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Managing Mental Health During a Pandemic

July 1, 2020

From the desk of Peter Glanville, Summer 2020 Neuger Intern

Amid the global pandemic we are in, it is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain a reasonable level of productivity and motivation. For many, boredom has become routine, a daily foe that is more and more threatening as time progresses. Many of us combat it by binging the latest Netflix series, diving into deep YouTube wormholes or by spending too much time on social media.

It is important to cut yourself some slack for not being what society deems as “productive,” especially now when it seems like we are constantly being swept up in a cycle of bad news: social strife, looming COVID-19 spikes, political shenanigans … you name it. But what happens after you’ve watched your favorite show multiple times, exhausted your video recommendations and spent maybe a little too much time with the people you’re cooped up with in your household?

Reduce Screen Time

It doesn’t take much research to learn that the outlying problem for people and their mental health right now is the sharp tick in daily screen time. Pre-COVID-19, the average adult spent roughly three and a half hours every day using the internet or applications on their iPhones, according to a recent Washington Post article. Since the pandemic hit the U.S., that average has increased by about 30 percent. No wonder iPhone users dread their weekly screen time notification!

I’ve found it easier to manage my screen time by setting daily limitations for each app that I frequently use, which you can control in Settings on your phone or computer. Limiting your blue light exposure at bedtime will allow you to develop more sustainable sleeping habits. No more nocturnal routines or hitting the snooze button too many times. Here’s how to add individual time limits in screen time, from The Sweet Setup.

Exercise Your Mind

Although it is crucial to allow yourself to check out and find solace in the simple pleasures of your electronic confidants, it is equally important to practice healthy habits of developing your cognitive abilities and tending to mental health. Treat your brain like a muscle: if you don’t work it out, it will get weak!

Now is the perfect time to sink into your sofa after – or during – a stressful day, and escape with your favorite author or book series. While still abiding by social distancing, you can form book clubs with a few friends or family members. It has been proven that reading improves “theory of mind,” which is the ability to empathize –important now more than ever – with others and understand beliefs different than our own. Reading can effectively inform or divert your attention, depending on what experience you’re looking for. Regardless of the book’s genre, a healthy reading habit will expand your interpretation and articulation capabilities much better than Netflix’s Tiger King series.


Another method I have found useful for passing time without relying on a screen is simply cleaning and organizing personal space at home. Take care of that mountain of dirty clothes that has swallowed your favorite chair, wipe down the coffee stains on your work desk or scrub the leaning tower of dinner plates in your sink. In a time where cleanliness is essential, it is wise to adhere to sanitary routines. Having an organized and tidy work and living space can prevent the feeling of being in a perpetual state of “clutteredness.” The better you feel about your workspace, the better you will feel about your work.

Ultimately, challenging yourself to grow during this stagnant span is all that matters. If these specific alternatives don’t interest you or seem to help, find other methods. Learn guitar and serenade your coworkers on virtual calls. Create a new recipe that you can bring to a dinner party (whenever that may be). You can take any approach as long as you can tolerate the growing pains of learning something new. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Above all else, be safe, be smart and be patient with yourself.

Check out these resources from NAMI about mental health during quarantine and how to practice safe habits.