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Even though social distancing is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, it has the potential to wreak havoc on your mental health. Being away from your friends and family, missing out on canceled social events, and spending all day at your house can leave you stressed, depressed, and anxious. Fortunately, there are a couple of easy things you can do to keep yourself feeling your best.

Stay Connected

Humans are social creatures, so for many people, staying away from loved ones is a scary idea. The good news is, you don’t have to live like a hermit even though we’re supposed to keep our distance from each other.

I normally tell my clients to limit the amount of time they spend on their electronic devices, but right now is the exception. I highly recommend taking advantage of apps like Zoom, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to stay in contact with your friends and family.

These apps let you video chat with anyone connected to the Internet. Talking on the phone is great, but there’s something special about getting to see the people you miss, which is why I prefer these apps over texting or calling. You can even watch a movie or eat dinner together while video chatting.

Will this be the same as seeing your loved ones in person? Absolutely not. But is it better than not seeing them at all? Most definitely.

Keep Busy

Maybe you’re out of work right now or have the pleasure of quarantining yourself for two weeks. If so, your initial impulse may be to binge-watch Netflix or spend the day sleeping. While these both sound like a ton of fun, they’re going to be enjoyable for a couple of days, max. After that, you’re going to start going stir crazy and feeling sluggish.

Right now is not the time to do nothing. Yes, rest is important and good, but too much of it will likely leave you feeling depressed and gives your mind a chance to ruminate.

If you have extra free time, try taking up a new hobby. It’s still recommended that you go outside and exercise, so maybe it’s time to pick up that New Year’s resolution you let go back in January. Go hiking, ride a bike, take your dog on a walk, clean out your closet – you’re limited only by your imagination. Any healthy thing you can do to keep your mind focused is going to be helpful.

If you need help finding something to do, here’s a list of 75+ activities you can try – you’re bound to find at least one of them enjoyable.

Limit your News

Every news source right now is full of doom and gloom. Yes, you need to know what’s going on in the world, but too much bad news is a key ingredient for poor mental health.

Find the balance between staying informed and staying sane. Some people find it helpful to check their favorite news app once in the morning and once in the evening. Others like watching nightly updates on the TV. However you choose to consume the news, I can promise you that obsessively tracking every single update is not going to make you feel less anxious or give you any more control over the coronavirus.

Also, don’t forget that social media is full of news about COVID-19 right now. It may be smart to limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms if you’re feeling overwhelmed by coronavirus news.

Take Care of Yourself

If you fall into the camp of people who have decided that staying home means forgoing your normal weekday routine, it’s probably time you did something to change that. 

This is not the time to stop taking care of yourself. You cannot expect to feel your best if you do not get out of bed at a decent time, shower, brush your teeth, and put on clean clothes.

The reason for this is simple. Someone struggling with depression often lacks the motivation to perform even the most basic functions. When we stop taking care of ourselves, we are essentially telling our brains that we feel depressed. If you don’t believe me, commit to maintaining your routine over this next week – I bet you’ll be surprised with how much better you feel.

Take Advantage of Online Resources

If you think that staying home means you have to miss out on mental health treatment, you’re sorely mistaken. One of the best things about the Internet right now is all the online resources it offers.

Note: none of these resources are emergency services. If you’re having an emergency, you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

One of my favorite apps is called WoeBot. This little guy is a robot you can text whenever you’re feeling upset and he will immediately text you back. He’ll also set up daily check-ins to help you practice thinking healthy thoughts. You can download WoeBot for free here.

Another app I really like is called Headspace. This is an app for practicing mindfulness that has tons of different programs. Many features are free, but if you want to unlock everything, you’ll have to give them some of your hard-earned cash. Students can access a yearly subscription for only $9.99.

If you’re someone struggling with substance abuse, disordered eating, or other mental health concerns, WEconnect Health Management is offering free online support meetings every day. You can choose to stay completely anonymous if you want to, and there are seven different meeting times to help meet your busy schedule. Click here for more information.

Lastly, many therapists are offering teletherapy (i.e., therapy via video chat). There are national companies like BetterHelp, and we’re also offering teletherapy at Circle of Care for anyone living in Alabama – you can click here if you’re interested, or call (785) 443-3741.

There you have it – following these tips will help you get through this pandemic with your sanity intact. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in person again soon!

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