By Annette Ermshar
Special to The Outlook
1. Make Time for self-care and stay positive – Get rest, strengthen your immune system, and be sure to attend to your mental health needs. It is a well-known fact that mental and emotional stress have a direct impact on our immune functions. On the flip side, we also know that a positive outlook on life and self-compassion are associated with a stronger immune system. In addition, be sure you are getting enough sleep and limit the use of alcohol to manage or escape your stress. Should you find your mental health symptoms escalating, consider teletherapy. Teletherapy is a great way to maintain mental health and to process the many emotions that we are all facing with a therapist, right from the comfort of your own home.
2. Plan a family game night – Gather around something other than the TV. Some games to consider: Twister, Scrabble, Trouble board game, Party Bowl, Taboo Speak Out, and Jumanji the Game. These are all meant for kids and adults, alike, and are sure to provide for a fun-filled family evening with interactive engagement. Perhaps a silver lining to our current crisis is that we have the opportunity to spend more time with our immediate family. Spend the time with your child. Ask them about their friends and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. This is an ideal time to be a role model for your child for managing stress, talking through feelings and problem solving.
3. Enjoy Cooking in your own kitchen – Try learning how to make homemade pizza or sushi, add something new to your favorite tagliatelle, like wild mushrooms, make fun combinations of your favorite foods, like peanut butter and bacon on toast, or just make one of your old favorites. Cooking can be a great creative outlet. Be sure to add your favorite music in the background.
4. Embrace spring cleaning at home – Take this time to declutter, reorganize and prioritize! Be honest when decluttering; if you can’t picture yourself using the items you are storing, toss them. Consolidate storage areas and try hanging clothes in your closet from heaviest to lightest. You will feel more organized. Cleaning your home can actually help you cope with feelings of anxiety and depression. There is a direct link between the state of your personal space and the state of your mind. A disorganized home can mean that we are not addressing the things inside of ourselves. Cleaning can be very cathartic and can signal that we can face what seems unmanageable and get through it.
5. Plan an at-home date night – In these times, a silver lining may just be increased time with our significant other. Having a regular date night is important for any relationship, but it doesn’t need to include going out. A date night at home can add some romance to our “new normal.” Go stargazing in the backyard and cuddle under a blanket with a thermos of hot chocolate, have a picnic dinner on the floor, go through old photos or watch your wedding video together, make an at-home spa with candles and a bath, get dressed up and slow dance in the living room to your favorite high school love songs, or just eat dinner by candlelight with Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Use this extra time to focus on your most important relationship.
6. Read a New Book – When was the last time you leisurely read a book? The New York Times Best Sellers list is chocked full of ideas for an evening cuddled up on the couch with a great book. Elle also has a good list of best books for 2020. There are many benefits to reading a book: reading strengthens your brain, increases empathy, prevents cognitive decline, builds your vocabulary, reduces stress and depression, and aids in a better sleep.
7. Get ahead of spring home maintenance – One of my tips for managing escalating anxiety is to engage in an activity in which you can have an increased sense of healthy control over the outcome. In these times, it is the uncertainty of our future that is perhaps the biggest trigger for stress and anxiety. One way we can manage the uncertainties of the time is to engage in tasks that gives us a greater sense of control. Pick up a paintbrush and some paint and try changing the color of your bedroom walls, reseed your lawn, plant your perennials, check and clean your gutters (but be careful on that ladder), give your house a bath, and clean your vents. Then bask in that feeling of success and a healthy sense of control and accomplishment.
8. Brainstorm ideas for home improvement projects – How often do we wish for the extra time to do that home project? Well, now we have it. Think about fun ways to boost your curb appeal, add seasonal planters, create a fun patio space. Planning for the future, even in small ways, can aid in managing anxiety and increasing self-agency. Self-agency is a psychological term that describes the power an individual has over their own life, or a sense of control that we can impart on our future. In our current state of crisis, we are all feeling a reduced sense of personal agency. So embrace brainstorming and planning a project for some future benefit. It will give you a sense of self agency.
9. Workout at Home – Now that gyms are closed, we need to find ways to continue to stay healthy and fit. There are many options when it comes to streaming a good online yoga program. Try Gaia, which gives a wide variety of yoga classes which allow you to practice different styles of yoga, or try YogaDownload or Grokker. Or, for a more specific fitness regimen, try Sweat, which is a “train your way and work out at home” online platform, or try Livestrong on YouTube to assist in finding the best at-home workout for you. Regular exercise is one of the holdfast pillars of healthy living. Increased exercise is a fantastic way to mitigate stress and blow off steam. Exercise strengthens the immune system, improves metabolic health, and may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and air pathways.
10. Increase video conferencing with those you love – Video communication applications allow for face-to-face interaction with others. This is an especially important way to mitigate social isolation and social distancing. It also is a good time to catch up with parents, relatives and old friends. How many times have you said to yourself, “Gee, I should call him/her”? Let’s stay connected and let’s face this together!
Be sure to follow social distancing guidelines, the COVID-19 protocols of the city, county, and state, and seek the advice of a medical professional and/or officials prior to going outdoors or any items mentioned in the above.
Annette Ermshar, CEO of Dr. Ermshar & Associates, is a clinical neuropsychologist and holds a Ph.D. Her Pasadena-based private practice focuses on psychological assessment and treatment, neuropsychology and forensic psychology, and she has served as an expert consultant for television and media.