3 Strategies for Maintaining Your Mental Health When You’re Stuck Inside

A few little things that can make a big difference.

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
March 27, 2020

There was once a time when I dreamed of having the opportunity to stay at home for an extended period of time. In this fantasy, I still planned on working from home, but at least I wouldn’t have to commute or leave my apartment to socialize. Of course that scenario didn’t involve a deadly world pandemic, but here we are.

Like it or not, most of us will be spending the foreseeable future inside our homes thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, and whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert (or some combination of the two), this amount of isolation — either by yourself, or with a partner, family, or roommates — can do a number on your mental health. Here are three strategies for looking after your mental health while you’re stuck at home.

Make — and stick to — some kind of schedule

Is it just me, or does time no longer seem to exist? Without the structure of actually leaving our homes every day, it can be easy to get caught in the routine of not having a routine. It’s time to fix that. A study out of Tel Aviv University found that sticking to some sort of routine or schedule can help reduce anxiety. And according to Claudia W. Allen, a clinical psychologist and the director of the family stress clinic at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, having a plan for your weekends — in addition to weekdays — is important. “This combination of structure and variation keeps people settled but stimulated – both important for emotional well-being,” she said in a statement

Do something nice for someone

Even if you’re at home alone, you can still use your time to do something kind for another person. Not only will that make someone else feel better — you’ll also be helping yourself. According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, performing acts of kindness or altruism is associated with better mental and physical health. So make that phone call checking in on someone, or even just send them a card. You’ll feel productive and make someone’s day.

Get moving!

Yes, we all know that sitting still all day isn’t great for our physical or mental health, but when the work tasks are flying at you one-after-another and then you’re tired and just want to watch some TV, it can be easy to spend an entire day sitting down. But large amounts of research, including from Harvard University, has demonstrated that getting up and moving your body can help boost your mental health. You don’t have to do pushups or run around the block: even just getting up for a one-minute dance party or doing a YouTube workout video could help.

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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