From classes getting moved online, to daily routines being altered, being in quarantine has forced us to adjust and adapt to a new normal. It can be overwhelming and stressful, as most unexpected events are.
To help us manage and cope during this period, Mansi Brat, a clinical therapist at the Barnes Center at The Arch, shared some insightful tips on navigating our mental health during quarantine.
Q: How can we stay connected with our peers without overwhelming ourselves?
Mansi: “As much as social distancing and practicing healthy hygiene is relevant, so is our basic need to connect with peers, professors, and our loved ones around the world.
As we adhere to social distancing and self-isolation best practices, many of us are feeling the grime that lack of social connections, physical touch and communion can bring. But remember, we are not alone! Fortunately, we live in a global era of mass technology. Technology has surpassed physical distances, time, location and ways of communication.
Set aside a time for your social wellness. Commit yourself to reaching out to a friend, a peer, a loved one, or mentor/teacher every other day. A ritual of every other day may not be as daunting or over-idealistic, yet, a good balance to maintain the human connection that most individuals thrive on. Support in the form of heartfelt conversations, or simply “presence” on the flip side of the screen, can be cathartic in many ways.”
Q: Now that we’re off-campus, and confined to our homes, how can we practice mindfulness in our day-to-day life?
Mansi: “Mindfulness is everywhere. The good thing about this practice is that we don’t have to go anywhere for it. Rather, mindfulness is the very act of becoming conscious of the “moment” and embracing the present as it unfolds. In our homes, these moments can be found in between conversations with family members; while washing dishes, folding laundry, watering plants, and while feeding our pets. There are a number of great online resources to engage in mindful exercises. One of my favorite sites is mindfulnessexercises.com.”
Q: How can we incorporate mindfulness in our life, going forward?
Mansi: “Mindfulness does not always evoke positive feelings or emotions. Many a times, the practice involves connecting with the difficulties that are arising in our day-to-day life. Going forward, as we all continue to adapt to social distancing and how our life has upended, it’s important to let our emotions arise as they are and connect with them.
Integrate the guided meditations and practices in your daily rituals, available online, through Sanvello or on the ESE YouTube channel. Journal about the feelings that are surfacing for you, reflect on it, and talk about it. Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “The weather of our own lives is not to be ignored or denied. It is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in high awareness.”
Q: How important is it to set boundaries in order to maintain a healthy mind?
Mansi: “Our minds tend to operate on automatic patterns that are mostly unconscious. When we are setting boundaries—for example, no screen time after a certain hour in the day—we are training our minds to adapt to a new pattern, a healthy way of being that influences our vitality and energy, in a positive way.
Boundaries can be shielding, a safeguard from burnout, sickness and self-sabotaging behaviors. A healthy mind has an awareness of when to stop or say no to something. With patience, mindfulness practices will lead you to this awareness.”
Q: What are some healthy daily routines we can practice?
Mansi: “Old habits can be numbing. Habits become so ingrained in our nervous system that we continue to rely on them, even when they are no longer beneficial to us. From time to time, reflect on your daily routines and notice the impact they are having on you. If not useful, alter your rituals.
Daily routines can vary from person to person. The ‘5AM Club’ talks about a 20-20-20 structure, where you wake up at 5 a.m. to do 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of planning and 20 minutes of studying. Not all of us are early risers, so you can always tailor the routine per your needs.”
Q: What are some ways to get into a routine, and stick to it?
Mansi: “It’s always beneficial to have camaraderie when we start something new, a buddy whom could tag along and show up when we are not feeling it. Accountability partnerships are advantageous for setting a routine and sticking to it. Such partnerships provide an opportunity to mentor someone on habit formation, while you also obtain value in exchange.”
Q: Since we’re unable to go to the gym for now, how can we still manage to stay active at home?
Mansi: “The Barnes Center at the Arch is offering several virtual resources that students can partake in, from the comfort of their homes. From virtual fitness classes ranging from bodyweight exercises to mindful stretching and yoga, anyone can get a feel-good workout into their day.”
Interviewer’s Note: And for those who want to begin their fitness and wellness journey but don’t know where to start, Cuse Fit Chat is here to help. The Barnes Center is offering FREE access to its personal trainers and resources to all SU students, faculty and staff. All you have to do is schedule a time in the allotted slots and get ready to begin a healthier lifestyle!
Q: Are there any other tips students can use in keeping a steady mind during this time?
Mansi: “These are unprecedented times. A majority of us have never experienced a pandemic and safe to say, we won’t be the same after this experience. Each of us will have our own esoteric way of telling our ‘story.’
Find practices and rituals that resonate with you and support your inner-wellbeing. This could be exercising in your living room, meditating with a friend over Zoom, practicing Mindful communication with your parent, connecting with a long lost friend, checking in with your grandparents who live in a different city, or sending a prayer to our front-line workers who are putting their life at stake for us.
What’s pivotal in these times is to build a network of grace and care. To practice self-compassion. To extend compassion beyond our family and ourselves. To continue to co-exist and show up for one another and for our world!”
A special thank you to Mansi for taking the time to compile these informative tips on staying well and sane during this time of uncertainty. You can read Mansi’s full bio on the Barnes Center website.
Words of encouragement to reflect on during this time of unity:
“When you go out and see the empty streets, the empty stadiums, the empty train platforms, don’t say to yourself, ‘It looks like the end of the world.’ What you’re seeing is love in action. What you’re seeing, in that negative space, is how much we do care for each other, for our grandparents, for the immuno-compromised brothers and sisters, for people we will never meet.
People will lose jobs over this. Some will lose their businesses. And some will lose their lives. All the more reason to take a moment, when you’re out on your walk, or on your way to the store, or just watching the news, to look into the emptiness and marvel at all of that love.
Let it fill and sustain you. It isn’t the end of the world. It is the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness.” – Anonymous (ThisIsGlamorous)
Written by Michelle Velez ’20, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications