We’re all aware that the coronavirus pandemic has not only taken an immense toll on our physical health, but also our emotional and mental health. Research from Healthline and YouGov found that 49% of Americans reported showing some signs of depression during the pandemic, a number that has historically been just 37%.
While the prospect of reopening has lifted many people’s spirits, concern around a second wave has some weighing the pros and cons of returning to life as normal. If you’re feeling stressed about your state easing guidelines, here’s how to manage your physical and mental health.
Just because your state is reopening doesn’t necessarily mean you can live as if the pandemic never occurred. COVID-19 is still present across the country, with surges happening in states like Texas, Arizona and Florida.
Research has shown social distancing combined with quarantining measures (like travel restrictions and school closures) has had a significant effect on the reduction of COVID-19 transmission. In fact, if lockdown measures had been put into place just one week prior in the U.S., experts estimate 36,000 COVID-19 deaths could’ve been prevented.
While you can’t control the actions of others, you can help reduce your own impact (and anxiety) by continuing to follow steps encouraged by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): stay six feet apart from other people, wear a face mask in public, wash hands for 20 seconds and disinfect your home frequently.
Support local, but don’t go overboard
Our habits changed drastically during the quarantine, and our spending patterns changed right along with them. Spending went up at grocery stores and some home goods stores, and one in three people purchased a new subscription service (think Netflix, Instacart and Amazon Prime) while sheltered in place.
But overall, spending in the U.S. went down, with Americans saving an average of $219.72 each month, according to N26, a European banking company.
If, like most Americans, your spending went down during the pandemic, you can help stimulate the economy by supporting local businesses once they begin reopening. Buy gifts for friends and family from local boutiques instead of big-box retailers. Eat at the small local cafe’s patio instead of dining at a major chain. Fill your prescriptions with the mom-and-pop pharmacy down the street instead of a national franchise.
If you don’t feel ready to venture out into the world, don’t force yourself to. Consider buying gift cards to local businesses to help them reopen, but then use them when you feel more comfortable being in public. And don’t go overboard with your spending: Adding financial stress to mental stress will only increase your anxiety.
As states across the country begin opening up and easing their restrictions, don’t feel the need to jump right back into your former routine. Slowly getting back to normal can help you adjust and help mitigate a second wave of the virus.
If you began working from home during the pandemic and your company will allow you to do so for a few more months, consider setting up shop from your home office for a bit longer. Continue visiting the grocery store just once per week. Make restaurant visits a special, rare treat instead of a bi-weekly occurrence. Limit your number of salon visits per year. Shop online instead of visiting department stores and big retailers. Avoid the gym as long as possible, and opt for outdoor exercise instead.
States across the U.S. are beginning to allow small gatherings, which means anywhere from 10 to 25 people, if not more, can get together for birthday celebrations, small weddings, holiday barbecues and more. Although it’s likely safe to socialize outdoors (and indoors with a face mask on) in states that are on the downward trend, there are still some best practices you should keep in mind.
Remain six feet away from other people at all times. Avoid unnecessary touching, like hugging and handshaking. Disinfect your hands anytime you touch a shared surface. If you’re eating with others, opt for your own meals instead of engaging in family-style dining. If you’re visiting a restaurant with friends, try going during off-hours when it’ll be less crowded.