While the number of positive COVID-19 tests and the number of related deaths draw attention each day, there are a number of other lesser recognized statistics that are becoming concerning as these events proceed.

Namely, in countries where the virus has been prevalent for a longer period of time, issues such as hopelessness, depression, and anxiety/worry are on a steady rise. There have already been a number of confirmed suicides due to fear of quarantine. Those in the psychological community have begun to study similar, historical events (The Great Depression; World War II; the SARS epidemic) and the period of economic recovery that follows, and generating predictive models to discern the number of, as well as how to prevent a spike in, suicide(s). 1 What is undeniable is that we are seeing that this is having a tremendous effect on the global populace.

In an effort to care for you and get ahead of this, I’ve put a series of recommendations together to help those of us who may be vulnerable to take proactive steps, as well as equip those of you (parents; spouses) who may or will be caring for those who battle in this way.

It is my strongest encouragement to you to form a routine. Do not completely disregard the former rhythms of life. Massive disruptions to one’s schedule are likely to exaggerate feelings of isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. As such, keep as many components of your previous routine as possible. Where you can, build in a few enhancements to your schedule. Here are a few practical recommendations for you (and your family) to consider:

  • Designate a “space” for each activity. If possible, have a work and school space. If that space happens to be the kitchen or dining room table, ensure that the space changes when you are going to eat. Put your school and work away so that the space becomes something different. Change your environment for different activities, and have it only reflect the task or event at hand.
  • If you can work or do school in a group space, I recommend you do. Avoid prolonged isolation. Even if you did not interact with others throughout the day prior to social distancing, you were almost always in the presence of others (other students, coworkers, etc). At the very least, stay connected by proximity. Try not to hole up in your bedroom, recreation room, or a space where others are not present.
  • While trying to accomplish work or school, avoid having the TV on or social media in front of you.
  • Set limits for media intake. Do not spend vast quantities of time watching the news or repeatedly checking social media. Studies have repeatedly shown that high media intake results in depression, anxiety, and loneliness. 2 If something significant occurs, you will know soon enough. There is no specific allotment of time for this, but hours-on-end is simply unwise.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes a day. Almost every fitness professional would agree that 30 minutes of exercise, a minimum of three times a week, is wise. Many of the same professionals are offering free exercise routines on YouTube, Instagram, and various social media platforms. Take advantage of these resources. You could also ride a stationary bike, stretch, or go for a run. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which naturally make us feel better. This also burns off excess energy which goes unreleased otherwise, leading to feelings of being unsettled, which lead to more concerning thoughts and emotions.
  • Read. It is good for the brain. If reading is not your thing, listen to a good audiobook. It passes the time, expands your horizons, and helps you dwell on things beyond your own thoughts.
  • In the midst of routine, take designated breaks to fight boredom. Get up, move around, take a deep breath, go for a walk, or text a friend. We are accustomed to things like coffee breaks, recess, and time between classes. These are good to break up the day and keep you engaged in the priorities of life.
  • Get out of your own story. Stay connected with others. Check in on your neighbors (when you knock on their door, back off six feet to talk). Reach out to single friends, widows, and those who live alone. Use social media to check in on your friends – especially those you know who might be struggling. Try not to only dwell on what is happening in your own life; get into the lives of others.

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