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How to Stay Mentally Healthy During a Quarantine

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Hi Zetas and friends! My name is Sam Stucky. I am a first year with majors in Political Science and Ethics and Public Policy. I also have a minor in Spanish, and I plan to go to law school after my time at Iowa. I joined Zeta this year and absolutely love it! The women who have written all of these other blogs are so amazing! Make sure you read them; you won’t be disappointed.

As quarantine and social distancing continues for at least a month, I know we are all struggling in some way or another. As an extrovert myself, a lot of the ways I care for myself are unavailable. So, I thought this was a perfect time to let you know some ways you can take care of yourself. This is a crazy time, so anxiety is bound to happen, but these tips will help you combat some of those thoughts and give you something to do when you are bored at home. Reminder that you are perfect the way that you are and if one of these tips isn’t for you, that is okay! Find what works and reach out to someone if you need help.

My goal for quarantine is to do six things everyday: something for my brain, for my body, that continues my social life, something mindful, and something new.

Not everything I do falls into these categories, and I don’t accomplish it every day but it simplifies some ways to take care of yourself. I am going to cover how I accomplish those categories and at the end I will have a quarantine checklist to get done in the next month if you want!

Stay sharp!

Since leaving Iowa, I felt like I was doing absolutely nothing. Although I was talking to people and watching TikToks, something felt a little off. It was because my brain was so bored. So, every day I made it a goal to challenge my brain. Now that school has started up, this step is pretty easy. Studying for an exam, reading a chapter of a book, writing a discussion post, etc. all count towards this goal. But these are definitely not the only way you can do this. (and if this all you are doing you might get burnt out!) Sometimes doing a puzzle, finally researching that weird conspiracy theory you were interested in, playing a hard game, writing about something that matters to you (aka writing a blog post for Zeta to help out the amazing Allison Baty) or working on something for an organization you are a part of is all you need. I really love doing logic games and puzzles that I find online. They are super fun and get my attention off of Netflix for a while.

Remain active!

For me, these past two weeks have been a huge shift physically. Rather than walking to my classes, I sit at my desk and wait for the next one to start. Food is no longer in a dining hall or at a restaurant downtown, but upstairs in the kitchen less than 100 steps away. I have nowhere to go so it is really easy to remain inside and get everything done without thinking about my physical health. As the time of social distancing gets longer, it is so important to stay healthy! Not everyone’s body needs the same things, some people need to run and lift, but that isn’t for everyone (and with gyms being closed I know this can be a barrier). However, remind yourself that you used to walk to class and meals and coffee shops all the time, even if you didn’t work out when you were at school. I have started running, as a way to pass time, but I am by no means a runner. If I get out and run for 20-30 minutes a few times a week I feel proud. I know my big, Alexis (who is super cool and you should follow her on Instagram and give her some love cause she deserves it), is a way better runner than me but this isn’t the only way you can get active during this time. Yoga, at home workouts, doing a 30-day challenge, or just going for a walk might be all you need that day. My personal favorite way to get active is to turn on music from when I was in middle school and rock out for a half hour. If anyone has any good playlists let me know because this is the best way to relieve stress in my opinion. Whether you dance in your bedroom way too late at night or are super into fitness, your body is beautiful so take care of it lovelies! (Also, quick PSA, it is okay if your body changes a bit during this time that is normal because your life changed a lot! Just treat yourself with kindness)

How to Stay Social when you are Distanced:

I think this transition has been hard on me primarily because I am an extrovert and get a lot of joy from my friends and sisters. The University of Iowa was a place where I was finding my people and growing so much because of it. Going from living within walking distance with all of my best friends to not being able to hang out with anyone is super difficult. There are a ton of ways to stay connected with the people around you, and I try to contact at least one person per day. Here are a few creative ways to stay connected amidst this crisis time:

  • Set up virtual dinners with your friends from college – every few weeks agree to a time in which you will all eat together. You can choose to make the same meal, have a theme, or just catch up.

  • Go on virtual walks – call a friend during a time when you don’t have classes to take a walk and experience your surroundings. It is a great way to get outside and even helps you accomplish the get active goal.

  • Netflix parties and game nights – obviously nothing can make up for movie nights or nights in with your friends, but this can take its place for the time being. Netflix party is an extension you can download that lets you and your friends watch movies together virtually. You can chat and enjoy the movie together. There are also lots of websites that lets you virtually play games with your friends. There are a wide range of options, and even iMessage games can be super fun. Some of my friends and I have a tournament of iMessage games going!

Something mindful:

A lot of the previous activities help as a distraction or a way to use up some time, but the best thing for your mental health right now is allowing yourself to be aware of it and taking a moment to breathe. Mindfulness practices may seem boring and can feel like a waste of time but when you find something that helps you center that is really amazing. I easily forget about mindfulness, but when I am intentional in doing it, it can go a super long way. Some of my favorite options are:

  • Journaling – I know a lot of people, at Iowa especially, are amazing writers. If that is you, try journaling once a day. Take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for or what has been hard. Just writing down everything you did that day is a great way to be mindful.

  • Yoga – this has been a new favorite of mine. There are amazing yoga videos online that you can use every day to recenter yourself. Sometimes, if I know I have a lot to do, starting my morning off with a flow yoga will relax me and help me focus. Other times I need to wind down and do a nighttime yoga. Whatever works with your schedule!

  • Meditation – this one can sometimes feel really difficult. If you are interested in trying it, start with short, guided meditations. 5 minutes may seem like a short time to sit and breathe, but it can feel a lot longer if you don’t have anything else to focus one. Using guided meditations can help you set a goal for time, and with a lot of them they can help you with specific things and practices you want to get into.

  • Religion – if you are someone who practices religion, prayer and connection with the higher power you believe in can be a great way to remain mindful and reconnect you with your values.

  • Art – grab a coloring book and let yourself only focus on it. Like a lot of things, this can be really unenjoyable if you aren’t someone who likes art, but if you do this is a great way to be creative and enjoy a moment of silence.

Something new:

This is a personal goal I set for myself a month or two ago and it is the best thing I have ever chosen. Doing something new every single day gets you out of whatever mental rut you might be in. These activities don’t have to be extravagant or excessive, just something you haven’t done before. A new musical artist, hobby, challenge, TikTok dance, or path you take a walk on is all that it takes. You might learn something about yourself in the process.

I know that this time is not the way we envisioned our spring semester, but it is our reality now. I am hopeful that some of these ideas help you take care of yourself. The reason that you practice mindfulness and work on your mental health is because you deserve it! My dad reminds me that you should talk to yourself and treat yourself like you are best friends because you have to spend all your time with yourself anyways.

Now here is a fun to do list for you to try until social distancing is done:

1. Bake something

2. Make up a dance

3. Video call 3 people you haven’t talked to in a while

4. Have a game night with your family

5. Read a book that isn’t for school

6. Start a new TV show

7. Turn off your phone for a day

8. Take a virtual museum tour

9. Watch a movie in a different language

10. Go birdwatching

11. Make dinner for your family

12. Get a pen pal

13. Try to draw something

14. Listen to a podcast

15. Call your zisters!

P.S. I am not a therapist. These are ideas, but not solutions to real mental health issues, which you should feel comfortable getting help for. If you need help (which is totally normal), reminder to always reach out to your sisters, family members, or friends and utilize the resources campus has virtually such as UCS. If you are in need of serious help, contact crisis lines and support centers. This is a life worth living, although right now is hard.

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