5 tips for keeping good mental health while stuck at home (from someone who has had lots of practice)

I’ve got eyesight so bad I can’t legally obtain a drivers license, and health so unpredictable I’m unable to work, so I’ve had to get used to spending a lot of time stuck at home. When states across the U.S. started ordering residents to shelter in place to flatten the curve of the rapidly growing coronavirus pandemic, I already had a lot of practice with finding ways to keep myself happy and comfortable in my home for long stretches of time. I’ve actually been thriving so far. It only occurred to me now, already over a week into my state’s official stay at home order, that some of the tricks I’ve picked up over the years learning to cope with my mostly homebound reality might be beneficial to normally healthy folks who are probably struggling right now.

So, with the hope of easing the burden of this unusual predicament, here are 5 tips I have that should help you get through this!

1. Dress up

Put on some really nice (but comfortable) clothes, do your hair, and apply your makeup as though you are going out on the town! This may seem really simple, even strange, but it’s amazing how much of a morale booster making yourself look nice is, even if you’re the only person who’s going to see it! Take it from someone who knows- you can only handle so many days in your comfy jammies before it starts getting less fun and cozy, and more depressing.

2. Have a set routine

When I finally had to quit my job due to health complications, it took me a LONG time to realize just how important having a routine is for maintaining good mental / emotional well-being. It might seem a little over the top and obsessive at first, but take it from me, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you prepare a schedule to follow from morning to bed time. Set times for meals, hobbies, chores, exercise, work/ school if you have it, and relaxation. All of those activities are great for giving yourself a sense of purpose and productivity, even if what you wind up doing is super simple!

If anything, make sure you are attempting to exercise as much as you can! Check out videos on Pilates and other workouts you can do at home without access to equipment. Physical and mental health are very much intertwined! Don’t become lethargic if you can help it! I recommend getting “Ring Fit Adventure” if you have a Nintendo Switch and some extra cash.

3. Keep a “mind, body, spirit” journal 

Even if you can’t keep a schedule like in tip #2, keeping this simple goal of addressing your mind, body, and spirit each day will have an enormous positive effect on your mental health. Writing it down in a journal feels so satisfying and is a great motivator to keep yourself at it. This is a flexible system I came up with so that I get a sense of accomplishment no matter how much energy and stamina I have on any given day.

You can interpret “mind, body, and spirit” in whatever way fits best for you. For example, here are the activities I usually associate with each category:
Mind- Learning a new skill, watching an educational film, practicing an existing hobby, etc.
Body- Exercise, a light walk, or strenuous activity when I am able, showering on a difficult day, or simply allowing my body to rest on my worst of days.
Spirit- I don’t follow a religion, but this would be a great category to log a religious practice you followed. I usually list meditation, reading a good book, or creating artwork, anything relaxing that makes me feel happy and fulfilled.

4. Spend some time in the sun!

Open your windows and bask in a sunbeam, or take a walk outside if you can (remembering to keep your distance from others, of course!). I have a pretty decent backyard, and when I have the physical stamina, I try my best to get out and do some light yard-work or gardening. It might not seem like a big deal, but the vitamin D we get from being in the sun is so, so important! It helps us maintain good physical and emotional health! If you can’t get out in the sun for whatever reason, you can get vitamin D supplements over the counter. I was vitamin D deficient for a long time before my doctor tested me for it and helped me get that back on track. It makes a world of difference when you get the right amount of Vitamin D, and you can really feel it when you’re not getting enough.

5. Throw a party!

Obviously not in person! We live in an era of widespread and easy access to technology that allows us to talk with our friends and family without being in the same room as them. Most people own a phone of some sort. At the very least, you should be able to call someone and say hello. Make it a point to do that regularly!

This might be a little advanced for some folks, but something I really love doing with my friends is hosting party games over the internet. If you’re fairly tech savvy, you can host JackBox games! They are pretty affordable, and as long as you own the game, your friends can play with you without ever having to download anything, as long as they have a device with access to the internet. The JackBox games creators even have a handy tutorial to teach you how to do it here. You can also play simpler games, like “words with friends” or other multiplayer games on your phone. Obviously we’re all already playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, so visit your friends on their islands and s̶t̶e̶a̶l̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶o̶u̶r̶c̶e̶s̶  leave cute little messages on their community board! ❤  At the very least, make a “group” in Messenger to chat and stay connected with your friends! Have a virtual party via video call! My friends and I like to “get lunch” over video on occasion.

If you have access to virtual reality, there are a number of wonderful social VR programs that genuinely make you feel as though you are getting out of the house. I recently hosted an open discussion on AltspaceVR about this very topic. You can watch the recording of that event here if you’re curious.

Whatever you do, make it feel like an event. Plan ahead! Allow yourself to get excited- over-hyped, even! Practice tip #1 while you prepare for it! Otherwise, it’s just another activity you’re doing at home and it will be harder to beat that feeling of cabin fever.

I hope these tips are helpful! Hang in there! We’ll all get through this together… separately! haha

We’ve got this. ❤

 

Photo courtesy of Eric Antunes from Pexels

3 thoughts on “5 tips for keeping good mental health while stuck at home (from someone who has had lots of practice)

    • I’ve actually been feeling a lot more relaxed myself, maybe because there is less social pressure to get out and do things. I miss seeing my friends for sure, but it’s refreshing not to have to keep up with social engagements! All my energy is spent on keeping myself happy and entertained, it’s a chance to recharge. 🙂

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