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Sharp Health News

9 tips to stay sane while isolated

April 7, 2020

Woman sitting on couch with book and coffee

Sheltering in place has its ups and downs. On the one hand, we’re saving gas money, catching up on TV and mastering cooking. On the other, we’re stuck, unwillingly, in our homes.

Yes, we’re all doing our part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And no, it doesn’t have to feel like a prison sentence. If isolation is making you restless or uneasy, these nine quick tips can help you cope.

1. Limit the news.
Watching or reading the news is the quickest way to stay current and informed about COVID-19. However, hearing too much about the pandemic can add unneeded stress. While many experts are easing up on their screen time limit recommendations during this time, you can use your TV and devices in other ways. Live stream exercise classes, play games, learn something new — and take breaks from the constant news loop.

2. Shut down online shopping.
About 52% of Americans say they have impulsively shopped to deal with stress, anxiety or depression. But no matter how much you miss the mall, online shopping is not the answer. To start, you’ll bleed your finances. And after you’ve hit “buy,” you may face feelings of remorse or regret. Channel your spending instinct into a self-care practice, such as reading, crafting or making time to simply breathe.

3. Have a daily plan.
What day is it? What time is it? Who hid the remote? If quarantine is making you hazy, you’re not alone. Many of us have lost a sense of structure — no more commutes, organized mealtimes or work and school schedules. To combat confusion, make a plan for your day. Honor your pre-COVID-19 routine by calendaring even the simplest things, such as eating breakfast, doing yoga and taking a shower.

4. Connect with people.
Thanks to social media and technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected — and there has never been a more important time to reach out. Becoming too isolated can cause depression and loneliness, especially for older adults experiencing stricter self-isolation parameters. Send an email, write a letter or set up an online chat. Better yet, pick up the phone for an old-fashioned catch-up session.

5. Don’t take on too much.
Has self-isolation unleashed your inner Marie Kondo? It may be good for your closet, but if taken too far, could be bad for your mental health. Finding projects around the house is a great way to release tension, but don’t forget to give yourself some downtime, too. Many people are balancing work and home life right now, so too many extra responsibilities could backfire.

6. Find a healthy escape.
If quarantine is testing your relationships with the people you live with, it’s OK to look for quiet moments on your own. Moms in particular tend to take on a heavy mental load, but everyone needs breaks, from teens to seniors. Ask those around you to respect your need for space, then find an escape that means the most to you — gardening, cooking or simply taking a much-needed nap.

7. Plan your meals.
Steering clear of the supermarket means having more food and less fridge space. Spending much of your time at home can lead to grazing, lots and lots of grazing. Emotional eating is a common stress response, and with full pantries, it’s easy to polish off those cookies. Planning your meals puts structure around what you eat, making it easier to resist the all-day snacking. Plus, knowing what’s coming gives you something to look forward to.

8. Move … a lot.
Staying sedentary during self-isolation is an unhealthy practice. Exercise improves your mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin, which help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. There are plenty of ways to make exercise a priority while at home, from body weight exercises to neighborhood jogs and dance apps. And if you’re working from home, try some deskercises.

9. Make plans.
It may feel like this quarantine period will never end, but it will. And when it does, be ready. While it’s not the best idea to commit to flights or concert tickets, boost your mood by planning the activities you’ll do once you’re out of the house. It can be as complex as taking a road trip, or as simple as sitting in a café with a friend, drinking a well-deserved cappuccino.

This story was updated on June 23, 2020.

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