These are the things that helped me during my depression – and may help you take care of your mental health during self quarantine!
If you’re like me in Europe, you’re committed to social distancing and practicing self-quarantine. Seriously – stay home if you can! These are scary times and for many people, the sudden cut-off of socializing can feel isolating, especially for natural extroverts. And that’s not even mentioning the anxiety due to the developing pandemic. However, there are ways to help maintain good mental health!
I was laughing with a friend that those of us who have gone through depression or burn-out are experts at being alone & managing our mental health. Self quarantine means spending most of the time at home, not socializing and just going out for groceries. This sounds awfully familiar to when I was depressed at home *insert awkward smiley here*.
Below is a list of ten things that to this day (and especially now during self quarantine) help me take care of my mental health. I hope these may inspire you to make your own list of what keeps you happy & healthy during this scary (but necessary) self quarantine period 😊.
A quick note before we move on: we’re all now disappointed that we are not able to go out & see friends for a few weeks. However, I’d like to acknowledge that chronically ill and disabled people live this on a daily basis. They often are not able to join the majority of us in socializing, traveling and other activities. For them, this way of living will not change when the crisis ends. I hope this situation creates more empathy amongst us able-bodied people towards those that are not as fortunate as us!
Get walking, dancing & moving!
Now that for most of us going to the gym is not an option, we have to get creative! Besides being great for our physical health, staying active is also very useful to take care of your mental health. I’ve now decided to take an hour walk every day (2m distance!) and focus on yoga. Being in the fresh air and focusing on nature helps me feel better, energized and gives me time to sift through my thoughts.
I also love youtube workouts! There is so much variety on YouTube that you can find endless workouts to do at home. I’m missing some weights at home but overall I can do cardio, lots of stretching, yoga and bodyweight exercises! Below are some of my favorite channels:
- Popsugar: has alllll types of workouts for free! Incl. yoga, dance routines, total body workouts and HIIT.
- Yoga with Adriene: one of my all-time favorites. Accessible and friendly Adriene teaches yoga in a very loving and caring way.
- Blogilates: Cassey brightly shares videos with stretching & pilates, with lots of them focussed on specific areas. Her smile helps melt away anxiety too!
- Other fitness channels I like: Well+Good and MadFit.
- Dance routines are available too, I’m going to try these channels: FitDance (lots of Brazilian Baile Funk) and the Fitness Marshall.
Instagram is a great source too! Reach out to your local gyms and personal trainers on whether they are organizing virtual classes. This allows you to help local businesses and keep moving! I love Lucy Mountain and will follow virtual classes from my RDAM gym (you can follow them too!). Many apps are being offered for free until April 1st too, such as the Down Dog apps (Yoga, HIIT, Barre & 7-minute workout). Some paid apps offer free trials too, such as LesMills offers 14 days free on their monthly subscription.
This has been so helpful for me! About a month ago I started meditating almost every day, motivated by my S.O. It helps to create some space between thoughts and reality and helps me (slowly) realize when I may be thinking irrational or unhelpful thoughts. I always recommend trying meditation, but especially now it really helps me get out of an anxiety funk.
To get started with meditating, I recommend using an app that guides you. Start with 3-5 minutes a day, and build up once it starts to feel more natural. My go-to is Headspace, but there is also Calm, 10% Happier, Insight Timer, Simple Habit and more. I make it a special moment by lighting a candle and sitting down for 10 minutes every day. Headspace is now offering a complete package of meditation, sleep and other experiences to help us through this crisis for free.
Edited to add: also soothing are ASMR or nature sound videos. They help drown out the sound from my neighbors, help me focus on work and help my brain relax after a busy day. My favorite ASMR has to be the Hogwarts Library one, find it here!
Video chat with friends & family
Staying connected during self quarantine is important to take care of your mental health! If you can’t travel to see your friends, video chatting is great to help to hear and see others *waving to friends in Chicago, Copenhagen and other cities in the Netherlands*. FaceTime, Messenger, Instagram are all apps we use often that allow video chatting too. The Houseparty app is fun too, as it allows up to 8 people to talk at the same time & plays games together.
I’ve started using the HouseParty app to have short 5-10 min talks with friends during the day, which I see as part of my ‘coffee machine’ time. A quick hello, how are you, and then on to the next meeting feeling better!
Remember: calling and video > texting. Please make sure to check in with your friends that live alone more. It’s can feel lonelier and more isolating for those living by themselves. The same goes for your friends & family that are in the high-risk group (especially the immuno compromised) as this situation is extra scary for them 💖.
Books for the win! And for your mental health!
I mentioned my Goodreads challenge in my previous post (read it here – it has wine pairings!), and I’m using this time to read more too! My previous therapist told me that it’s an optimal way to relax, as you actively engage your brains whilst you unwind.
My recommendation is to make a list of the books you’re most excited about reading and just start with one. Is there a new subject you always wanted to learn more about? Or a series you’ve heard people rave about, but have not gotten the chance to read it? Is there a country or culture you’re excited about? Now’s the chance to go for it and immerse yourself! Audiobooks are a great way to read books too, I love combining this with my hour-long walks. Join me on Goodreads if you need some extra motivation or inspiration.
If books or audiobooks aren’t your style, why not find a podcast to binge? Post coming soon about binge-able podcasts to entertain you during self quarantine.
Not seeing anyone for some days has certainly led me to let go of my appearance in the past. Let’s be honest, when we don’t have to dress up for other people, we don’t always do it for ourselves. However, taking care of my outer self, also helps me take care of my inner self!
Staying motivated working from home can be difficult too, but I believe getting dressed helps (instead of only PJs). I feel better about myself and more positive when my hair is done, I have some make-up on and some comfy & cute clothes. In the morning I change into my WFH outfit, after work I change into ‘relax wear’ and only before bed do I change into my pajamas. This helps me maintain some sense of structure and time during my day.
I’m also taking some time to take care of my nails, hair, face masks, etc. Some lush self-care feels perfectly self-indulgent and that’s exactly what we need right now! Try out all treatments you haven’t gotten around to yet – like baby feet treatments (on my list).
I have loads of cookbooks at home that I haven’t opened up in some time. However, this is the perfect time to try some of those recipes! I’ve been thinking about starting theme weeks or days. Japanese recipes Monday – Wednesday, or Martini Mondays with a nice salad? I’m personally going to broaden my gluten-free and vegetarian recipe portfolio. I’m deciding to see it as a personal challenge 😉. If you speak Spanish, a friend of mine has a great website full of healthy, mainly plant-based recipes – see Alimentarte!
Always wanted to learn how to bake or take time to try something new? Now we have the time! This may be something fun to do with kids too. Explore what you are able to do and get experimenting and cooking! Fresh vegetables are in full supply, so also lots of nutritious options to keep up our immune systems. Of course, we may have to get creative if the stores don’t offer that we need (don’t forget your corner stores and Asian supermarkets), but that allows for extra creativity! If you have any fun ideas or themes, please share them in the comments or on Instagram.
Use the time and space to cultivate hobbies
Before my depression, I did not really make time to cultivate any hobbies. Later, being at home a lot, I had so much alone time on my hands that at some point I thought I might as well use it. I slowly starting drawing and painting (more about that in this blog), started this blog, took courses in Art History , creative writing and started my WSET wine certification. In other words: I started to invest in my interests and skills besides work. I had the ‘luxury’ of time – as many of us do now (sorry parents!).
Pause Netflix for a moment, and try something you’ve always enjoyed doing! Loved drawing as a kid – start small with drawing things in your house. Perhaps there are websites or software that allow you to make music for free. Start a podcast, it’s not as hard as it sounds, and YouTube is full of free tutorials. Sites such as Udemy & YouTube are full of free or low-cost tutorials as well. Generally, going back to things you used to enjoy as a kid is a good place to start 😊.
Personally, I’m planning on finishing the digital courses in drawing & photography I still have access to, finishing Laura Jane Williams’s course about planning a novel, focus on blog posts, work on the technical details of my website, work on a Fiery Friday newsletter for Rotterdam, and look into setting up Wine 101 virtual classes. I’m keeping myself busy, with lots of rest in between. As I know that’s what works best for my mental health during this period of social distancing.
Learn something new
Let’s be honest with ourselves, what is the last time you learned something completely new? For many of us, I’m sure it’s been a while. This may be a good opportunity to learn something new – a hobby or useful skill. This doesn’t have to be something to monetize, as I believe it’s good to use this period for winding down. However, focus on whatever you want and energizes you!
Due to the COVID-19 virus, lots of entrepreneurs are offering courses online, or at a discounted rate (for those who would normally not be able to access it). This would be a great opportunity to support them through an uncertain time. I find them through Instagram and Google mostly. As mentioned before, sites such as Udemy, Skillshare and Coursera offer low-cost courses as well.
I have two things I’d like to learn: sewing and embroidery. I’d like to be able to fix my own clothes when they rip and have not been successful thus far. This also fits with my belief that we should use our clothes for as long as possible! In the last months, I’ve seen some beautiful embroideries on Instagram. And it seems like an excellent activity to do while listening to an audiobook or music. Here too: see if you can support (local) entrepreneurs and artists by ordering from them. I’ll be ordering my embroidery kit from Iris Borduurt, a Dutch artist selling embroideries and kits for beginners.
Thank goodness for streaming services! This is a great time to start the series you aren’t sure about or watch your favorite movie series. (Harry Potter party at my place! Don’t come please 😉). Some services, such as Disney+ have released movies earlier than planned to entertain us through self quarantine. Netflix Party is a chrome extension that you can add to have a watching party with your friends and allows you to start everyone’s movie at the same time.
No need to have that binge session alone – grab some snacks and join your friends watching the new episode of Black Mirror! Okay, maybe not now that it feels we’re in an actual episode. Perhaps focus on lighter series such as Cheer, Ugly Delicious (David Chang = hero), Ghibli movies on Netflix or Frozen 2 on Disney+. I have many go-to’s, including HP, Simon & Martina on YouTube, Rupaul’s Drag Race, and all the cheesy Hallmark series (especially their Mysteries channel).
A note on TV as your only relaxation method
A binge afternoon or weekend is great…multiple nights of excited watching a saga too. However, at some point only watching tv as entertainment becomes something bad for our brains. As we’re only passively taking information in, it’s not the healthiest form of relaxation, especially when done non-stop for longer periods of time. I used to think that TV = relaxation, and could not figure out why I only felt worse when I had watched series I wasn’t engaged in for a long period of time. It’s only when I intentionally started watching a movie/series, and balanced it with reading f.e. that it started to help relax me.
TLDR: don’t make watching TV your only source of entertainment & mix it up with more active relaxation methods if you are able to 😉.
Essential for mental health: acknowledge your feelings
Not the sexiest suggestion, but an essential one. Hiding and pushing away feelings may temporarily feel better, but it always comes back stronger. Whether through talking to friends, quiet contemplation, meditation or dancing it out – find a way to release any emotions you have. Especially if those are feelings of fear (super understandable!), sadness or anxiety. Emotions can be a signal that we have needs that have not been addressed yet, and by listening to our emotions we get a chance to address these needs and take care of ourselves.
Many companies now have free contacts to reach out to, and many private therapists are now also offering sessions by phone or digitally if you would like to engage with them. If you get stuck finding to find them – reach out via DM or e-mail and I’ll be happy to help you search!
What should I focus on to improve my mental health during self quarantine?
Maintaining good mental health for me consists of three types of activities; those that allow me to feel creative, those that allow me to feel productive (incl. work) and rest (active and passive). I hope this blog post contains some ideas for you to build your own self quaratine mental health ‘at home kit’.
Any other ideas? Please share them below in comments, or on Instagram!
I’ve included lots of links in this blog post – and although many things are some of my favorites (as I share based on what I love), this post contains no affiliate links!