How to Take Care of Yourself During Social Isolation


(Photo/Alisa Anton/Unsplash)

Lila Pechter, Staff Writer

Right now we are all experiencing the most turbulent but also the most boring time of our lives. We have too much free time, and many of us don’t know what to do with ourselves or how to maintain our mental and physical health. There has been talk about gaining weight over this time, and many have also been pressuring themselves to be as productive as possible, but you need to go easy on yourself during this time–for the sake of your mental health. I asked Dr. Shah (one of the smartest people I know and the only person I trust with my health concerns) a few questions that I think have been on all of our minds.

If you have messed up your sleep schedule, what can you do to get back on track? Why is it important to keep a consistent sleep schedule during this period?
“According to experts, especially during this time, one of the most important things you can do is stay on a schedule. Teens don’t have the same circadian rhythm as adults, which is why sleeping in until 12 feels right for a lot of us. So sleeping in a little during this time is not such a bad thing. But if you are going to bed at four and you create an inconsistent sleep schedule for yourself, this is not good. If you’re not on a schedule, your body gets confused and then your mind gets confused. It is okay if this happens to you and you can’t make up sleep.“

Here are some of Dr. Shahs Tips on getting back on track:
-Go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you have been going to bed very late, gradually go to bed earlier and earlier.
-Have good sleep hygiene! Prep for bed by putting your phone away, aromatherapy (which helps produce melatonin), reading, or anything else that calms you down.
-If you wake up and can’t fall back asleep, lying there doesn’t help. Instead, read or walk around. You may get tired again, and if not you will probably get better sleep the next night.

If you are starting to feel like you are having a little too much family time, what should you do? What if you feel you’ve been spending too much time alone?
“A benefit of the stay in place order is family time. It’s very rare that we get to be with our parents and siblings so much, and it can be a difficult adjustment. If people aren’t in their best mood, it is natural to feel that you need alone time. Having a schedule is so important, and this schedule should have time allotted for yourself. Maybe a solitary walk for 20-30 minutes, try a new hobby, pick up a new art form, learn to salsa! Eventually, we will be able to leave our houses, so use this time to get something done that makes you feel good. During alone time remember stewing and stressing are not productive. It happens to the best of us, though, so don’t beat yourself up. If you start to feel helpless and you are always in a down mood, it is important you reach out to an adult.”

Are physical activity and outdoor time truly necessary right now? How much time should we spend working out and outside in the sun?
“Evidence shows that vitamin D can only come from the sun, and a deficiency of vitamin D can cause a ton of different problems. Sunlight also can increase endorphins and dopamine levels, so you will feel so much better if you get outside! It is also very calming. There is no minimum for this amount of time, just don’t let yourself bake in the sun. Exercise is a different story. You should try to exercise for 20-30 minutes minimum a few times a week. You don’t have to workout like Coach Darius and do as many burpees as possible in 25 minutes to reap the benefits of exercise. Even just walking can be good if you can increase your heart rate. Cardio is the most important because it is good for heart health. Stretching and weight training are very good, too. How you workout should depend on what you like to do. There are a ton of videos online and other resources to choose from. Stay away from lifting weights if you’re not familiar because you could injure yourself.”

What are the best things we can do to maintain and improve our mental health at this time?
“The best thing you can do is have self-awareness and self-compassion. It is okay to feel good and bad. Whatever you are feeling, the most important thing to know is that these feelings will pass. All of the things we mentioned–schedule, sleep, exercise, fresh air, and self-care time–are the ways we can care for our health. Know thyself and remember to ask for help if you need it.”