Social distancing is not easy for many to cope with, and it can be even more difficult for people already struggling with mental health issues. Research from the 2002 SARS pandemic — a different kind of coronavirus — showed that quarantine can result in considerable psychological stress in the form of depressive symptoms and PTSD.
But there are ways for people to mitigate the stress through focusing on things they like to do and establishing a sense of control over their environments and schedules. Thea Gallagher, director of the outpatient clinic at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said that previous research has shown that for people with depression, their mental state gets worse during self-isolation because it’s easier for them to believe negative self-talk. With anxiety, she said, that isolation can lead to taking in too much stressful information at once because there are no external distractions.
One way to protect your mental health while self-quarantining, is to incorporate physical exercise into your schedule. Taking a walk in the sunshine gives you a natural source of vitamin D which benefits immune function. Walking also creates spikes in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical that is sometimes called the “feel good” chemical because it contributes to well-being and happiness.
So get out there and take a walk, soak up some sunshine and get more of that “feel good” chemical in your brain.