Maintaining Mental Health While Social Distancing

It’s no secret that we’re living through an unprecedented, precarious era of history. Parts of our day that we once took for granted are now cancelled indefinitely. Vital resources like hand soap and face masks are scarce. The whole of society is in flux as we navigate a new normal. 

For many, the results of COVID-19 and social distancing have taken a toll on mental health. Our collective sense of safety has been damaged. We fear for our loved ones and we grieve what used to be. But that doesn’t mean we are doomed to slip into an unmitigated state of depression or anxiety; there are things we can do to give our minds a fighting chance. Here are a few practices that have helped me, and I’m confident they can help you too.  

Get in the Word

Daily time with God is important with or without a global pandemic, but I would venture to say that it has never been more vital. The entire world seems to be on shaky ground, but we serve a God who never changes. His word makes a number of promises for days like these, and they are all ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ in Him. When you anchor yourself in those, even coronavirus seems less scary.

Get Creative

The arts are an incredible outlet for unwanted emotion. And let’s face it, our global situation has brought about a lot of unwanted emotion for many of us. What’s a favorite creative hobby that you may have neglected lately out of busyness? Do you sing? Paint? Write? Draw? Play an instrument? Whatever it is, take the extra time you’ve been given and give it a go. In fact, think about sharing it on social media to inspire others. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re any good; that’s not the point. The arts are about joy, not performance. Pursue yours with abandon. 

Get Outdoors

If there is a bright side to the timing of this whole ordeal, it’s that it happened right as spring began to appear. Lots of people suffer from seasonal depression, meaning that their symptoms significantly worsen in the winter months. Imagine compounding the winter blues with the anxiety of the coronavirus. Getting outside on sunny days has huge mental and physiological benefits, and it’s easy to do while practicing social distancing. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Find a local park or green space that’s still open and stake out your corner. Even just working inside with doors and windows open has been a huge mood boost for me. God created nature and said it was good. As my dad often says, “I tend to agree.” 

Stay in Touch with Technology

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of social distancing is in the name: social distance. Cultural experts claim that as a society, we were already more lonely and isolated before the pandemic than at any other time in history. Now, it’s no longer that we’re choosing not to gather with friends in person. We can’t. While technologies like Facetime, Skype, and other forms of video chat are not a perfect substitute, they can help alleviate feelings of loneliness in the meantime. You will be amazed how much better you’ll feel after a call or video chat with a friend. Self-isolate your body, not your mind. 

Turn off the News

This one can be difficult. For many of us (myself included), staying updated offers a sense of control when life feels out of control, and connection while stuck at home. And let’s face it, what Kentuckian doesn’t look forward to 5:00 updates with Andy? I’m not suggesting you tune out completely– not by any means. But ingesting constant news about sickness, death, and politics can erode your sense of well-being and create an overly dark image of the world in your mind. Make time to turn off the news, and balance the harsh reality it depicts with some of the goodness still around us. 

Pray, Pray, Pray

Just as I began with God, I will end with God. Right now, prayer should be a given, yet it’s easily overlooked. (I’m definitely preaching to myself). Though our connections with those around us are impaired by physical distance, our connection to God never will be. We serve a God who is able to do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine. Lost your job? Ask and he will provide. Anxious? He promises peace. Worried about a friend or family member? He is the great protector. He only asks that we ask. 

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