Try not to slide into these bad habits while you’re practicing social distancing.
With the majority of Chicago spending more time indoors lately, it can be easy to slide into bad habits. You might think to yourself, “What’s the point of getting dressed if I’m not going to see anyone?” or “Who’s going to notice I stink if I’m not leaving the house?” It might seem like working from home in your pajamas or going a day or two (or three) without showering is no big deal if it’s just you you’re hanging out with. However, it could lead to worse habits down the line. Here are a few bad habits to watch for while you’re practicing social distancing.
1. Not getting dressed
Now we’re not saying it’s bad to spend a day in your PJs every once and a while, but if your work clothes become the same as your bedtime and lounging clothes, you might encounter a few problems. If you work from home, not getting dressed can make it hard for you brain to differentiate between work time and home time. It could also make you feel sluggish and make it difficult to get your day started, even if that day only consists of watching Netflix. We’re not saying wear a suit every day, but at least try to slip on some jeans and a t-shirt instead of sporting footie pajamas to the morning Zoom meeting.
2. Mindless social media scrolling
Social media is great for keeping in touch with friends and family while you’re self-isolating. There are also tons of support groups, online communities, and fun streaming content available on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram. However, social media can also negatively affect your mood if you spend hours on end scrolling. Not only is the news really depressing lately (and we say that as news people) spending a lot of time glued to your phone screen can negatively affect your mood, sleep, and attention span.
Now, we’re certainly not saying to stop using social media altogether. It’s important to have social interaction and during isolation, social media is one of the major ways to connect with people. Just make sure to take regular breaks and do something analog such as going for a walk, reading a book, or playing a board game with other members of your household.
3. Becoming sedentary
It’s important to move your body while you’re sitting indoors so much. Even just 15-20 minutes of moderate exercise per day can help your mind and body during self-isolating. It’s okay to go outside for a quick walk or run so long as you keep your distance from other people. If you don’t want to go outside, you can also access tons of workout videos online to keep you active. You don’t have to become a yoga master or a workout junkie to benefit from a little movement while you’re spending time inside. A little goes a long way.
4. Working around the clock
Just because you’re technically available all hours of the day, doesn’t mean you should be working around the clock. It’s important to establish office hours for yourself and create boundaries with your employer. This is a traumatic time and it’s important to prioritize your own health and wellness, possibly now more than ever.
If you have a separate work computer, consider leaving it in the part of your house that you work from. If you don’t, put Slack messages on mute or create an automatic “away” response to emails when you’re not working. Communicate your office hours and professional limits clearly with your employer and coworkers. Advocate for yourself and your personal time.
5. Slacking on household chores
It might seem like there’s no reason to stay tidy if no one is coming over, but having a constantly messy place can really hurt your mental health. Be it an apartment, house, condo, or van, the place you live is about to be one of the only places you spend time in for a while; treat it well by continuing to clean, organize, and keep things in working order. You’ll feel much better spending all your time in a clean space rather than living in filth because it’s easier and no one will ever know. (Psst! You’ll know ;).)
That being said, mental health issues and disabilities can sometimes make it hard to get certain chores done. Be kind with yourself if you can’t get all your chores done and make realistic goals. Doing a few dishes is better than doing none at all; picking your clothes up off the floor is better than not doing any laundry.
6. Worrying yourself sick
We get it. These are unprecedented, scary times. It can feel like the whole world is out to get you every time you leave the house for groceries or turn on the news. Be cautious because it will save lives, but try not to let anxiety run away with you. Being mindful is particularly important right now. Take a deep breath, check in with yourself and loved ones frequently, and try not to panic.
If you have pre-existing mental health issues, make sure to take extra care of yourself during this isolation period. Call or video chat with your therapist regularly if you have one and continue taking your meds if you have them. If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
7. Not getting outside at all.
It’s okay to go outside for short walks, exercise, or just to sit on the porch. While staying inside and not going to work unless your job is essential is important, it’s also important you get some sun (when it’s available) and fresh air. Try not to let yourself develop a fear of leaving your place. If you think you are developing agoraphobic symptoms (the fear of going outside), reach out for help from a mental health professional.
8. Not talking to anyone for days.
Self-isolation doesn’t have to be totally isolated! It’s easy to just hole yourself up in front of the TV for hours (or days) on end. Make sure you’re reaching out to people online or on the phone regularly, checking up on your friends, and getting some social interaction even if it’s from afar. It’ll help your mood (and others’) to still feel connected to people in your life.
9. Not getting enough alone time.
On the flip side, don’t keep in such constant contact with people that you don’t give yourself time to be by yourself. This is particularly important if you live with roommates, partners, or family members. It’s easy to feel like you’re all stuck in a house together if you don’t spend enough time alone and that develops cabin fever fast.
It might be helpful to schedule alone-time to make sure you take it and can communicate those boundaries with the people you live with. If you live in a studio apartment with someone, make sure to either take walks outside or set up parameters where you don’t talk to each other for a given amount of time.
10. Not learning new things whether or not you’re in school
Making sure your mind isn’t sedentary is as important as keeping your body moving. Your brain is a muscle; make sure to exercise it too! There’s plenty of ways to keep your mind active whether you’re in school or not. Read a book, take a course online, pick-up a new indoor hobby, learn something new; whatever keeps your mind moving and grooving.
Feature photo by Derek Story on Unsplash