At this extraordinary time, one of the most important things we can do to protect our mental health is to remain social.
That goes especially for students who are used to being surrounded by friends at school every day, and who might now be finding the withdrawal difficult. Fortunately, great advice is cropping up all over the internet, detailing the various things we can do to maintain a strong and positive mental outlook at this time.
Here are some of our contributions to the subject.
Start With The Basics
Being physically apart at the moment is good. Being socially distant, not so much. Luckily for us, the modern world is a blessing in this kind of situation. We have the luxury to make phone calls and video calls with friends and family, so let’s make the most of it! To avoid setting into too much of a routine, why not try varying your forms of socialising? Make calls, get involved in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger group chats and perhaps even experiment with voice notes if you haven’t already.
What’s more, with all this spare time, we can use this moment to reach out to friends we haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up on their news – the ones from Summer camp or childhood who have moved away but that you still remember fondly.
It’s important to remember, however, that there’s no need to do all these things and contact everyone in your address book in one day! If there’s one thing we have in great surplus at the moment, it’s time, so be social when you feel like it.
Make Conversations Deeper
Sometimes, your mood means that you just want to shoot off the latest Coronavirus memes to your friends and have a laugh to counterbalance the gloom. And you’re right - seeing the lighter side of things is important to equal out all the negative information circling around.
On the other hand, it’s easy to run out of small talk when the only thing that’s new is the odd concoctions coming out of the oven at dinner time, as your parents try to ‘make do with what we have in the freezer’. You want to stay in touch with people, but what do you say when every day is the same?
Perhaps we should see this as an opportunity to be more honest with our loved ones, to be more vulnerable and have more real conversations. Being open helps humans to create stronger and deeper connections, something we could benefit from immensely right now. So as today dawns the same as yesterday, and the day before that, and the week before that and nothing has changed in your life, perhaps you can make a change in how you communicate instead.
Get Closer With Family
We know everyone is doing their best to work from home, but at the end of the day, or during your breaks, take the time to embrace your family. In this period, people with family around them are very fortunate and now is the time to appreciate that.
You could set up a regular movie night, have good conversations with your parents and siblings, play cards or cook together. All over the world, people are rediscovering how valuable the physical presence of family is, so hold them close to you. Even just giving a hug can reduce your cortisol levels and thus your stress – we could all do with that at the moment!
Of course, there are times when confinement can be wearing as we see no end in sight, so it might also help to designate a space to go to when you feel like you are living on top of each other just a bit too much. Stay there, relax until the feeling passes and then come back to your family again.
If you live in Switzerland and are in a populated area, join the clapping on your balcony or from your window. For many who live alone, this is the only time of the day that they physically see other people. So join in and keep the momentum going, both for the workers on the front line and for those in our community most vulnerable to loneliness.
Other ideas for maintaining good mental health:
- Be generous – As humans, we feel good when we do good.
If someone in your family is going shopping, why not check whether any vulnerable people you know need supplies too? You could also cook dinner for your parents or tidy that space you’re always being asked to clean up.
- Watch positive videos/responses to the moment – Like this one, which will be sure to tug on your heartstrings more than any newscast
- Write a diary about this experience – this might help you sort through your own emotions and process how you are feeling day to day. Besides, you are living through history right now! One day, students might be studying your diary in class (so practice your handwriting)
- Use Netflix Party – discuss with friends as you binge watch yet another box set together
- Play Games Together – Begin the first paragraph of a story, then pass on the last line to a friend, who does the same and go around until everyone has written something. Put it all together and see what whacky story you have collectively come up with
- Get in the garden if you have one, and take an interest in the natural world
- Read - There are more books in the world than you will be able to get through in your life time, but now is as good a time as any to set yourself a challenge and get started!