The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal on the state of mental health in Americans. You’ve been limited in how you can celebrate birthdays, graduations, and weddings. You’ve seen loved ones hooked up to a ventilator fighting for their lives. You’ve got an entire hygienic routine every time you leave the house: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, and repeat.
Here’s what you can do to protect your mental health during this ongoing pandemic.
Get some Exercise
You don’t have to go to the gym to stay in shape. There are actually plenty of exercises and routines that you can do from the comfort of your own living room. That includes exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, and even going for a nice jog around the block.
On top of building your endurance and strength, exercise can trigger the release of endorphins in your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are known as the “feel-good” hormone and will naturally boost a low mood during such trying times.
Stay in Contact with Loved Ones
Not being able to meet with those you care about can be detrimental to your mental health. Prolonged loneliness and social isolation can increase your risk of certain mental health disorders, substance abuse issues, or even suicide.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that loneliness in older adults increases the risk of dementia and other serious health disorders. The best way to avoid these consequences is by staying in touch with loved ones via daily or weekly phone calls, video calls, or text messages.
Leave the House
Most states still have limitations when it comes to where you can go, what you can do, and who you can see. Yet at this point in the pandemic, you realize that your mood declines and you feel fatigued the longer you stay put in the house.
In a study published in Issues in Mental Health Nursing, vitamin D, which can be absorbed by the body from sunlight, is a great mood booster and actually is used to treat depression. So, if you’re feeling down and lonely in the house, spend some time in the backyard or go for a walk at the park before your fellow citizens get there.
Reach Out to a Therapist
If you were already struggling with your mental health prior to the pandemic, there’s a good chance that your situation has actually worsened as the months continued. Luckily, the forced closure of most mental health facilities doesn’t mean that you currently have no access to care. Many counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists have moved to telemedicine for the time being. Scheduling an appointment with a therapist via video call is a great way to process your emotions and learn how to cope.
Get a Pet
Most people would appreciate coming home from work every day to be greeted by a friendly dog or cat. But when loneliness and sadness become excessive during quarantine, a pet may be exactly what you need to feel better.
Even better, you may be able to help empty out your local animal shelter. The connection between pet ownership and mental health has been long studied. In fact, a survey conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, mental health improvements were seen in about 74% of pet owners.
During a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, it’s important that you prioritize your mental health. Not only will this make you feel less lonely and like you have a greater purpose, but it’ll also save you from a ton of emotional turmoil that you’ll have to sort through once COVID-19 is gone for good.