Article Written By: Julie Reichenberger
With the spread of COVID-19, we are faced with a situation leading many to feel frustrated, worried, and panicked. With the strong encouragement to stay home and socially distance ourselves to lessen the impact COVID-19 has on society, many are concerned about how the isolation will impact their mental well-being.
We know that having structure, routine, balance, community, distraction and exercise are important to our well-being. In times of increased stress, these are even more crucial to our mental health. Many of our go-tos for keeping our mental health are not available to us at this time. So, what can you do while spending so much time at home?
Clean it up! Spending more time in our homes, we are also being faced with those things we most want to avoid: messy closets, disorganized shelves, laundry, the sock on the floor, expired food in the fridge, stacks of paper, etc… Perhaps this new pressure to stay home can be seen as an opportunity to stop avoiding all the I’ll-get-to-that-laters.
Imagine how nice it might feel to look around after you have tackled the items to avoid on your list of things to do? You might feel more relaxed, be able to enjoy sitting on the couch, find things you have lost, enjoy less mess. It could feel really good and could also be a good way to distract and keep yourself busy and active during this time of uncertainty.
Here are some gentle guides getting started:
Make It Doable
Break this overwhelming job into smaller, more doable actions. First, identify the areas you want to focus on and narrow in. If you have several areas within a room that you want to get in shape, make each of those areas one task on your list. For example, if you have identified your bedroom as a room you would like to clean up and within that room there is a dresser, nightstands, closet, and a chair in the corner with stuff on it. Each of these areas would be a separate task. Start with one area and once it is complete to your liking, move on to the next. Some people like to do one room at a time and others like to move from room to room.
The goal is to complete each area before moving to the next, in whichever room it may be. I, personally, prefer doing all the tasks in one room and then moving to the next. It helps keep me focused and feel more accomplished as move from one clean room to the next daunting one. Bonus if you have kids, a spouse, partner or roommate! You can make this a team effort and break up the tasks among more people!
Team Up For Accountability
Attempting to do tasks that have been intentionally avoided isn’t easy or fun. Having someone hold you accountable can help you stay motivated. Identify a friend or family member either in your home or outside of the home who will help you stay on task. Let them know your plan for the day and let them know about the progress you’ve made at the end of the day. Perhaps they also have a goal they’d like to accomplish or an I’ll-get-to-that-later they can also work on. You can check in over the phone, or in-person. If you have the option of working as a team, even better.
Set A Timer To Help Stay On Task
Staying on task can be challenging. As you begin to make progress it often becomes easier. Once you’ve identified the area you will be working on, set a timer for 25 minutes. Before you start the timer, state your intention “for the next 25 minutes I will ….”. Start the timer and begin your work. When the timer goes off, set a timer for 5-10 minutes and take a break. At the end of the break, reset the timer for 25 minutes, set your intention and get back to work. Repeat this cycle three times. If you still have work to do, you can make a choice to continue or take a longer break. Breaks are important to maintain energy and focus.
Also, be careful not to get carried away in time-loss. This is not the time to go through photos and reminisce. That can be part of your reward to self after you finish.
Organize To Organize
Organizing while you organize makes the process a little easier. Creating keep, give-away, throw-away piles is a quick, simple way to sort through big and small piles and stashes. If you are organizing a space, consider whether it will actually work for you and how you think and work. Often people try to organize their life according to what works for others. What ends up happening is it doesn’t work for long because it doesn’t work for you. Figure out what will work best for you and how you flow.
High-five yourself along the way. If you stay super focused for 25 minutes, celebrate. Celebrate with yourself and celebrate with your accountability partner. Listen to music that is motivating, have your favorite drink or snack while you work, do what you need to do to make this less painful. This is not fun work, hence, why it’s been avoided. Celebrating even small accomplishments may seem silly, but also is a good way to keep motivated. Pairing something enjoyable with something not so makes doing the not so enjoyable task a little better.
There are many more suggestions on the internet for organizing your space, staying focus, prioritizing tasks and increasing motivation. These suggestions are very basic and also very helpful.
It is important to keep doing during this time of uncertainty and worry. Many face increased depression and anxiety when they spend too much time alone. Many are experiencing a sense of loss of identity if they are not able to work or have to work removed from others. Some are worried about becoming bored and restless. Those who struggle to stay sober will likely also find this time of isolation particularly challenging to follow their recovery plan which often includes in-person community supports. Those who struggle with chronic thoughts of suicide may also feel worried about their ability to use their safety plans that involve connection with others.
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean not doing. Finding creative ways of spending your time can help with depression, anxiety and stress. Should you feel you need or want more support with during this time of social distancing, we are offering online support to assist you. All of our clinicians are available for online therapy and even online organization help.
Julie is the owner of Denver Metro Counseling and has been working with teens and adults since 2006. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Associate Certified Coach, Approved Clinical Supervisor, EMDR Certified and an EMDR Consultant in Training. Julie specializes in working with trauma, suicide risk, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and supporting other therapist through personal and professional growth.
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people build positive relationships with themselves and others.
Reach out to your supports. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or need peer support from a trained specialist call the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text “help” to 38255.