Maintaining Calm While Staying at Home
Tips for maintaining mental health during trying times.
Posted May 22, 2020 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
There seems to be a correlation between stay-at-home orders and an increased need for mental health services. Whether it’s a sense of hopelessness caused by job loss that leads to suicidal ideation or relapse because of difficulty finding support for those who are newly in recovery from addiction, many people across the nation currently need additional mental health treatment and resources.
It is important to get the professional help that's needed. In addition, here are a few tips to supplement professional services during these stressful times.
H.A.L.T. is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Whenever we experience any of these states, it can be difficult to make good decisions. When agitated, it’s a good idea to stop and take inventory of ourselves. If we are experiencing one or more H.A.L.T. issues, it’s best to address that first, before going on with our day and making choices we might later regret.
Acceptance and Non-attachment
Acceptance is often the most useful response to situations we cannot change. If we are laid off or our job does not come back after stay-at-home orders become less restrictive, there is little if anything we can do about it. One healthy option is to meet what is with serenity. Buddhists call this principle “non-attachment.”
When we practice non-attachment, we acknowledge what is happening but are not derailed by it. If, for example, we notice that it is raining, we can choose to be happy because we don’t have to water the yard or disappointed because we had planned a picnic or simply be in acceptance that there is rain. Weathering the storm with grace allows us not to be overwhelmed by every wave that hits the shore.
Focus on Progress
In 12-step programs, there is a principle called “progress not perfection.” Today, can we do or be a little better than the day before with whatever is presented to us? If it was too much yesterday to make your bed but today you do, notice that and be proud of yourself! It doesn’t matter at all what we think we “should” do. What matters is how we face each task before us. Few can live up to the bewildering standards of what we or others think we might achieve during this tumultuous period. Especially when we are dealing with depression or anxiety, we do well to be reasonable with ourselves.
The more that we are able to stay in the moment, the more we are able to be calm and content. Right now, how are you? Do you have a place to stay? Do you have enough food? Are you in immediate danger? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then address each problem as best you can. If the answer is no and you are agitated, you are not in the present. Right now, in this moment, most of us are OK. Tomorrow may or may not present new challenges, but here and now, we are safe. The more we can be mindful of what we are actually experiencing, the less we may fall prey to worry and fear.
Be of Service
When we are feeling low or afraid, one of the best remedies is to be of service. Yes, social distancing can make service work feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Call a friend to see how they are doing, and really listen when they talk. If you’re going to the grocery store and have the means, pick up some fresh produce for someone who finds going to the store challenging or who needs some help keeping food on the table. Foster or adopt an animal from a shelter. Send a book you love to a friend who needs a pick-me-up. Small acts of kindness get us out of our own heads and go a long way to support others.
Take a Time to Be
There are so many stressors heaped upon us now. Will we have the resources to pay our bills? What will happen to our work? How are we supposed to educate the kids and keep the house and hold down a full-time job? Where is it safe to interact? What’s going to happen next week? Will I get sick?
It’s too much.
Take time each day to be. Whether that’s going for a walk or drinking a cup of tea or finding time for ten minutes of quiet meditation—stop doing. None of us can be in constant motion. Making the time to take care of ourselves will pay off in untold ways.
It’s OK not to be OK. Seek help if you need it, and take care of your mental health.