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5 Strategies to Save Your Sanity During Times of Crisis

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Manage your mental health while sequestering

We’re used to going out to dinner, to the movies, to hosting gatherings with friends. We hug. We mingle. We laugh, our bodies close and our heads leaning into conversation. So — when all of that changes, our collective psyche is affected.

Everyone copes in different ways, but we all have to find some method of managing isolation and stress. My own close friends have demonstrated various approaches to managing mental health.

Feel like you’re losing your mind?

Use these five strategies to save your sanity.

1. Communicate with each other often.

Create a group chat: My friends and I started a group chat awhile ago. Since we inhabit different states and often travel, our chat keeps us connected and apprised of each other’s health. Those quick comments — and what we think of as witty repartee — lifts us up and makes us smile. If one of us makes a comment, another one or two of the group comment back. Rarely are all six of us on at the same time, and the snippets of talk occur about once a day. Not too often or too much, just enough to know that we’re all alive and well.

Call someone you care about: Once texting was invented, the phone call became obsolete. A real human voice is more immediate than words on a screen. You can hear tone and emphasis with a phone call that you can’t with a text. Sometimes, it’s just nice to really talk and hear an authentic voice. Call that cousin, old friend, or relative and reconnect. You’ll both feel better.

Write a real letter or a real note: Nothing says love like a letter. A real, handwritten note in your own script is priceless. When email was developed, we gained speed and convenience, but we lost permanence and passion. A real paper letter and envelope is like receiving treasure through the USPS. It’s something that can be re-read, stroked, smelled, and savored again and again. The letter your write today will mean more to the person than anything text or email you’ve ever created.

2. Find humor.

One of my friends in our group chat tends to be negative, and she admits it. She even says sometimes that what she was going to contribute is too negative, so she stops herself. Strangely enough, this pessimistic friend has created a revolving door of humor posts. Every day, she sends out two or three hilarious messages detailing the current state of the world, usually focused on her hobby of knitting.

My favorite one is a picture of an old woman knitting a large, yarn noose. The caption reads:

“After two months of quarantine, Jane was knitting something special for her husband, Jim.”

People are clever, creative, and funny. Use the humor to lift your spirits.

  • Start a Pinterest board specifically for humor posts that help you now.

  • Allot a specific amount of time to look at funny YouTube videos.

  • Make a list of hilarious movies that you love, and watch at least one a day.

  • Scroll through Facebook and Instagram and share things that make you smile. We can all use a laugh right now.

3. Organize and purge

Another of my friends is cleaning closets and re-organizing cabinets with the energy of a housebound 10-year-old. She’s an energetic, civic-minded woman in her mid-70s now burning her extra energy by organizing her household since the civic groups she’s usually working for are on hold.

Putting order into your own particular chaos makes you feel like you have some control over your surroundings. Decluttering soothes your over-stimulated mind.

  • Clean out your closets and donate unused clothing to charitable organizations.

  • Declutter your cabinets and make your life easier by being able to find what you need, when you need it.

  • Go through all those old photographs stuck in boxes and drawers. Label them. Put them in boxes or albums, or download them to your computer or USB sticks. Or move them from your phone to a printable book.

  • Tackle your garage, your junk drawer, your bookshelves, your desk. You might never have this much spare time again.

4. Practice your art, whatever it is.

One of my friends is using all the new-found time to work on scrapbooks — just another way to impose order on the chaos of memories stored in our brain.

She’s documenting the events of her life in an artistic way, using stickers, markers, and quotes, catching up on the years she hasn’t had time for before.

Whatever your art form is, practice it. Enjoy it.

  • Learn a new musical composition.

  • Work on your calligraphy, paintings, pottery, dances, yoga, videography, script-writing, quilting, jewelry-making, knitting or whatever it is you do.

  • Teach someone else — either a housebound family member — or someone via Skype or Zoom or video chat — your art form. Being a mentor is an awesome contribution to society. Having a mentor is a true blessing.

5. Read whatever it is that turns you on.

It may be business books. You might love new releases, classic comic books, bone-chilling horror. Maybe you’ve never had time to read the New York Times cover to cover before. Whatever you love, devour it in these extra hours at home.

Reading is my way of keeping my mind occupied with something other than the Corona crisis. Stories take me away, giving me ideas, and letting me travel to far-flung destinations while sitting in my comfortable blue reading chair.

If you’re a reader, now is a good time to

  • Catch up on your list. Set a goal and spend time reading — just for the joy of it — every day.

  • Read to someone you love via video chat: grandparents to kids; kids to grandparents; friend to someone who is ill or just needs company. There’s something magical about being read to. (Remember story time?) A century ago, when families gathered, someone would often read out loud. It was an excepted social practice. It still can be.

  • Try reading Pulitzer prize winners you may have missed.

  • Delve into different genres and get out of your comfort zone.

  • Start your book journals, or catch up on them. Years from now you can say,

“Oh, yea. I remember that. I read that book during the social-distancing of the Coronavirus crisis.”

I was a little bit crazy before the Coronavirus crisis, so that won’t change. But I can keep my level of mental health from deteriorating further by focusing on something other than fear.

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