covid-19

Making Your Home a (Mentally) Safe Place During the Pandemic

Please welcome today a guest blogger who wanted to share information about mental health and our current Covid-19 situation. -Leif Gregersen

In January 2020, there were six identified cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections – the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – in the United States. Within a few weeks, we saw school closures, business and crowd restrictions, and office workers at home.

Our collective thoughts were that these were temporary but necessary measures; a few weeks of restraint that would lead us back onto a path of normalcy. For many, it was more inconvenience than pain or sacrifice, done in the name of family and community health.

Almost one year later, how we look at that “health” has been altered. We are not only surrounded by hundreds and thousands of COVID victims and survivors, we are experiencing a mental and emotional health crisis that has led to increased anxiety, depression and a surge in suicidal thoughts.

The emotional costs of COVID

At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, much fear and uncertainty was tied to the unknowns about the virus and the disease and illnesses it caused. This “fear of the unknown” is not inherently irrational and may have given us evolutionary advantages, allowing humans to proceed with caution while gaining more information.

However, our efforts to keep SARS-CoV-2 outside our homes, schools and businesses let in other disorders and illnesses such as stress, anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders, brought on by social isolation and in many cases, financial insecurity or even ruin. The toll has been even greater for those with existing mental health disorders who were kept from in-person treatment, or had gaps in receiving prescription medications.

How you live is more important than where

Practicing self-isolation gets wearisome, regardless of how much you love your home, or how much space you have. It’s what you do in and with that space, and with those who share it with you, that will help your household’s overall emotional and mental well-being.

Below are a few tips that you can employ to keep your home an emotionally safe place during self-isolation:

Routines bring normalcy.

Some people, especially children, find comfort in a routine. This is particularly important during homeschooling. Remember, however, that a routine doesn’t have to mean rigidity – spontaneous “jailbreaks” out to the yard on a lovely day are just as important – but understanding expectations can help mitigate discord, and can also help with healthy habits such as handwashing and frequent surface sanitizing.

We were friends first.

If you have a spouse or partner, daily reminders that you are living with your best friend can help you connect in a manner other than as heads of the household. If applicable, reminisce about other times of shared sacrifices, such as when first starting out or scrimping to save up foryour first home or car. Reminding each other that you’ve gone through some difficulties before and now can look back in nostalgic fondness can be comforting and provide hope.

Be outdoors, inside and out.

A 2015 study demonstrates that being outdoors – ecotherapy – offers therapeutic benefits, so take just a few minutes each day to allow your senses to soak up nature, even if it’s just in your backyard. On the days it’s not feasible or possible, bring some of those sensory elements into your living spaces. Houseplants, playing nature sounds and opening windows to increase natural light and airflow can all improve mental well-being.

Mix it up!

Many households now have to accommodate full-time offices and classrooms. Rearranging your living space to make this doable can lead to other beneficial and mentally therapeutic changes, such as a space set aside for mindfulness or physical workouts, or removing clutter from the kitchen to allow for family meal preparation and other activities. Making such changes can add harmony to the essential work and school while relieving your mind of boredom and a stagnant physical environment.

Mental anti-viral protection

SARS-CoV-2 may have stolen some of our normalcy and physical activities, but we don’t have to let it steal from us emotionally. Attending to the mind-body connection is a powerful pandemic-fighting weapon, and it starts at home

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash