By Dr. Cameual Wright
COVID-19 has forced us all to face completely unprecedented times. Our nation has been practicing social distancing by staying home in order to limit the spread of the virus. We are social beings by nature, so the order to stay home can be a challenge for some, leaving us feeling isolated and cut off from co-workers, family and friends.
Now, more than ever, it is of the utmost importance that we prioritize our wellness to maintain our mental, emotional and physical health.
As the medical director for CareSource Indiana, a nonprofit, nationally recognized health plan, I am sharing the following tips on how to make the most out of your time at home.
Whether you’re a professional who now has to work from home while juggling children out of school, or someone who already struggles with depression or anxiety, making this isolating time even more difficult, we all need to find the time to practice self-care while social distancing.
Maintain a work-life balance.
If you are not used to working from home, this can be a difficult change to get used to. Professionals need to make working from home as similar as possible to working from the office. Carve out a space for yourself where you have room to use all the tools you normally would in the office.
It can be difficult to keep up with a healthy work-life balance while at home, as you no longer have a set starting and ending point. However, you need to maintain a schedule and stick to that as much as possible.
For example, if your work day typically starts at 8 a.m., start your at home work day at the same time. Same goes for ending the day; just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you should overwork yourself for long hours into the night. If you normally stop working at 5 p.m., do the same from the house.
Don’t let this flexibility seep into time with your family, as a work-life balance is very important to maintain mental health.
Utilize and understand the proper technology.
Working and living remotely can certainly be isolating. However, we are fortunate to have technology that keeps us feeling connected. While you’re working from home, ensure you have all the technology you need to keep up with projects and meetings, and that you have a grasp on how to use this technology effectively.
Embrace virtual meetings, like a Zoom call, where you can see peoples’ faces, instead of just a voice call over the phone. We’ve been using video meetings a lot within our own CareSource team, and I think it makes a big difference when you can see someone’s face and connect. When using this technology, it’s important to also exercise the proper etiquette, like muting yourself if your children, spouse or pets unexpectedly enters the room.
Keep up with your connections.
Although it may not be safe or feasible to see your friends and family in person right now, it’s important to check in with them. You should still be calling or FaceTiming them, and there are even games you can play over a video chat. Do whatever you have to do in order to feel connected with others, as connection is critically important to maintain while social distancing.
In fact, a study conducted by Stanford University showed that social connection lowers the rates of anxiety and depression, strengthens your immune systems, and even helps you recover from disease faster.
This may seem like a given, due to the constant reminders we see and hear about our health, but it’s critically important to keep up with your health during quarantine. Continue to follow all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and minimize the time you spend outside.
While you’re inside, avoid unhealthy habits. Although excessive snacking is tempting while you’re at home, try to incorporate healthy foods into your quarantine diet.
People should also prioritize physical activity. Now that you’re working from home and skipping the commute, you may have more time to get a workout in. Make the time to be physically active in some way. Also, many gyms and exercise studios are now offering online classes for free or for a low cost like Zumba, yoga and high intensity interval training. Take advantage of these offerings if you’re able.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude.
If you’re someone who practices mindfulness and does mediation, now is the time to incorporate that into your schedule. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, it’s even more important to stay mindful and acknowledge the fact that we really are all in this together.
Although there is a lot to be anxious and fearful about right now, there are still things we can find to be thankful for, like health, shelter, family and friends. If you’re feeling especially stressed, take the time to write down what you’re thankful for to keep the more challenging thoughts at bay.
Additionally, if you or someone you love is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety during this time, turn to telehealth services or emergency hotlines like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517).
You can also use the Crisis Text Line and text “HOME” to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to be immediately connected with a live, trained crisis counselor.
To help take care of you and your family during the COVID-19 pandemic, CareSource provides coverage for physical and mental health services. CareSource case management workers can also connect members with community resources and support avenues during this time. For more information, visit www.caresource.com.