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These are strange, scary times. Life as we know it has flipped on its head. Restaurants, bars, parks, gyms, and stores throughout our community and around the nation are closed. People have canceled travel plans, and grocery store shelves empty rapidly several times a week, and mental health everywhere is on the decline. 

Most of us have never lived through anything like the COVID-19 outbreak, and, understandably, many of us feel intense fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

If we’re going to get through this, though, we have to take care of ourselves. Fortunately, there are still many ways to do that, even if you’re self-quarantining or social distancing. Here are a few of our favorite tips to protect your mental health during this challenging moment:

1. Go outside

If you live here in the Flathead Valley, you know the weather has been beautiful, even while downtown businesses have shut down, and people have stopped coming together. While social distancing and self-quarantine are critically important to take care of our most vulnerable populations, you can still get outside and enjoy that sun.

At the time of this writing, community fixtures like the Whitefish Trail system and the Hugh Rogers Wag Park are still open, so get out there and get some sun. You can keep track of park and trail statuses on the City of Whitefish website

2. Take a soothing bath

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far, and then I say: ‘I’ll go take a hot bath.'” – Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was right. If ever there were a time for a hot bath, this is it. Not only does hydrotherapy reduce stress and lower blood pressure, but it can soothe aches and pains, promote better sleep, enhance your mental health and wellbeing, and provide some much needed time to “unplug.” Make your bath even more relaxing by tossing in some Epsom salts, bath oils, oatmeal, or anything else that will soothe your body and lift your spirits. 

3. Cut down on media

There’s a difference between staying informed and binging disaster broadcasts. The former is smart, and the latter is crazy-making. With that in mind, limit your media intake to once or twice a day. 

During the times in-between, get off of social media, play some music instead of listening to the radio, and avoid television. Fill that time with something productive and uplifting, instead. If you can work from home, focus on being as efficient as possible. If not, read a book, take an online class via EdX, or learn a new skill. Your stress levels will thank you.

4. Start a mini-mindfulness practice

Even if you’ve never practiced mindfulness before, now is a great time to start. Apps like Headspace and Shine (which features short meditations curated by women for women) make it easy to carve out some chill time in the middle of a tense global moment. 

InsightTimer is another great meditation app, which features a brand-new talk by writer Elizabeth Gilbert on the topic of facing fear with compassion. While you’ll have to download the app to access the 23-minute recording, it’s so worth it. 

Bonus: in the interest of promoting mental health, most of these meditation apps are waiving any existing membership fees right now, so you can get all the goods without stressing yourself financially.

4. Give yourself a mental health spa day

Maybe you can’t get your nails done or schedule a haircut right now, but you can set aside some time to pamper yourself at home. After you take that nice, hot bath we talked about earlier, slather on your favorite exfoliating mask. Finish the experience off with some rich body moisturizer, a nourishing facial serum, and a spritz of stress-busting rosewater

5. Make your home smell nice

There are dozens of ways to do this. Cook a hearty, comforting meal, burn some sage, light up a candle that reminds you of summertime, or throw the window open to let in some fresh, spring air. Now is time to take comfort in the little things, and surrounding yourself with soothing scents is a great way to reduce stress and lift your mood. 

We’re all in This Together

Eventually, the world will stabilize again. Businesses will open their doors, restaurants will start seating tables again, and we’ll regain the sense of community and security we know and love. 

Until then, though, let’s do our part to keep vulnerable populations safe, be kind to those around us, and take care of ourselves in the process. Let’s all do our part to preserve our mental health, so we can be productive, loving members of society – as it were. If you’re struggling with stress or anxiety right now, the five tips in this post are practical, simple ways to make everyday life a little more comforting. 

If you want to reach out and extend that comfort to the people around you, there are dozens of ways to do that, too. Donate some money to your local food bank, place an online or take-out order at your favorite small business. These are trying times, but we can make them easier by sticking together.