Just yesterday Laura and I were reviewing how our March had treated us. Overall, it was a great month! We were able to produce our first YouTube video, connected with many new people through social media, events, and our website, and spent a lot of time learning and growing.
And of course, like you, we also started our social distancing. In the first week of March, we actually were at an outdoor market slinging tea! Which feels like a total lifetime ago! And now we've spent weeks indoors, and those weeks have felt like years at this point.
Laura and I have both battled depression for many years, which is sort of a double-edged sword during a "quarantine."
On one hand, we realized quarantine wasn't much different than our normal daily lives. Much of our time is spent indoors working on our business, reading, playing with the kids, and watching our favorite episodes of the Crown. Or whatever TV show grabs our attention.
But on the other hand, being stuck in the house can put us in a downward spiral. It's comfortable, but too much of it and depression or anxiety can grow. One of the approaches we have learned in battling depression is that you have to break the cycle and get outside, do something fun, try something new, meet someone new. Frankly, just do something different. Because our mental health depends on it.
Quarantines and social distancing have a unique and unprecedented way of putting an end to breaking the "try something new" cycle. At first, it seemed fine because the "quarantine" was only going to last two weeks. But then two weeks became four weeks. Then four weeks became six weeks. And now people are talking about social distancing into June and July.
It feels as if you have ever had a coach or personal trainer, and they tell you to do five more reps, and then once your reps are done they say "three more!" No end in sight, and it burns.
The reality is quarantine has a great effect on mental health. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention defines quarantine as "separating and restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease." Which is completely new for us because typically quarantines are for those who already have a virus or disease. This new situation is creating quarantine as a proactive measure, rather than reactive.
Three main pillars of mental health are significantly affected during quarantine. Freedom. Competency. Connection.
Feel like hitting up that new Thai restaurant down the street? Nope. Need to know exactly how long this will last, what are the risks, or anything related to ending this? Nope. Want to go hang out with some friends? Nope. Nope. Nope.
All of this equates to isolation, and according to the American Psychological Association, isolation can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health, lower immunity, increased depression, lack of focus, emotional instability, decreased mental health, and memory loss.
This all sounds very...well...terrible! But it really doesn't have to be!
Today we're taking a look at 5 ways to protect your mental health during social distancing. Because we can either choose to allow this to turn us into victims. Or we can find a way to stay strong and grow through this so that we can come out the other side better! And we all have the ability to tackle this like champions!
We have a 2-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, which makes finding a routine under normal circumstances difficult. But for those of you with kids, you already know how powerful routines can be in helping your kids sleep better, have better attitudes, and drive you less insane. Good news! The psychology behind this doesn't only apply to children! Mental Health Practitioner Dr. Danielle Forshee explains that following a routine has many mental health benefits! She outlines other benefits to include better sleep, coping with change, creating healthy habits, improving mental health, and reducing stress!
So what does this look like when your world just shrunk to the size of your house?
Here are some practical tips for creating and maintaining a daily routine in your life:
Set an alarm to wake up at the same time
Shower at the same time every day
Eat meals at the same time every day
Work during set hours
Go to bed at the same time every night
And the great thing with setting new routines, you really don't have anyone telling you what that routine needs to be! So get creative, try something new that you've always wanted to try, but life never let you. Establish a routine that includes new habits like reading more, meditating, or taking up a new hobby.
This sounds impossible. The entire definition of "quarantine" is built off the premise of not being active. But there are ways to stay active in the confines of the home and neighborhood.
And the great part is staying active can also help you establish routines!
For example, taking a morning walk every day and night. Use your morning for a solo walk to get some quiet time to yourself. Process how you want your day to go, boost the blood flow, relax and destress, and breathe in some fresh air. At night, bring the family or dogs with you to share some quality time together.
Mana Medical Associates outlines the importance of physical fitness including saving money, increasing your life expectancy, reducing injury risk, improving your quality of life, and improving your mental health!
You can also download fitness apps to help you motivate. Even setting an alarm for doing a few jumping jacks or push-ups every couple of hours would have a major impact on maintaining your mental health.
Fortunately, staying connected in this world is actually easier than ever. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, podcasts, Zoom and so many other great social connecting platforms have made it possible for us to stay in touch in real-time.
Staying connected to loved ones is not only a great way to pass time, but it also has many documented mental health benefits.
Piedmont Healthcare has outlined 4 reasons why social interaction is vital for our health.
Helps cope with stress
Lengthens your life expectancy
Improves your mental health
Is good for your cardiovascular health
Schedule some time to do Zoom convos, Facebook Live, or other modern apps to schedule hang out time with friends digitally. It isn't the same as hanging out in person, but the time spent chatting and laughing, building memories can really boost those quarantine blues!
One way isolation really dampens mental health is by attacking our competency. Confusion and lack of awareness can lead to feeling helpless or hopeless. Which is why it is important to stay informed.
But there is a big difference between staying informed, and being overwhelmed with news and fear-mongering.
I mean, how crazy are things getting? Holy cow! So much division and exclusion running rampant throughout our society, a lot of it feels overwhelming.
One of the positive, silver-linings of social distancing is that it seems people are becoming less concerned with being "right," and becoming more concerned with the health and well-being of ourselves and our communities.
This is why one of the social distancing practices we have established is actually a self-quarantine from the news!
Try and find new resources for staying informed. Resources that won't divide you based on politics, religion, race, sexual orientation or any other method used to create panic and fear.
Some of the resources we use to stay informed include community Facebook groups, medical websites like John's Hopkins who stick to data and science, or nature-based organizations that push positivity and happiness instead of fear-mongering and clickbait like Sustainability.com. And of course, you can also read up on the Sonoran Blossom Tea Co blog posts. We purposefully avoid anything that could risk dividing us. Whatever your source of information is, ask yourselves these questions:
Do I feel informed?
Do I feel hopeful?
Do I feel calm?
If the answer is "no," maybe consider looking for a new source of information.
I remember my first semester in college. No parents, no rules, new friends, new opportunities. But one of the most commonly accepted understandings of that first semester is what many call the "freshmen 15."
The "freshmen 15" is the 15 pounds you put on because your mom isn't there to tell you that you can't have three servings of ice cream for breakfast.
Right now, I'm feeling a lot of similarities. Things are new, unknown, chaotic, much like that first semester in college. And since I have no clue when I'll be able to get back out into society, I don't have that intrinsic pressure to look better. Not that that should be the driving factor, but the reality is social pressure goes a long way in motivating us to look good and feel good.
But having been doing grocery shopping for friends and family, it's fascinating which shelves are empty at our local grocery store, and which ones are full.
Of course, TP is gone. But so are many processed foods.
But the fresh fruit and vegetables? Totally stocked.
Set a goal of maintaining a standard of healthy eating during this social distancing. Try some new recipes. Personally, we are huge fans of the Forks Over Knives approach.
Forks Over Knives is a documentary you can watch on Netflix that outlines why eating plant-based diets is vital to our health and our pockets! They even have free recipes you can try at home!
We also highly recommend drinking more tea! Tea is a centuries-old, plant-based beverage that is both anecdotally and scientifically proven to boost our immune systems, support improved mental health, increase blood flow to the brain, combat diseases, and viruses, prevent Alzheimer's and more!
Not to mention, tea is soooo tasty! Have you ever thought, "why do healthy foods taste bad, and bad foods taste great!?"
That's mostly true! But not with tea! High-quality ingredients are the key to great tasting food and beverages. So drinking teas like the ones we offer here at Sonoran Blossom Tea Co are great ways to chase away those quarantine blues in a tasty and healthy way.
We hope this blog post has helped you find some ways to stay happy and healthy through some difficult times. New and fun ways to make sure our mental health is both a priority and something we can improve during stressful times like social distancing and quarantine.
Our hope is that everyone individually, and as a community finds a way to get this virus behind us, and come out the other side better than when we came into it. And taking care of your mental health is one huge way we can accomplish that goal!
Let us know if you have tried any of these tips, or have any other ideas on ways to stay mentally strong. We're all ears :) If you enjoyed this blog post, and think your friends or family could benefit from giving it a read, please share! We're all in this together and helping to improve our mental health is a community endeavor. Stay well, stay strong, stay fit!
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