Maintaining your mental health can be challenging — and expensive — in the best case scenario.
Enter a global pandemic and weeks-long quarantine. Suddenly, it’s that much harder… and that much more important.
But there are steps you can take to safeguard your mental health during coronavirus.
5 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health During COVID-19
Here are some accessible and affordable ways to safeguard your mental health without physically stepping into a therapist’s office.
Talk therapy isn’t just for people in acute distress. In fact, regular therapy can help keep you from getting into a serious mental health crisis in the first place.
Many counselors have moved their practices online for the quarantine period, so if you’ve already got a therapist (or have your eye on one), contact them directly to see about moving your sessions to Zoom or phone call.
There are also a wide variety of teletherapy apps that make connecting with a counselor as easy as sending a text message. BetterHelp and Talkspace are two of the best-known services, though you can also find specialty options geared toward specific demographics, like Pride Counseling.
Therapy is, in general, not cheap — though the digital apps try to make it an affordable service. BetterHelp is available for $30-$70 per week, billed monthly, which is on par with copay rates for regular counseling covered by insurance.
Look into other local low-cost therapy options, like training clinics and support groups, to see if they’re offering online support during the outbreak.
2. Meditation Apps
Even if you consider yourself mentally healthy, meditation can be a helpful tool — and it doesn’t have to mean sitting in the lotus position on a buckwheat cushion thinking of nothing.
Guided meditation apps like Headspace and Calm offer a variety of mindfulness exercises, and many include free resources alongside their paid services. You can also find guided meditation videos on YouTube.
3. Go Outside
A no-cost way to help stay mentally healthy is to spend time outside. While this is obviously a more challenging proposition than in pre-virus times, it’s still possible.
Many cities and states under shelter-in-place or stay-home orders encourage outdoor exercise excursions, so long as social distancing measures are maintained. While many parks and trails have been closed, others remain open, and walking around your neighborhood is always an option.
4. Get Moving
While gyms are closed, there are some great ways to get moving at home without spending much money. YouTube channels like Yoga with Adriene offer free yoga practices for every ability level, and a variety of gyms and fitness studios have begun streaming their in-person classes online.
Movement is one of the best ways to stabilize your mood and increase your mental health, no matter your shape or size. One of our favorite body-positive fitness studios, Fat Kid Dance Party, has been offering online classes since well before the quarantine, and they also offer pre-recorded videos.
5. Be Realistic
Even if you’re checking off every possible box for keeping up with your mental health, it’s important to understand that we’re undergoing a shared traumatic experience — one that’s unprecedented almost every living person’s lifetime. (The last pandemic of this scale was the 1918 H1N1 flu.)
All of which is to say: this is a really hard time, and you’re probably going to have really hard moments. It’s important to be realistic about your mental health expectations and understand that it’s going to be tough, no matter what.
But here’s something to keep in mind: Even though it may feel like it while you’re locked in quarantine, you’re anything but alone. Literally everyone else on earth is going through this with you. So if you’re having a particularly hard day, reach out to someone via text message, phone call, or Zoom hangout to commiserate.
Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.