Five Ways to Nurture Your Mental Health During Isolation
Posted with permission from author, Ethan Fisher
Isolation is nothing new to me. Neither are mental health struggles and depression.
If you’ve seen me speak at APCA, you’re probably aware that I’ve been battling depression and mental health issues since I was in middle school. I hid my struggles behind alcohol and drugs and spiraled downward until I landed at rock bottom. I woke up in a neck brace in a hospital bed and learned I had driven while intoxicated, caused a car crash, and took someone’s life.
I spent eleven years in the justice system because of that night. For six weeks of my prison sentence, I was on 23-hour lockdown in a 6’ x 9’ prison cell. Isolation can feel like the worst thing in the world, but it doesn’t have to. With the appropriate attitude and tools, isolation can create the environment you need to shed bad habits, introduce good ones in their place, and make significant positive changes in your life.
When I was in prison, I used isolation as an opportunity to self-improve. The moment I set foot across the threshold, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to change. I knew it would be a difficult personal journey. But I also knew there was no better time to take the first step.
Everyone is different and your experiences during this time will be as well. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Check in with yourself and be honest. Below, I’ve listed five of my go-to techniques to refocus anxiety, angst, and depression, and channel positive change in my life during stressful times. Some of these techniques might work better for you than others. The point is that you’re setting an intention to care for yourself, and you’re following through.
Work Out / Exercise
Physical activity is scientifically proven to generate endorphins and boost your mood. I try to do some type of workout every day. This is a very basic, yet effective way to manage your mental health.
There are numerous apps and YouTube channels that provide home workouts with no equipment required. Some gyms are even sharing real-time workouts on Instagram Live. Experiment; try new things, maybe you’ll discover a new workout you love. In any case, get your heart rate up, sweat, and release bad energy from the day.
Meditation, if you have the patience for it, can be a fantastic way to exercise your mind. I’m far from being a professional at meditation, but five to ten minutes a day helps calm my battle with anxiety and depression. You don’t need any accessories to meditate. Sit in a comfortable position, back straight, and focus on your breathing. Apps like Calm or Headspace are available for guided exercise.
Reading is another excellent option to exercise your brain. Most major library systems have an online catalogue that you can access straight from your phone.
I wasn’t much of a reader before I went to prison. During my six weeks of lockdown, I read every book I could get my hands on. I’ve never lost that habit. I tend to go for self-help, business/leadership and spiritual books. My wife loves fiction. Whatever your preferred genre, reading will help you grow as person and unlock new ideas for you to pursue.
I’ve written thousands of pages in journals and notebooks. I’ve written rhymes, poems, streams of consciousness, random thoughts, business plans and ideas. There is something cathartic for me about sitting at a desk with a pen and paper. I can write away my anger, negative self-talk, lack of self-worth and despair.
Science shows that handwriting opens up a level of creativity that isn’t as accessible when you are typing on a phone or computer. Write down your thoughts and dreams. Journal your experience in isolation, write down gigantic life goals that nobody thinks you can obtain. Use this time to plan your future, focus your desire and purpose, and create a plan of action.
You should be practicing social distancing, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t nurture relationships with the people you love. If you are struggling because you miss your weekly brunch with family or dog park play dates with friends, take the initiative and reach out. Start a group chat, FaceTime a loved one, learn a TikTok dance; leverage social media to your best advantage.
The coronavirus outbreak has caused me to lose nearly all my income for the next four months. Each day, I have moments of sadness and depression, but I also choose each day to focus on the future. I am channeling my energy into positive exercises, like writing this article, for example. I’m finishing my first book, writing a new business plan, and spending time with my amazing wife.
Even with all these good intentions, there may be times you face a struggle with your mental health that is overwhelming. Do not be afraid to ask for help. I’ve reached out to counselors in times of darkness and will continue to do so. There are numerous online resources that you can use, and I’ve listed a few of them below: (Full disclosure: I have a partnership with Betterhelp, but they are one of many. I don’t care what resource you use, just as long as you find a resource that helps you.
There are very few occasions in this life where you can freely give yourself permission to focus on you. How will you handle this moment? Will you focus on the negative, feeding your hopelessness and pessimism? Or will you take this time to self-reflect, examine your past choices, and choose to embrace a new and powerful purpose? I hope you choose the latter. I know I will.
If you are Suicidal call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline”
Here are a few of the most common and some online professional resources:
Try your community mental health center. Each state and county have them.
There Free resources on Mental Health First Aid
7Cups – Free option to talk to peer specialists
Facebook – Search in Groups Mental Health. There are many groups and members to chat with who are going through struggles like you and I.
Paid but with professional counselors that can truly help:
Betterhelp.com (I have personally used in the past and currently have a partnership with them. If you use www.betterhelp.com/ethanfisher they give you 50% for an entire year of their full service package.)