As many of us are being told to hunker down in our apartments and houses, and limit trips outside and social contact, things are feeling pretty “real” at this point. Aside from the general worry people may have about their physical health as they digest the news from around the world and here at home, there’s the larger toll this is taking on our collective mental health. Here are some of the mental health practices to make sure to keep doing - or begin doing, for some of us - during the lockdown period.
Have a routine as much as you can
We know how important routine is, especially for kids, under normal conditions. And when schools are closed and many people are working from home or told to stay at home, it might feel like all bets are off. But it’s actually much better for everyone’s mental health to try to keep a routine going, as much as possible.
“Studies in resiliency during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD, professor of psychology at Adelphi University and author of "Sometimes When I'm Sad.”
“This means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking and exercising at set times, and maintaining social (socially distant) contact. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.” Another reason is that keeping a routine reduces “decision fatigue,” the overwhelm and exhaustion that can come from too many options. So in the morning, rather than wondering whether to start work or help the kids with their online learning, it’s better to know what you’re going to do - make a schedule that everyone can get on board with, and try to stick with it.
At DMW, we use visual routines so that children know what to expect at different times during the day. You can easily create your own visual routine at home and stick it on the fridge so that your children can follow along throughout the day.
“Studies in resiliency during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day."
Start an at-home exercise routine
Working out at home in these times is obviously a good way to stay healthy and kill indoor time. Many online workout sources are offering free access or longer free trial periods during this time, which might be worth looking into. Ready Set Dance is a fantastic way to get the kids moving - they have a TV show on Nickelodeon and lots of YouTube videos too!
Get outside in nature if you can
Lots of recent research finds that spending time in nature is a boost to both mental and physical health. For instance, multiple studies have found that time in green and blue space is associated with reduced anxiety and depression, and the connection may well be a causal one. Just remember to follow current government advice regarding social distancing.
Declutter your home
Working on your home if you have time can be a good way to feel productive and in control. “Studies say the predictability of cleaning not only offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty, but also offers your mind body and soul a respite from traumatic stress.” says Serani, referencing the book Trauma-Informed Care.
Meditate, or just breathe.
Meditation has lots of research behind it - it’s been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and even increase the volume of certain areas of the brain.
Maintain community and social connection
We’re fundamentally social creatures, and during crises it’s natural to want to gather. Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of what we can do right now, so we have to be creative, to maintain both psychological closeness and a sense of community. Texting and social media are ok, but picking up the phone and talking or video conferencing, or having a safe-distance conversation on the street, is probably much better. Using video chat for kids is a great way to keep them connected with friends in a safe manner.
Let yourself off the hook
This might be the most important thing to keep in mind - don’t beat yourself up when things are not going perfectly in your household. On top of everything else, being upset with yourself is totally counterproductive. If the kids watch too much Netflix or play too many hours of video games, it’s not the end of the world. Things are going to be hairy for a while, and if you can’t stick to your schedule or can’t fit in your at-home workout every day, it’s really not such a big deal in the long run. It’s much more valuable to everyone to cut yourself some slack, use the time to reflect on the important things, and try to keep a sense of “we’re all in this together” at the forefront.
Our focus at Discover My World ELC
At DMW, our focus remains on keeping things as normal as possible for our children while exercising stringent health and safety standards across the service. We are working hard to support our families as best as we can during this extraordinary time, and thank you for your continued understanding and support as we work through this together.
Sending you all lots of (socially distant) hugs!
Walton, Alice G. (2020, March 20). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2020/03/22/9-mental-health-practices-to-maintain-or-begin-during-coronavirus-lockdown/#11cc40a14264