The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our normal lives upside down almost overnight and has forced us to distance ourselves physically and socially.

In a situation like this, it is normal to feel a range of emotions — anxiety, nervousness, sadness, depression, loneliness, stress, frustration, and/or fear. Because of this, it is as important as ever to take time for your mental health and well-being. One easy way to do this is to practice self-care.

Self care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s physical and mental well-being. While some self-care methods are not available during this time, there are still a variety of other options available to almost everyone. The goal of this article is to provide you with self-care tips and ideas to help you make your mental health a priority during this time without breaking the bank.

Be physically active

Exercise and physical activity help both your physical and mental health. Along with the physical health benefits of reducing risk of chronic disease and lowering blood pressure, physical activity reduces stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression, while boosting energy levels, self-esteem and focus.

Physiologically, this occurs because the physical activity induces increased levels of certain chemicals in the body, called endorphins, which naturally make the body feel happier and less stressed. Mentally, using exercise to take a break from the stress of your day is a great way to spend time focusing on yourself and take your mind off negative thoughts.

While gyms in the area are closed, there are many at-home options that are just as effective in boosting your mental health. Some easy, free options include going for a walk, run, or bike ride around your neighborhood. If you are looking to get creative or want some variety in your workout, you can also create your own workout circuit in your living room or backyard, even without fancy exercise equipment.

Many common household objects, such as soup cans, paint cans, milk jugs, bricks, stairs, firewood, and textbooks can be used instead of gym equipment.

15-minute workout

Here is a 15-minute, at-home, bodyweight workout that requires no equipment:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes:

20 jumping jacks

15 bodyweight squats

10 sit-ups

5 push-ups

Take a break to focus on yourself

Meditation, mindfulness and self-reflection can help calm you down, relieve stress, reduce symptoms of depression, and help correct insomnia. Also, these practices allow you to take the time to focus on the positives in your life and remind yourself of all the aspects of your life that you have control over, which helps reduce feelings of anxiety, helplessness, sadness, and stress.

Going about practicing this can be different for everyone. If you are new to the practice, experts recommend starting simple. This can be taking two minutes a day to think about nothing or starting a daily journaling practice. If you want something a bit more formal, you can find guided meditations on many apps, podcasts, books, or online. Apps such as Calm, Breathe2Relax, and Headspace are providing certain promotions during the COVID-19 pandemic to help those who many need these services the most. Lastly, if you are looking for both a mental and physical break in one, you can try yoga or Pilates. Yoga and Pilates workouts can also be found for free online and in many different apps.

Social, but distancing

For many, the most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic is the feeling of loneliness and isolation due to social distancing. Taking advantage of today’s technology is the easiest way to counteract this without putting yourself at increased risk of getting, or spreading, COVID-19.

While texting, social media, and video chat programs, such as FaceTime, Skype, GoogleMeet, and Zoom, are not a perfect replacement for in-person social interaction, they do allow social interaction from a safe distance and are easily accessible to almost everyone. Maintaining your social circle and support network provides a valuable outlet for sharing feelings and relieving stress, while also allowing for a bit of normalcy and a break from current events.

With all the advances in technology, it is now possible to have a game night with your friends or keep in touch with your elderly family members who may be isolation without having to be in the same room, or even the same state.

Free resources

While these are good tips to start with, we do recognize that they are not a fix-all for everything. If you feel like you, or someone you know, may need to talk to someone trained in mental health, here are some free resources to look into:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Help Line: 800-985-5990

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 800-950-6264

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 74174

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

»National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Kinsey Dunst, MS, ATC, SCAT, CSCS,

is an athletic trainer at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center.

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