How Your Mental Health Is Affected by Quarantine and What You Can Do to Help

Now that many cities across the United States are asking people to remain inside their homes for extended periods of time, some of the biggest challenges will be to overall mental health. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help.

What is Quarantine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines quarantine as separating and restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they then become ill. Because some diseases can be contagious even if people don’t yet have symptoms, this step minimizes the spread of the illness during the asymptomatic period.

What Are the Possible Mental Health Effects of Quarantine?

Psychological distress is common both during and after periods of quarantine. Based on findings from past studies, people commonly experienced:

  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Numbness
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms 
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Low mood
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Emotional exhaustion

There’s also evidence that there may be longer-term consequences, such as substance abuse and alcohol dependency, which can surface up to three years after quarantine.

What Factors Influence How People Cope with Quarantine?

People handle stress differently, which is why some people are better at handling the stress of quarantine. A wide variety of factors are involved that include:

  • Your current mental health. If you have pre-existing mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, this can affect how well you’ll cope with quarantine.
  • How you deal with stress. If you’re fairly resilient when faced with stress, you probably have effective ways to cope that will allow you to manage quarantine better than others.
  • Your personality. Extroverts may struggle more with quarantine because they have a high need for social interaction and may find staying home more difficult. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to enjoy solitude, so they may have an easier time coping with being isolated from others. 
  • The length of quarantine. The longer the quarantine lasts, the more pronounced the effects are. 

What You Can Do to Cope with Quarantine

Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to deal with the stress of quarantine. Things like eating well, getting plenty of sleep and getting outside are all healthy things you can do that will help you cope. Other things you can do include:

  • Establish routines. Try to maintain some semblance of structure from your pre-quarantine days. Wake up at the same time, shower, eat meals, and adapt your exercise routine. Whether you’re working remotely or having to deal with your kids who are home from school, or both, establishing routines is a good way to add structure and pass the time during quarantine.
  • Stay active. If you’re able to go outside, do so. If you’re stuck inside the house, there are a lot of ways you can remain active, which help you feel better mentally and physically. Some things you can do include:
    • Exercise videos
    • Fitness apps
    • Online workouts
    • Yoga
    • Exercises that use your bodyweight
  • Stay in touch. Make calls to friends and family. Do FaceTime chats. Reach out to others on social media. Host a virtual gathering. Send texts. Talking to those who are going through the same thing brings a sense of community and empowerment.
  • Remind yourself why quarantine is important. Put simply, you’re doing the right thing. By staying home, you’re protecting yourself and others. You’re also helping to flatten the curve, which slows the spread of COVID-19 and helps reduce the amount of people who need to be hospitalized. Remembering this can help make quarantine easier to deal with.
  • Limit news intake. Don’t continually consume news stories about the pandemic. Set a time during the day when you check news to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Clean.  In addition to sterilizing, which is important now, it’s also comforting to spend time in a clean environment.
  • Pick up a new hobby. Learning something new, like knitting, woodworking or another craft can help pass the time and bring enjoyment.
  • Take an online class. Learn a new language. Start an MBA program. Find a course that interests you. Many universities offer free courses, so take advantage of your time and learn something new.
  • Watch a new movie or series. Thanks to inexpensive streaming services, there are plenty of things to enjoy that will take your mind off being in quarantine. Find something you love? Share it with your friends.

What Can I Do If the Stress of Quarantine Becomes Too Much to Handle?

If you’re concerned that quarantine is reaching levels you’re not able to deal with, reach out for professional help. Many licensed mental health professionals offer HIPAA-compliant video chat platforms that you can take advantage of. It’s also important to note that people with preexisting mental health issues should continue with their treatment and be aware of worsening conditions. 

Here for a Healthier You

Learn about the behavioral health services available at Baptist Health.

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Sources:
American Psychological Association
VeryWell Mind
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

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