Learning a new way of life due to COVID-19 when the energy of spring has just begun has not been the easiest. This change of lifestyle has been hard! Perhaps you can attest to this.

While we navigate working from home, teaching our kids, managing restrictions on our social interactions and questioning what our world will look like when the pandemic ends, it is important to consider how different personalities adapt to the change.

Some people may be soaking in the increased family time, learning new hobbies or completing long, overdue home projects while other people may be experiencing depression, anxiety or stress as a result of this quarantined lifestyle.

Recognizing and understanding the state of our mental health during times of crisis or stress is critical. A person’s mental health is a big factor regarding our successes, emotions and relationships.

The Center for Disease Control explains poor mental health can manifest in various ways, including decreased cognitive function and increased reactivity. Poor mental health can also appear in physical forms like upset stomachs and headaches. It is important to listen to your body and recognize how you may be unknowingly responding to the changes from our normal way of living.

How are you managing the stresses associated with experiencing a pandemic? How is your emotional health? If you are feeling disconnected with the world and find yourself missing your pre-stay-at-home lifestyle, please know you are not alone. Consider the following suggestions that may help you feel an increased level of normal in this abnormal season.

• The first objective to maintaining a healthy mindset is to create a routine. Do you still have to work at home? Are you having to shelter in place until your job is available?

Maybe you used to wake up every morning and take a shower before starting your day or made a nice, large cup of coffee, try to maintain your usual routine as best as possible.

• Create a to-do list every morning or night. It feels great to mark through or check off an achievement on your list. This helps the mind keep on track and visually demonstrates your productivity throughout the day.

• Make your bed. I promise this will uplift your spirits. I know, making the bed is not fun, but tidying up the first place you wake up to in the morning is a great mood lifter. The National Sleep Foundation reports people who make their bed experience nearly a 20 percent increase in quality of sleep.

• Get ready for the day. Brush your teeth, change out of your pajamas and comb your hair. Even though you may not be going anywhere, it helps to keep a normal routine as mentioned earlier.

• Eat a good breakfast, lunch and dinner. Finding motivation to cook or order meals can create a sense of normalcy. Try to keep the times of your meals consistent and avoid eating dinner too late in the evening as this may disrupt your sleep. Be sure you are choosing a healthy variety of food and preparing well-balanced meals including fresh fruits and vegetables, a protein source, and whole grains.

• Open your curtains or blinds. The warm and bright light will trick your brain into feeling more energized and happy.

• Music can be a great source for mood boosting. Create a fun list of songs or listen to your favorite radio station.

• Get outside! Take a walk by yourself or with your dog. Water your plants or simply enjoy a beverage outdoors. Not only is it a much-needed change of surroundings, the Vitamin D from the sun will help elevate your attitude. Remember to slather on some sunscreen if you plan to be outdoors for any length of time.

• Exercise and move your body. Being physically active will help your body get energized and ready for whatever is next. This can be as simple as lifting weights at home, participating in an online exercise program, or engaging in any activity that gets your heart pumping.

• Call a friend or family member or FaceTime them to reconnect. Have a virtual coffee session or eat lunch together in your own homes. While it is not the same as face to face, having a virtual date can be an easy reminder that you have people who care about you.

• Remember we have health care providers who care. Always seek professional help if you experience prolonged periods of depression or feelings of hopelessness.

These tips are simple ways you can better manage your quarantine lifestyle. Maintaining your mental health is so important, especially when there is an immense amount of change happening in the world. Stay safe and healthy.

Program announcements

Join us virtually for the following events. For more information, contact the Extension Agent conducting the event or visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.

• Strong Women Exercise Program moves to Zoom. Keep up your exercise routine at 9:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Email Anne-Marie at awilson@nmsu.edu for the Strong Women Zoom invitation. The event is free.

• Nurturing Parenting Program The Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the San Clemente’s Gabriel Project is offering the Nurturing Parenting program over Zoom on at 5 p.m. Mondays. Email Anne-Marie Wilson at awilson@nmsu.edu for the class Zoom invitation. The event is free.

• Check out the NMSU Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Facebook page for upcoming programs, creative recipes, health tips and fun activities. You can also follow NMSU Valencia County 4-H Facebook page for child appropriate activities.

If you are an individual with a disability who is in need of auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event.

(Sierra Cain is the Valencia County 4-H/Youth Development agent for the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.)

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