Humans thrive on social interaction, and it’s been that way for centuries. So, when we’re forced into isolation and we’re left wondering how quarantine affects the mind and our relationships. COVID-19 has had an immense impact on our world, and unfortunately, business-as-usual has ceased to exist since the virus began spreading. The pandemic has introduced a brand-new way of socializing into our lives. We’ve had to rely on technology, social distancing, and face masks to keep ourselves healthy and stop the spread of the disease. But what about the other end of the spectrum—our mental health? How can we keep our mental and emotional health in tip-top shape during the quarantine? Restricting our access to others, staying home, and taking precautionary measures doesn't mean life has to just stop. How Isolation Affects Our Mental Health According to Pharmacy Times, “The feeling of worry and stress are normal human responses when people are in a state of danger or threat; and this whole pandemic has caused widespread despair and feelings of vulnerability.” Unfortunately, it’s easy to assume the worst in a scenario like this, and staying positive requires some real effort on our part. When we are afraid of something so uncertain, we catastrophize and ruminate. This means we "blow up" the scenario and all the what-ifs come rushing into our minds in an unmanageable way. We become afraid, we lash out, we isolate further, and we struggle to rationalize any positive outcome. What We Can do To Stay Mentally Healthy During Quarantine So how do we stay sane during times of isolation and fear? Well, it’s important that we are intentional about how we conduct ourselves. We must acknowledge the changes and adjust our behaviors and thoughts in order to cope with the changes. And here’s how: Feed Your Mind with Positive Thoughts During Quarantine It goes without saying that injecting positivity into our daily lives is important. All around us, there are negative news stories regarding the pandemic. Fear and anxiety can easily get the better of us if we only focus on the negatives surrounding the pandemic. Instead, try to lock in on the good happening around you. The good is: Spending more time with immediate family, more opportunities for remote work, or more quiet time to reflect on your goals. And even more importantly, it's important to remind yourself that the pandemic is not permanent. Too often, we get caught up and catastrophize uncomfortable situations, but always assuming the worst is unhelpful. Practice Mindfulness To combat anxiety and ruminating thoughts, practice mindful activities at home, as a family, or on your own during quiet time. Meditating, for example, can help bring you back into the present moment. Using your senses can also assist you in remaining present in the moment. Think about what you hear, smell, taste, and see right now and remember, this moment is your reality and you are safe...right now, in this moment of meditation. You can also incorporate your breath by counting your breaths slowly, in and out, as another way of remaining present to what is truly happening in that exact moment...and not letting your thoughts run away on you. Keep Social Media Healthy When we isolate, we become bored, and we crave social interaction. The internet has provided us with social media and the ability to interact with others without having to be in the same room. When there’s a quarantine, social media should be a good thing, but it can also be bittersweet. There are differing opinions and harmful words exchanged on social media, mostly because it’s easier to do so when two people are not facing each other. But there are real people on the other end of the keyboard, and it’s important to remember that many are not as considerate as they might be if they were sitting face-to-face with you. It's much easier to say rude or insulting things without looking someone in the eye, so keep this in mind and always take rudeness with a grain of salt. So, it’s important to filter your feeds and if you feel overwhelmed with the negative banter, it’s time to walk away. Try your best to only use social media for positive social interactions and limit the amount of time you spend on it. Interact with Household Members Regularly If you’re quarantining with family, maybe it's time to revive or start new family traditions. Eat dinner together, enjoy movies, and game nights, for example. While you may miss your friends and coworkers, socializing with the people you are quarantining with is an important routine. Use Technology in a Healthy Way If you have loved ones in different cities or countries, you may feel the pain of missing them. But that doesn't mean you can’t talk to them on the phone or video conference with them. While it’s not as socially energizing as in-person events, it is still beneficial to see or hear your friends’ voices. Texting is fine, but without satisfying your senses with the sight or sound of a loved one, you’re not getting the socialization fix you may need. Set days and times to host zoom meetings with loved ones or make video calls to them regularly to stay in touch. Focus on Hobbies and Interests When social media and the news gets you down, and it’s time to walk away, walk toward something you love to do. Focus on things that are productive or bring you joy. You may have more time now than before the pandemic to do things you’ve been putting off...like writing, reading, gardening, learning a new skill, or getting in shape. While it’s bittersweet, having extra time to do these things will help keep your mind sharp and focused on positive things rather than drowning in negative social media or loneliness, for example. Use the Time to Grow While the pandemic may take a toll on our mental health as we quarantine ourselves. It’s important to take the time to invest in our personal growth regardless. Find the treasured moments during this world-wide timeout to become more self-aware, take time to learn, and spend time with family (if you can). And remember, while we are learning to adjust to the changes, instead of assuming the worst, remind yourself that the virus won't be a permanent situation in our lives.