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17 Mental Health Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation

YouTube is also a treasure trove of random tutorials. SELF’s health director Zahra Barnes is currently learning how to draw in Adobe Illustrator from this video. (And oh my god, her vector portrait of Solange was so good I’m tempted to give it a try, too?)

7. Foster a pet.

I’m not saying caring for a foster animal isn’t a responsibility—it’s a big one. But plenty of animal shelters across the country are looking for emergency foster volunteers to take in animals and help rescues avoid reaching capacity. It could be a pretty damn good use of all this time you’re suddenly spending at home. As a cat mom who lives alone, I can’t exaggerate how much it helps having animals around when I’m feeling lonely.

8. Lounge in clean, comfy clothes.

Now that more people are making the transition to working from home, a lot are pedaling the advice, “Get dressed like you normally would for the workday to set the mood to be productive.” Which, yeah. I see the point. But for many of us, now is not the time for optimized productivity. Yes, we still have to do our jobs, but we deserve to be comfortable and cozy, damn it. Still, there’s something to be said for leveling up from the same PJs you slept in. Try wearing something 1) clean, 2) comfy, and 3) maybe even kind of cute to see how it makes you feel.

9. Make your bed.

If you’ve read any of my other articles about mental health, there’s a good chance you know I’m, like, a bed-making evangelist. It’s my go-to simple self-care tip and one of the few instances where I consistently practice what I preach because it’s such a small way to do something nice for yourself. I’m happy to report that this belief holds up in COVID-19 isolation. Making my space feel nice and put-together is more important than ever because, well, I’m stuck here and our surroundings have a real impact on our mental health.

Only using your bed for sleep and sex (instead of for things like working, streaming TV, or playing video games) is a good way to protect your sleep, too. Otherwise, we run the risk of associating our beds with stimulation instead of relaxation. Fellow SELF senior editor Patia Braithwaite tells me that because she lives in a studio, making her bed is an important way to signal to herself that she can’t get back in until bedtime.

10. Have some solo dance parties.

Sarah Madaus, editorial assistant at SELF, takes three dance breaks during the day now that we’re all working from home, complete with an upbeat playlist featuring Rihanna and Tame Impala. “I have never been a good dancer, so I just kind of flail around, jump, and lip-sync,” she tells me. “By the time I’m done, I’m usually laughing at myself and visibly happy. It helps me let off some steam and come back into my body a little bit.”

11. Get outside.

In case there’s any confusion, you can still go outside while social distancing—you just have to be careful about it. As I reported in another article for SELF, you should time it to when a ton of people won’t be out and about so you can maintain a six-foot distance from others. Beyond that, I highly recommend being intentional about your excursions. Every day, decide what you’re going to do and when (such as a walk to the park at dusk) and set a reminder. Otherwise, it’s easy to procrastinate or forget just how necessary it is.

12. Spend time in different spaces in your home.

You probably know in theory that it’s not great to veg out on the same spot of the couch all day long, but if you’re anything like me, you might conveniently forget that most of the time. According to Walker, making an active effort to switch things up as much as you can is a solid way to keep from feeling fuzzy and lethargic. Depending on your situation, moving around a ton might not be possible (like if you live in a studio or have a bunch of roommates), but even a little is better than nothing, like switching between each end of the couch throughout the day.

13. Stay social.

I already wrote a whole article on staying social in a time of social distancing, which you can read here, but it bears repeating: Maintaining social connections is more important than ever. If you’re feeling crappy, it can be tempting to cancel FaceTime dates with friends or let calls from your family go to voicemail. That’s healthy sometimes—you don’t want to pressure yourself when you need to be alone—but definitely make sure you’re getting in some socializing. Like getting outside, it can be helpful to pop plans on the calendar to make sure you actually follow through and don’t accidentally isolate for days at a time.

14. Set “no coronavirus talk” boundaries.

I don’t know about you, but all of my group chats—once little virtual paradises filled with memes, gossip, and support—have turned into neverending streams of panic, stress, and links to new coronavirus news. Having people to process all of this with is important, but it got to a point that I was basically only talking about the pandemic. So I had to set some boundaries. For me, that has looked like muting certain chats and only checking them when I have the bandwidth (and also starting chats dedicated to specific topics, like Animal Crossing or what we’re binge-watching). For you, it might look different.

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