Human beings are social creatures, and it’s tough to live in isolation for prolonged periods of time.
While there has been a large focus on the economic and societal toll of Covid-19, it is important not to overlook how self-isolation can affect everyone’s mental health. Unprecedented events cause collective fear and upheaval of our normal routines may wreak havoc on our collective psyche.
To help you manage your mental health during lockdown, quarantine or self-isolation (voluntary or otherwise!), we offer 6 ways to stay active and connected and take your mind off the effects of being all by your lonesome.
1. Take care of houseplants
You may not know it, but your houseplants can provide therapeutic effects that can help reduce stress and help work through trauma. Studies have shown that “gardening can act as therapy for people who have undergone trauma”. Specifically, the act of nurturing something, even if it is as small as a simple houseplant, can be an effective way to work through traumatic events.
Taking care of indoor plants can also help with stress, something that everyone is feeling plenty of during this time. Another small study found that working with plants suppressed sympathetic nervous system activity (your flight or fight response) and promoted positive feelings in university students compared to when they were working on the computer.
If you currently have a houseplant, try to give it some extra attention during your self-isolation period. As shown with studies, taking small breaks throughout the day to check up on your plants may be a good way to reduce work-related stress.
If it is difficult to find plant shops that are open, you can still order seeds or use seeds from common produce. For instance, you can plant some seeds from veggies you already consume, like bell peppers and tomatoes. You can also create a makeshift veggie garden using food scraps like carrot tops or onions with their roots still attached by simply letting them float on a small amount of water on a flat surface.
2. Limit consumption of news media
The Internet is inundated with unofficial news sources created by trolls, YouTubers and podcasters who may spread fake news on social media, creating an echo chamber that causes panic and paranoia. Furthermore, with a 24-hour news cycle that seems to constantly focus on the current pandemic, many people have started to feel high levels of anxiety. Thus, to give yourself some much needed mental respite, scientists and researchers suggest limiting your exposure to them and only consume news from credible news outlets.
Lauretta Breuning, author of Habits of a Happy Brain recommends setting aside one block of time each day for news consumption, for instance, at lunch or before dinner, and not reading the news before bed. By doing so, you won’t be ruminating over misinformation and will not feel anxious throughout the day with a constant feed of negative information. The World Health Organisation also recommends spreading positive stories about Covid-19 (e.g., survival, community support), rather than focusing on deaths and infection rates.
Some text adapted from ValueChampion, April 2020 / Last updated by Isabel Wibowo