Taking Care of Mental Health in Quarantine

While the coronavirus pandemic shakes the world, we have all been ordered to social distance and stay quarantined. Being in quarantine greatly lowers a person’s chance of catching or spreading the virus. Although quarantine can greatly protect your health and the health of others, it can worsen someone’s mental health. 

Self-isolation during a pandemic can easily cause stress, insomnia, irritability, depression, and anxiety. However, there are a few ways to take care of your mental health while in quarantine:

Create a Daily Routine

Being a quarantine puts a major halt on the daily schedules and routines we have all become accustomed to. When stuck home all day, it can easily lead to someone feeling directionless when trying to fill all the hours of the day. To combat this, create a new routine to break up the day and add direction. If you are working from home, it’s important to treat it as a regular workday and hours the same way you would if you were in an office. When you have kids at home as well, make sure they are treating it as a regular school day. It doesn’t have to be a strict routine, just one that adds direction to your day.

Stay Active Throughout the Day

Many of us become guilty of binge-watching TV shows, sleeping in, and spending most of our time on the couch when being stuck inside all day. As relaxing as this is at first, this kind of behavior can lead to feelings of depression. When stuck inside for most of the day, it’s important to still be as active as possible. Do chores around the house, play with your kids, and get in some exercise through at-home workouts. Not only does this help with mental health, but it can also better your physical health. Whenever you are feeling bored, shut off the TV and put the device down to get more active.

Don’t Become Overwhelmed with Information

While it is important to stay informed on the coronavirus and have updated information, looking too much at the news and reading online stories is not good for anxiety. It is easy to become overwhelmed and start to panic when spending every minute of the day reading inaccurate or overly negative information. Instead, look to sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), as well as state and local health departments. By relying on information from credible sources and checking updates once a day or so, it can keep you informed without negatively affecting your anxiety.

For more information, check out the New Horizon Counseling Center!

How a Healthy Diet Can Affect Your Mental Health

Mental health has a significant impact on your ability to think, feel, cope with obstacles, and how you behave on a daily basis. Strong mental health isn’t necessarily the absence of mental health problems, it refers to the positive characteristics present as well. Healthy individuals tend to have a positive outlook and don’t typically experience an inability to have fun or be happy. Strong mental health indicators also include the ability to overcome stress, maintain active relationships, learn new skills, balance work and leisure, and have a healthy sense of self-esteem. 

While there are dozens of factors that can impact your mental health. This article will address two of the most important, sleep and diet. Read on to see how these two factors can boost your mental health and get you back on track to a healthier you. 

Eating a Brain-Healthy Diet

Eating has a major impact on both the body and mind. Eat too little and you can feel weak, eat too much and you feel sluggish. What you eat also matters. An unhealthy diet does not allow your body to operate at maximum capacity and can even make you feel sick, disrupt your sleep, and weaken your immune system. 

Foods that can negatively impact your health include:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Trans fats
  • Foods with high levels of chemicals
  • Snacks with lots of sugar
  • Fried foods

Switching to a more wholesome and healthy diet can reverse these effects. Foods that are lower in sugar, are less processed, and rich in healthy fats are just what your brain needs to operate and function well. 

Foods that can positively impact your health include:

  • Fatty fish rich in Omega 3s
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

By cutting out these potentially damaging foods, you can vastly improve your overall health. By keeping your body fueled with foods that speed up bodily and mental processes, you can enjoy increased energy, improved sleep, and major improvements to your mood which can lead to less stress and more happiness. Use your diet to promote brain health, so you can better overcome obstacles and stressors throughout the day.

Shining a Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter doesn’t officially begin its frigid reign until December 21st, but the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer much sooner than that. As the hours of daylight begin to decrease, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) becomes much more commonplace. While the exact causes are as yet unknown, most research points towards a lack of light as a cause. 

Just because SAD only occurs in certain months, does not downgrade its impact. Any form of depression should be taken seriously no matter the season. Treating seasonal affective disorder with light is becoming more and more common. Learn more about SAD, its causes, and its treatments below.

What Is SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter months when daylight hours are shortened. To be officially diagnosed, several criteria are considered. Common symptoms include: feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, losing interest in activities that once brought you joy, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, and feeling sluggish. 

How Does SAD Occur?

Exposure to sunlight stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls your circadian rhythm. Lack of light due to the shorter days in the winter can throw off your circadian rhythm and create chemical imbalances in your brain that can lead to the decreased production of serotonin, the chemical that makes us feel happy. 

This lack of sunlight and decreased levels of serotonin typically leave people feeling sluggish and sleepy. Even your cognitive functions can become impaired. Decreased concentration and memory are both common symptoms. 

How Light Therapy Can Help

The foundational idea behind light therapy is replacing natural light with artificial light to boost your body’s production of feel-good hormones. Light therapy uses light box technology to produce a bright white light which tricks your brain into thinking it’s getting the benefits of natural sunlight. 

While you shouldn’t solely use light boxes to replace all exposure to sunlight, it can help supplement your exposure and even prevent the onset of SAD. For the best results, follow the tips below to get the most out of your light therapy. 

  • Light boxes should have at least 10,000 lux exposure as regular sunlight is about 50,000 lux
  • Do not look directly into the light as it could damage your eyes. Keep the box near you and go about your normal routine while making sure you are within a few feet of it for longer periods of time.
  • Total exposure times throughout the day should be about 30 minutes. You can use the box’s light all at once or break up the time over the course of the day. 
  • Start your day off with a little exposure to light. This will automatically begin to boost your mood and create a healthier mindset.
  • Consult a doctor before beginning any treatment to ensure you are as safe as possible.