We’ve all been in physical lockdown for four weeks now– forced to stay in our homes with very few opportunities to go out. Many of us have also been in an emotional lockdown, struggling to identify and manage our mental health. To make things a little easier, we’ve put together five ways to gain more control and happiness.

Keep in Contact with Friends

We’re stuck at home, with nothing to do, yet often times contacting our friends isn’t exactly our main priority. Right now the internet is our most powerful tool. Humans need face-to-face interactions and sometimes, let’s face it, we get tired of sharing the same space with our family 24/7.

It’s unhealthy to stay locked up and away from friends for a long time. AISB Counselor Lindsay Kehl says that “as much as possible going beyond just sending a text message or an email, to making it a voice message, to making it a video message or a video call, those ways of connecting are really important.”

By doing this you will not only be able to catch up with friends and their latest news, but you’ll also be able to have a bit of time alone with someone, or a group of people, other than your family.

This weekend, try getting a group of friends together on a Zoom call and play a game. Some popular options are:

  • Pictionary. If you have white boards, great. If not, just use scrap paper. Use a generator app to come up with words or phrases, decide on teams, and have fun drawing!
  • Charades. Similar to Pictionary (you can even use the same app to generate words), but acting instead of drawing.
  • Bingo. A fun way to do this is to decide on a movie or TV show beforehand, choose phrases or words that are said in the film/show, then watch together over Netflix Party.
  • Trivia. So many pubs all around the world aren’t able to host their weekly pub quizzes and are hosting online. Here’s a list of some of the best out there.
  • Online games through Jackboxgames. All you need to do is download the program from the site and run it through one of your computers. Then, you use your phones to play. Our favorite games are Drawful (like Pictionary) and the lying game, Fibbage. *Note, many of Jackbox’s games are suited for mature audiences.

Develop a New Skill or Hobby

Developing a new skill or hobby can take a lot of time and practice, but fortunately, we’ve got plenty of time to do this. In fact, when creating our distance learning schedule, “flex time” was something all administrators agreed on.

AISB Vice Principal Fiona Moss says, “We all need to carve out time to do these kinds of activities. Sometimes we schedule our students (and ourselves) so completely that there is no time/energy to pursue them.” She adds that “This could perhaps be one of the great gifts of this social distancing time; I’m learning how to play the Ukulele and how to make sourdough bread … two things I have wanted to learn for several years.”

Vera Kirsten Den Otter, AISB Counselor explains that from a mental health point of view, doing creative activities releases dopamine in our brains, which is “really important for our mental wellbeing–reducing stress and anxiety.”

Here are some ways to learn a new skill or hobby online:

  • Skillshare.com offers several free classes, and is now offering premium memberships for free, for the next two months. There are courses on animation, design, illustration, photography, film, and writing.
  • Udemy.com is another online learning platform, with 100,000 classes to choose from. On this site, you pay per course (from 12.50 Euros), which range from IT and software, to personal development and drawing.
  • Masterclass is a yearly subscription service, and the most expensive option on this list (182 Euros per year, unlimited access to classes). Right now, the site is offering a buy-one-get-one- free deal, so you could go in with a friend. Classes are taught by more than 80 different celebrities (Natalie Portman teaches acting, RuPaul Teaches Self-Expression, Timbaland producing and beatmaking, etc.).

Take Care of Your Body

Relaxing on the couch eating crisps may seem like the ideal way to spend your quarantine time, but as Coach Arif Akhundov says, “Distance is no reason to get unfit.”

The WHO recommends that we should all be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 75 minutes of high intensity workouts to maintain good health. This can be broken up into 10-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts during breaks (visit this list of HIIT apps to download), or simply five 30-minute walks throughout the week.

We also need to make sure we’re staying hydrated, as dehydration can lead to feelings of drowsiness and affects our overall health. If you usually bring a water bottle to school, make sure you’re filling it up as usual, and limit caffeinated and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Related Article: Tips on how to Work/Study from Home while Distance Learning

Another great way of staying physically healthy is keeping to a routine. When you write out a routine and stick to it, it gives your life more of a purpose and allows you to feel in control. It also allows you to build in positive habits like eating breakfast, working out, and going outside to get some vitamin D. A great app to help build these routines is called Loop Habit Tracker.

Take Care of Your Mind

An average, teenagers can spend up to seven hours on social media a day, according to Common Sense’s latest census report. In fact, many people are reporting up to a 185% increase in time spent on phones, much of that on social networking sites.

Social media can be a great tool, but in times like these, it can be a huge outlet for negativity and bad news. If you’re constantly checking social media and the news for the latest updates, then you’re constantly taking in all that negativity.

Ways to help:

  • Meditate. If you’re new to meditating, try downloading the popular Headspace app, or Calm.
  • Download an app to help reduce screen time.
  • Set a cut-off time and put your phone on airplane mode.
  • If you can, read a physical book. If this isn’t an option, there are many online services offering free e-books and audio books during the lockdown.

Get Outside

Right now it may seem hard, if not impossible, to do this. But most places in the world (including Romania) are still allowing people to leave their houses for exercise purposes.

The main reason for getting outside (besides getting space from family members and avoiding cabin fever)? Vitamin D. When our skin is directly exposed to the sun (without sunscreen, for 15 minutes), our bodies are able to produce this vitamin, which is essential for bone health and proper brain development and functioning. Studies have even found that low levels of vitamin D have been associated with depression.

Remember that this won’t last forever; we’re going to get through this.

It’s important to take things one day at a time and practice gratitude each morning. Things are beginning to go back to normal in China, and things are slowly getting better in Europe, too.

Also remember that the counselors are available over Zoom if you need extra support. You can visit their homepage for more details.

Please comment below if you have any more tips! We’d love to hear from our readers.