If you’re like many, you probably have your calendar marked off with how many days you’ve been stuck at home during this “new normal.” We all want to get back to work, back to school, and back to our lives as we knew them before social distancing and quarantine were being included with #saferathome on social media.
If you’re among the lucky ones, then working from home or distance learning are old hat for you, so being quarantined may make little difference in your everyday life outside of community or state restrictions and closures. For the rest, these new conditions and restrictions on work, school, and leaving the house can take their toll. Gearing up in gloves and a mask to head to the supermarket and sanitizing everything daily can have a negative impact on a person’s energy and their positive thoughts.
The effects of being quarantined may include: depression, anxiety, PTSD, irritability and other trauma-related mental health disorders which are in direct correlation to factors such as the length of the quarantine and the feelings of boredom and loneliness that often accompany self-isolation. Thus, the longer the quarantine, the greater the chance of feeling bored, lonely, or developing depression.
To help counteract the negative effects of a quarantine situation, keeping a daily schedule and an emotions and activity tracker can help foster motivation, reduce stress, and may act as an anchor in helping to re-center you. There is a plethora of research supporting the positive effects of having a daily routine, which is perhaps even more important now during a self-isolation period.
Some things to consider in adding to your daily routine:
- Set an alarm to get yourself up each day around the same time.
- Go to bed approximately the same time each night.
- Shower daily; do your hair/makeup/get dressed for the day.
- Make your bed daily.
- Limit COVID-19 updates or news updates if it causes anxiety or stress.
- Track and monitor your daily feelings/emotions/activities.
- Bake, do gardening, clean and reorganize the garage, knit, cook a new cuisine.
- Do daily chores (clean kitty litter, walk your dog, vacuum, sterilize kitchen).
- Engage in self-care: give yourself a facial, pedicure, bubble bath, relax on your laptop.
- Stay connected socially to friends and family through Zoom, Skype, phone, text, or social media.
- Allow for flexibility; if you need a little extra sleep one day, now’s the time to take it.
- Include soulwork (meditation, yoga, Pilates, reading, journaling).
- Have a list of hobbies to do from home.
- Include exercise (safely exercise in your neighborhood or use the living room).
- Take advantage of meditation and exercise videos or podcasts.
Tracking and monitoring how you feel can be an important tool in everyday life, but it is even more important during stressful times such as self-isolation to ensure that you feel as positive and healthy as can be expected. If you notice you are feeling depressed, anxious, or have a noticeable change in your daily routine, energy level, or emotional state, make sure to track your daily activities and how you’re feeling throughout the day, and speak with your doctor or a trained professional who can help provide you options and support.
You may want to try a daily emotions chart and add it to your daily routine. A daily emotions tracker can help gauge things like Time of Day, Activity, Emotion/Feeling and Energy Level. For example, if you track watching the news at 9:00am with an emotional state as anxious and energy level as high, that may be a sign to limit the news for a while. Or, if you notice that speaking with friends is correlated with feeling energized and happy, with a normal energy level, you may want to add an extra hour of socializing into your daily tracker.
By tracking how you feel during activities and throughout the day, you may be able to notice if certain activities or certain times of the day are impacting how you feel to limit what may be negatively impacting your mood or your energy level while increasing activities that promote positive emotions and feelings.
Stay strong. Together, we will get through this.
Brooks, S. K., et al. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of evidence. The Lancet, 395, 912-920.