Being suddenly confined to your house isn’t good for mental health.
Even for introverts, the sudden lack of freedom and orders to stay home may feel constricting, and for many, it’s important now more than ever to concentrate on mental health. Progress people have made in previous months or years may be seen crumbling with this sudden change of lifestyle, with those who have made positive changes and much-needed routines in their life prior to quarantine possibly affected the most.
For many, staying in a good place with mental health can be a lifelong struggle. It’s an uphill battle, and creating certain routines and means of escape can be extremely helpful to those who have fought against mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Finding oneself suddenly confined to their house or their room, surrounded by family and distractions and without many escapes besides those behind a screen can be difficult.
Transitioning to online schooling, for example, can have a negative impact on many people’s mental health, despite the fact that some feel it can be beneficial. Having to go to classes in person is extremely helpful for keeping one on task. There’s a real feeling of consequence when skipping an in-person class versus a class that only exists online. Skipping them seems relatively harmless right up until it affects one’s grade, and while finding other ways to entertain oneself in that moment might release a fleeting amount of serotonin, the results of these actions can negatively impact one’s mental health in the long run due to the feeling of a lack of purpose. More immediately, this lack of productivity can cause harm itself.
Additionally, without an actual schedule in need of following — at least for those with classes that meet late in the day or not at all — sticking to a normal sleep schedule can be challenging. Staying up late and waking up later is enticing. With normal responsibilities taking place during the day, the same time when most family members or roommates are up and about, the night has a quality to it that daytime just can’t replicate. Professors aren’t sending out emails, bosses aren’t texting and housemates aren’t vying for attention — it’s a time that’s entirely yours, which has become rare in the wake of the coronavirus and quarantine.
Problems like these aren’t just affecting a few people, either. People on many social media platforms have been cracking jokes and making memes about these very issues in a way that many people can relate to and that garners thousands of likes and shares. On TikTok, one can easily find posts where people joke about skipping their online classes despite having nothing better to do, and on Twitter, similar tweets about time no longer having meaning have gotten popular — one such example being those saying, “there are only three days of the week: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
But, staying up all hours of the night and avoiding responsibilities are sure-fire ways to send one’s mental health down a bad track, even if this track happens to be a funny, relatable one. In reality, one shouldn’t wish to relate to this content — so many people are struggling, and instead of resigning to this struggle, it’s imperative to fight back. While it’s valid to look out for yourself and conduct activities that are likely to make you happier, it’s still important to pay attention to your responsibilities and look out for your future self.
Still, hearing about people taking the initiative to turn this quarantine into a productive one and actually doing so yourself is a big difference and a bigger step.
Firstly, one has to be productive. It may feel like the whole world is on pause, with businesses and schools shut down, restaurants closed and streets almost void of vehicles, but whether we like it or not, life is still going on. The first step to take is doing things that make one feel productive and like they’re actually doing something with their day. This includes going to class and doing homework. Even if that means just sitting there with a separate tab open or while playing Animal Crossing and only half-paying attention, do it. This creates a distinct start to the day and will feel better for it.
Regular, face-to-face contact with friends can also make great strides for one’s mental health. This doesn’t mean that one should break quarantine to see them, but setting up daily or weekly Zoom meetings to just be with friends online can help in so many ways. For example, one person can log onto Netflix or Hulu to allow everyone to watch a show together via screen-sharing. Or, everyone could grab a drink and destress together. My friends and I have even recently developed an affinity for online Solitaire, which we’ll play together while sharing a screen when we’re stumped.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, use your productive energy for creativity. While going to class, getting good sleep and talking to friends are all productive in their own right, they don’t provide the same sense of satisfaction as creating something with your own hands. For those who’ve lacked free time recently, now is the perfect time to get back into activities such as drawing or writing. It creates that same good feeling you get after closing out of a million tabs and clicking the submit button after finishing a research paper, yet with none of the dreaded work and research that comes with it.
Right now is definitely a difficult time in history, which is why it’s so important to be looking out for yourself and your own mental health. Don’t let yourself fall into bad habits. Keep fighting for happiness and continue fighting even when this is all over.
Jillian Carey is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at firstname.lastname@example.org