Unless you have been living under a rock for the last month, you are now acutely aware of the health and economic crisis this country faces as we deal with the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The federal, state and local authorities have drilled into us the importance of washing our hands regularly, sanitizing surfaces and observing social distancing to protect our physical health, but when it comes to protecting our mental health, we are left high and dry.
With schools, churches, gyms, and sports events being closed over the last few weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, millions of Americans have been displaced from friends, family and social support networks and are starting to feel the negative effects of social isolation. As human beings, we are all hardwired to be around others, connecting to the people we love and the community we live in. We crave routine and consistency, and a disruption of this kind to our lives can wreak havoc on our sense of security and stability. The bottom line… this is affecting our mental health!
At Polaris, we decided to take matters into our own hands and survey our counselors to find out what advice they are giving their clients during this time. Here is what we found out!
- Gratitude scavenger hunts (you can ask your kids things like “where is your favorite place to be alone”, “show me three things that help you feel calm’, etc.)
- Watch comedy and read funny quotes memes… laughter is my favorite medicine!
- Listening to positive and motivating podcasts
- Playing board games
- Crafts, crafts, crafts!
- Having fun making recipes for food or desserts
- Taking walks
- Playing fun music and dancing
- Spring clean/organize
- Call family and friends you normally don’t have much time
- Arts and Crafts projects
- Eat meals together
- Take daily walks
- Plan organized activities
- Finding things to be grateful for
- Focusing on being in the moment with the people you love (either in person or via social media, Facetime etc.)
- Get outside/recess time. Kids and adults
- Keep a schedule/structure daily including sleep pattern consistency
- Dance parties around chores with each person rotating choice of music
- Using chalk to write messages for your neighbors/friends/family you can’t see in person
- Check in with your counselor/therapist regularly by video, phone, or face to face as a check in and break from the house.
- Put messages of hope or humor in the windows to offer words of encouragement or inspiration. Form of walking meditation.
- Go for a socially distanced from strangers walk or sit outside when it’s nice
- Talk to family/ friends via phone or video chat
- Engage in a hobby you have put off
- Spend time with family that live in your house doing enjoyable activities together, not just homework or chores
- Practice mindfulness and just sitting still/breathing in the moment
Dr. Salvat says:
- Make your space your own.
- Stay off of social media.
- Avoid reading it watching the news ( anything major happens, you will know).
- Organize frequent virtual Hangouts with family and friends.
- Accept that you don’t have any control what others do. Just focus on what you can actually control.
- Do not stop working towards your values. It may just take more effort than before.
- Get outdoors
- Get creative with connecting with others (video chats, letters, sending packages)
Amy (our office manager) says:
“Long dog walks and cuddles!”
All of our counselors emphasized the importance of trying to engage your neighborhood in some form of community activity. From socially distanced scavenger hunts (i.e. each house leaves a stuffed animal in their front yard and the children have to spot it as they walk past) to inspirational messages written in chalk on the sidewalks, we can help ourselves and our community by connecting with others.
In summary… STAY CONNECTED to friends and family through phone, social media or video, STAY BUSY in organizing your day and activities, and STAY ACTIVE by getting outside and taking a walk or engaging in some form of exercise. If you get creative, don’t watch the news and find a way to support your community, you are on the fast track for protecting your mental health and surviving social isolation!