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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost everyone’s life in some way — not just in the U.S., but around the globe. Between practicing social distancing, staying in isolation, and everything from school to social events getting “canceled” well into the summer months, it’s no wonder the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting some people’s mental health. 
The risks of isolation are nothing new. According to the American Psychological Association, isolation can have serious health risks, including: 
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Depression
  • Weakened immunity
  • Decreased cardiovascular function
Even if you’re currently quarantined with family members or roommates, these uncertain times and the stress that has come with them can impact your mental health. Depression and anxiety are already among the most common mental health conditions affecting men and women today. Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 can make those conditions worse, or put you more at risk. 

So what can you do to take care of your mental health throughout this pandemic? How can you take active steps to practice healthy behaviors (while avoiding dangerous coping mechanisms)? 

Developing Healthy Habits

Millions of people across the country have been under “stay-at-home” orders for weeks. While some states are starting to re-open, many others are taking extra precautions and moving slowly to get life back to normal. When you’re stuck at home, dealing with the stress of this pandemic, it’s important to practice healthy habits to keep yourself calm and at peace. 

According to Johns Hopkins University, basic stress-management skills can help you to keep your mental health in check, including things like: 
  • Taking care of your physical health
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Challenging negative/irrational thoughts
  • Maintaining enjoyable activities
Although keeping some type of routine and keeping up with your regular daily habits can help things to feel more normal, this is also the perfect time to develop new healthy habits, and take charge of both your physical and mental health. Establishing change takes consistency, effort, and adaptability, and if you’re stuck at home, you can put a lot of dedication into trying something new, like a workout routine, a new diet, a new activity, or a hobby. You can even set realistic goals for yourself to boost your motivation. 

If you don’t fill your time with healthy habits or a consistent routine, you might find it easy to turn to negative or even harmful coping mechanisms. A UK survey found that 58% of people aged 18-75 drink alcohol because it helps them to deal with the stress of everyday life. During exceptionally-stressful or uncertain times, turning to alcohol or drugs isn’t uncommon. 

If you have been abusing substances throughout this pandemic or you’re a recovering addict who needs help coping through this time, it’s important to do it the right way, under medical supervision. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor or a support group that can help you to get through this without falling off the wagon. 

Finding a Work-Life Balance

In an effort for businesses to remain open and functioning, many employers have allowed their employees to work remotely at home. Remote working was already becoming popular before COVID-19, but working at home is different when you do it by choice or out of necessity.

Getting used to a remote working environment can take some time, and it isn’t always as easy as people think. Finding a work-life balance is important for your mental health, but when you’re at home the two can easily merge together and create more stress. You might find yourself working longer hours or late into the night, or even becoming “addicted” to your work in order to stay busy and distract yourself.

Establishing a healthy work-life balance when you’re working remotely doesn’t have to be complicated. Try some of the following techniques to find a happy and healthy medium: 
  • Create a dedicated working space within your home
  • Set working hours each day
  • Stay in your normal work routine (wake up at the same time each day, etc.)
  • Make sure your family knows when you’re working
  • Take breaks
  • Cut yourself off from work at the same time each day
You should consider working remotely to simply be a change of location. Keep your day as close to “normal” as possible in order to have enough time to get your job done and enough time to spend with the people you love, doing things you enjoy. 

Keeping Connections While Staying Safe

Between social distancing and staying at home, it’s easy to feel disconnected from friends and family during this time. But, social connections are more important than ever. 

If you’re missing spending time with others, try to get creative! Technology has made it easy to remain connected while staying apart, so try utilizing things like: 
  • FaceTime
  • Skype
  • Google Hangouts
  • Zoom
You can even host a ‘Netflix Party’ with your friends, allowing you to watch the same show or movie all at the same time, and even chat about it together. 

Therapists and mental health professionals are also still available for you during this time. Telehealth is becoming more important than ever, giving you the opportunity to connect with a mental health professional from anywhere in the world. If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, downloading telehealth apps like TelaDoc or Doctor On Demand can connect you with professionals that can help you with feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. 

Your mental health should always be a priority. But now, more than ever, taking care of yourself inside and out can help you to cope with the effects of COVID-19, so you can come out mentally and emotionally stronger when this pandemic finally passes.