The month-long isolation brought by the community quarantine can very well take a toll on our mental health. Feeling that crippling distance between us and our friends, being stuck in the same confined space everyday, and deeming our normal functions and leisures inaccessible, we can really expect feeling down and grouchy during these times. After all, as Aristotle put it, we are but "social animals" and if someone is naturally unsocial then that person is probably "a beast or a god."
This dreary feeling best described as "cabin fever" isn't new, as it has been observed on people who underwent actual or simulated space missions, worked in polar stations, or are just living in confined spaces.
Fortunately, the limitless offers of the internet could somehow keep us busy and alleviate that crippling distance between us and our friends. But if you're starting to feel that this isn't enough, we've listed down some helpful ways to give your mood a boost amid this community quarantine.
Exercise is known to improve not only our physical well-being, but our mental health as well. It has been proven that aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling, and dancing can reduce anxiety and depression¹. So unless you have an indoor swimming pool or a treadmill at home, the best way to keep your mind and body in good shape during your time in quarantine is to do home exercises, try yoga, or just go ahead and dance as much as you want!
2. Sleep right
Sleeping is closely connected to the state of our mental health. Insomnia is a common symptom among people who have psychological problems, and in return, people who practice sleep deprivation can also become susceptible to some psychiatric disorders².
According to the Sleep Foundation website, teenagers aged 14 to 17 are required 8 to 10 hours of sleep; young adults and adults with the age range of 18 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours; and those aged 65 and higher need 7 to 8 hourse of sleep. So keep your mind healthy and your mood will follow!
Since many of us are working from home, here's a tip: working on your bed no matter how tempting, must be avoided. Not only does it decrease your productivity, it also makes you associate bed with work instead of rest and sleep, making it harder for you to sleep at night³.
3. Try meditation
If you haven't tried meditation before, then now's the best time. Meditation is one of the easiest and most achievable techniques in combatting stress. It is the process of focusing yourself inward to put yourself in a deep state of relaxation that can positively affect your mood and stress level.
While it has been around for thousands of years, it is only recently that studies surfaced claiming that meditation can help relieve anxiety, pain, and is about as effective as antidepressants⁴.
4. Schedule a productive day
People in home quarantine who are not currently on a work-from-home scenario may find themselves spending the days just doing anything they want as if it's an extended weekend. And that's okay, procrastination is also a mood booster but it is a short-term one and after the end of the day, some of us might look back on all that wasted time and feel down afterwards.
This is why it is also a good thing to plan your day and set some goals even at home⁵, no matter how small the goal is. Clean the house (getting rid of clutter can also boost your mood), learn something new, finish that book you bought months ago, and so on.
Now, whether you are working from home or just trying to be productive by yourself, distractions will surely be a big problem. Try the Pomodoro technique, a well-recognized time management technique where you break your work time into manageable pieces, traditionally 25 minutes, separated by short breaks. Time management and focus apps on your phone may also have this feature.
5. Motivate yourself
Staying productive is a daunting task if you feel demotivated. Just like sleep, motivation and mood highly affect each other, so if you feel demotivated then you're probably not in your best mood and it's like a chicken and egg situation. So a way to also boost your mood is to jumpstart your grit and self-esteem by motivating yourself.
TIME Magazine summarized three ways to motivate yourself according to science, and this includes staying positive and celebrating your every progress; treating yourself with a reward whenever you finish a task; and getting peer pressure from the right people.
Motivational materials like video clips and podcasts can also help you feel good about yourself, whether it is from people who started out like you but made it big in their own chosen paths, from motivational speakers who use science-based research, or a mix of both.
Cuddling, hugging, or making love with your partner is also a mood booster as these actions make our bodies release oxytocin or the feel-good "love" hormone. A study also suggests that even if your mood is down because of some interpersonal conflict, a simple hug can already help us raise our spirits⁶.
A rise in oxytocin is also known to occur when an infant gazes upon the mother's eyes, but it was also proven that a similar effect happens between dog owners and their dogs. The results yielded that the owners got a 300% increase in their oxytocin levels just by looking at the eyes of their pets⁷, what more if we hugged our furry pals?
7. Avoid conflicts
A big breaker of good mood is getting yourself into distressing conflicts. Being under home quarantine, you can either have conflicts with the people you're at home with, or with people on the internet.
If you do have conflicts within your own home, it is up to you on how you think it is best dealt with, whether you can make amends or just distance yourself, but do not push the conflict further as it will only compromise your mental well-being especially that you're all stuck together under one roof⁵.
On the other hand, you may be experiencing conflicts from your social interactions online. In these trying times, it is normal that your social media newsfeed gets flooded with complaints and conflicting opinions, and you might want to engage in such discussions, however, if you're pursuing a good mood at home, then you might want to step back and save it for another day especially if you know yourself that you don't handle annoyance very well.
8. Reach out to your good friends
You can also combat the bad mood brought by isolation simply by not isolating yourself. We may be physically apart from people we want to be with but with a reliable internet, nothing prevents us from communicating with them. Keeping up with your true friends will easily shoo away that pang of loneliness that you're suffering with, hence uplifting your mood. Who knows, they might even be needing that call more than you do.
As a final note, this month-long self-isolation that we have to go through can make us irritable and ill-tempered that's why we need to take some extra steps to keep our mental health in check. But we must also acknowledge that such situations can also lead to even more serious mental health problems especially if we have struggled with such in the past. So if you're feeling that the isolation is becoming too much for you to handle, be sure to seek out advice from a professional.
1. Madaan V., Petty F., & Sharma A. (2006) "Exercise for Mental Health". National Center for Biotechnology Information
2. Harvard Health Publishing (2019) "Sleep and Mental Health".
3. Robben B. (2016) "Never Do Homework in Bed: 3 Reasons Why". American College of Healthcare Sciences.
4. Harvard Health Publishing (2014) "What meditation can do for your mind, mood, and health".
5. University of Central Lancashire (2020) "Coronavirus Self-Isolation: A UCLan Psychologist Explains How to Avoid Cabin Fever".
6. Cohen S., Janicki-Denvers D., & Murphy M. (2018) "Receiving a hug is associated with the attenuation of negative mood that occurs on days with interpersonal conflict". National Center for Biotechnology Information.
7. Grimm D. (2015) "How dogs stole our hearts". ScienceMag.org.