Prime, and even looking at the websites and social media pages of local gyms that are offering virtual workout classes.
5. Ask for help if you need it
Even though some offices have changed policies or procedures right now to help flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, there are still resources available for people who need them.
McNally says some signs of poor mental health include, “Changes within their sleeping pattern – if they’re finding that they have difficulty sleeping or sleeping a lot more than they typically would - that could be a sign their mental health is declining. If they have increased irritability or are feeling numb. Sometimes you see polar opposites. Some people get more irritable. Some people don’t feel anything at all. If people are having more physical health problems that aren’t related to a physical health issue – more headaches, stomach aches. Of course, suicidal thoughts are of the utmost concern.”
CMHCM offers a 24/7 crisis service that the Isabella county community can access at 989-772-5938. Additionally, those seeking support or help can reach out to the Great Lakes Bay Region Mental Health Partnership Crisis Text Line by texting “BELONG” to 741741.
“We want everybody to be safe and be in the best state they can be,” says McNally.