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Maintaining mental health during COVID-19

What my schedule in the time of COVID-19 looks like. Photo by Emily Rose Friedman

Tough times like these can be hard on our mental health. 

It is valid to be sad and disappointed that big events have been canceled and the world seems to be on pause. However, we need to try and remind ourselves that we are staying home for the betterment of our world. 

Here are some tips from a fellow Cuesta College student, and mental illness survivor, on how to keep our heads above water during these uncertain times. 

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional. I am a college student who has experienced mental health issues. I have personally sought help and I’m currently in recovery. 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing signs of depression or mental illness, please call or email Cuesta College’s mental health services. They are currently not taking face-to-face visits at this time, but they can set up a Zoom appointment. If you or someone you know need to speak with someone immediately, here is the National Suicide Prevention hotline’s number. 

The main thing we can do to maintain normalcy during this shelter at home is to create a loose schedule for your days. Emphasis on the word loose!  As soon as we start to make a busy regimented schedule, it will seem like too big of a feat to accomplish. 

If you put too many time restraints on activities when you are off timing on your schedule, you will feel like you are failing. 

“If you are totally unsure about what you are going to do that day, make three things certain,” my therapist Gina would always tell me. “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.”

I try my best to live by these words and they have made all the difference. When planning your meal schedule, just make sure to have your meals at a reasonable time. For example, try not to eat lunch at 4 p.m. and dinner at 1 a.m. 

This leads me to the one and only set time you should aim for: bedtime. We will be happier and healthier if we go to bed at a reasonable hour. That way, we can sleep in for as long as we want without throwing off our internal clocks too much. I try to go to bed between 11 – 11:30 p.m. Maintaining this sleep schedule will make it easier to adjust to life once it picks up again (and don’t worry, things will pick up again soon).

Now that the basics are laid down, the day needs to be filled in with activities. The best way to hold yourself accountable is to write it down. But remember, this is supposed to be helpful and not stressful!

Your days do not need to look the same every day. Just do what feels best. That is where the loose schedule comes into play. If one day you are fine sitting on the couch all day watching Netflix, DO IT! But for the days you desire some structure, this is how I personally go about it. 

The first thing I do after I wake up (when I feel like it)  is to brew my coffee and make breakfast. When I feel ready, I start my first activity, which is a 30-minute yoga class that I find on YouTube.

Next, I usually spend another 30 minutes or so working out inside, or going for a run around the block (anything to get my heart rate up). After I’m done sweating, I shower and put clean clothes on. Putting clean clothes on is another essential tip I find in maintaining normalcy. You don’t have to put jeans on, but please do yourself a favor and put on clean clothes. 

After that, I sit down and get to my school work for the day. I usually do not set a time for how long I do this. I normally just go until I feel I have done a sufficient amount of work and I make sure I am still meeting due dates. 

Then I make lunch and eat outside! After each meal, I try to clean up in order to avoid being over cluttered. You can also use this time to complete just one chore a day, even if it’s as minimal as making your bed. After I’m done eating and cleaning it is time to walk my dogs. If you don’t have dogs, it’s still good to take yourself on a walk and listen to your favorite music. 

When I get home I commit myself to chill time. This is when I let myself indulge in social media, watch a show or some YouTube. 

Something that I have been trying to do is set a timer for how much I use social media. You can find the self-timer feature in the settings of your phone to help limit your screen time.  Or you can take this time to check up on your friends and family. After I am done with screen time, I spend some time doing a hobby of choice. For me, this is either skateboarding, a bike ride, a hike, painting or drawing. 

These are all things you can do while social distancing. Then, when my day is close to done, I make myself dinner. And again, I make sure to clean everything up right after so I do not feel overwhelmed by dishes piling up over the week.

Now it is time for self-care. I put on my pajamas, do a face mask, take a bath, or maybe another shower, or you can use this time to watch a movie or whatever else. Just make sure you abide by some kind of bedtime. Stay healthy and happy everyone!