How to Prioritize Mental Health During Social Distancing

In the last week or so, we’ve become all too familiar with the term “social distancing.” For most of us, those words bring a lot of emotions to the surface. For some of us, it may feel like a dream to have full permission to embrace a slower pace of life for a few weeks. But for others, it may feel more like a nightmare to be shut out from the familiar people, places, and routines we’ve come to know and appreciate. How do we make sure that we prioritize our mental health in the midst of it all?

1. Keep a Sense of Normalcy

One key to prioritizing mental health is to keep the rhythms of your normal, daily life intact. As comfy as they may be, resist the urge to wear your pajamas on the couch for the indefinite future. Wake up at your normal time, start your day as you would any other day, carry out your normal household chores, and FaceTime friends you would otherwise have seen in person. Maintaining your usual routine as much as possible will take off some of the mental burden, freeing you up to accommodate changes you don’t have control over during this unusual time (like how many packages of toilet paper to buy). 

2. Be Kind to Yourself

If your tendency in times of trial is to “white-knuckle” your way through life, try a different approach. Ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment to protect my physical, emotional, and mental health?” Then do it! Maybe you notice that watching the news gives you anxiety. Try a day without it and see how you feel. Maybe being cooped up in the house with your kids has pushed you to your limit. Go for a drive and listen to music. 

We live in a world that teaches us to try harder, do more, keep hustling, ignore our feelings, and pretend we’re fine. As our lives grind to a screeching halt, pay attention to the feelings that surface for you, and be kind to them. For more on what it looks like to pay compassionate attention to our bodies, check out Try Softer by Aundi Kolber.

3. Get Moving

We’re all familiar with the benefits of regular exercise for our overall physical health and wellness, but there’s so much to be said for how much it influences our mental health, too. With many gyms and health clubs closed during this time, it’d be easy to get out of any normal exercise routines you may have established. Instead, make it a goal to prioritize 30 minutes of movement every day. Get creative: find a new workout video on YouTube or an app, go on a walk, have a dance party with your kids, get up from your desk and stretch, run up and down your stairs five times. (Bonus points: if it’s warm where you are, GO OUTSIDE and get some sunshine!) The possibilities are endless, and so are the benefits for your mental health. 

4. Make a Social Distancing Bucket List

Instead of focusing on all of the things you can’t do during this time, make a list of all the things you can do. Include anything from chores you’ve been meaning to get done, to phone calls you’ve been wanting to make, to books you’ve been meaning to read and shows you’ve been wanting to watch. You can even involve the kids! Get a large piece of paper and hang it somewhere in your house where your family can see it. Spend some time brainstorming your list as a family and decorating it with markers, stickers, etc. When you’ve completed something on your list, cross it off together.

5. Get Quiet Before the Lord

It’s no accident that the noisiness of the world has ceased for the time being. In the eerie stillness of this new normal, spend time listening to God’s voice. Set aside a time each day for reading, prayer, and journaling. Tell Him how you’re feeling. Leave your worries and cares at His feet and trust that He is sovereign over all things.