Finding oneself required to stay at home can produce many different feelings.  Anxiety, frustration, loneliness, sad, overwhelmed – you might find that your emotions are running the entire gamut.  The lack of structure, changes in routine and the daily news updates on the COVID-19 pandemic are generating stress and anxiety in particular.  There is a tendency to want to catch up on all the things “you have to do”, or to complete all the “home projects” which you have been putting off for months.  However, the motivation and desire just aren’t there anymore. That’s because we need a different kind of “TO-DO” list, one that raises up our spirits and feelings of self-worth, not one that makes us feel even worse about ourselves!  See if you can commit to doing one of these items every day and record or share your progress. If you are with your family, you could also do this as a family activity. Enjoy this one-of-a-kind list to help you manage your mental health and well-being during a time when your self-care and the care of others should be the top priority.

1. Do One Educational Thing 

Of course, if you are being home schooled at the moment, or if you are trying to work out how to homeschool your children, then you already have this one covered!  The idea of this To-Do List, however, is to finish it feeling remarkably better than before you started. For the best effect, find something educational, or learn to do something that you have always wanted to be able to do.  For example:

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  • Learn about a wild animal on a nature channel

  • Learn how to do something technical – the remote control you have never been able to use!

  • Choose a period of history and watch a video

  • Learn how to change a tire on a car

  • Learn a strange fact

  • Learn American Sign Language – one sign every day

2. Do One Kind Thing for Someone Else

Think of a random act of kindness that you can do for someone in your family, your neighborhood, or community.  Doing a kindness for someone else has the psychological effect of making you happy too. https://www.happify.com/hd/science-of-giving-infographic/

  • Write a letter to a friend

  • Write a thank you letter to a parent or friend

  • Donate to a charity or cause on-line

  • Create a photo collage that you can give later to a friend or family member

  • Check in with someone you know is living alone

  • Volunteer for a chore around the house which you wouldn’t normally do

3. Do One Kind Thing for Yourself

Practice kindness or self-compassion towards yourself:

  • Write a list of all the things you like about yourself

  • Wear clothes that you were “saving for best”

  • Indulge by using the expensive toiletries which you got for Christmas

  • Meditate using an app

  • Nap for 20 mins during the day. Just 20 minutes is all you need to get the benefits of napping, such as improved alertness, enhanced performance, and a better mood. https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-long-to-nap/

4.  Do One Kind of Physical Activity

The positive physical and emotional impact of exercise cannot be understated.  The “feel-good chemicals” called endorphins are released through the body when you exercise, reducing depression and anxiety. Thirty mins or more exercise a day for three to five days a week is recommended to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Even as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day can make a difference. 

  • Making the beds in the house

  • Walking your dog

  • Gardening

  • Dancing to a favorite play list

  • Shooting hoops in your driveway

  • YOU tube exercise programs

  • Yoga

 5.  Do One Kind of Creative Activity

Whether you are creating something or watching someone else being creative, creativity is proven to improve mood and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression (1).  “I’m not creative”, I hear you say…. Everyone has a capacity to be creative or to enjoy creativity.  Remember it is the process not the end result which is just as important to creating positive feelings.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Art projects, drawing, painting

  • Coloring books or apps

  • Baking, decorating a cake

  • Compiling “outfits” from your closet

  • Sewing, knitting, crochet

  • Woodcraft

  • Decorating

  • Playing an instrument

  • Document a day using your smart phone camera

6.  Do One Kind of Humorous Activity

Laughing is something you need to take very seriously when it comes to your mental health.  There has been a great deal of research to support the hypothesis that there is a positive correlation between humor and positive mental health (2). Here is a small exercise you can do immediately.  Try curling up the sides of your mouth into a half smile and notice any changes to your mood.  Moving these muscles in your face can change your mood in a positive direction. Try some of these ideas:

  • Create a list of humorous movies or tv shows to watch as a family

  • Read through a list of jokes – and share them with someone else! 

  • Go through you photo albums and create an album of your funniest pictures or home videos

  • Create a list of your favorite memes and share them

  • Send a friend a random joke or meme over a text message

  • Watch a stand-up comedy routine

7.  Do One Kind of “Spiritual” Activity

In this category the definition of spiritual can be very broad and roomy.  If you don’t identify or relate to a particular religious or spiritual community, you can still participate in this activity by identifying some kind of power or force greater than yourself.  Much of the research on spirituality and mental wellbeing has found a significant correlation between the two (3).  Please incorporate your own spiritual beliefs and values into these exercises which are very general and not specific to any particular religion.

  • Find a photograph of something which helps you feel closer to a higher power

  • Meditate or pray for 10 minutes

  • Write a list of ten things for which you are grateful

For more information on Summit Psychological Services and COVID-19 please visit https://www.summitpsychologicalservices.com/covid-19

Psychologists Jeffrey S. Kahn, PhD, MAC, CGP, DABPS, and Alison W. Johnson, PsyD, had a vision.

They imagined a center where New Jersey’s most skilled psychotherapists—from all disciplines of applied psychology—could work under one roof. They saw a warm, welcoming, supportive space for individuals, couples, families, and groups of all ages. They pictured a communal environment that fostered counselor-to-counselor consultation and collaboration, and a spectrum of creative, innovative services.​

Most important, they envisioned a place where people could not only heal their psychological wounds—but also learn how to achieve their goals and live happier, more fulfilling lives.

Transforming dream into reality, Drs. Kahn and Johnson established Summit Psychological Services, P.A. in 1992. SPS has since grown to become one of the largest, most comprehensive private psychotherapy practices in New Jersey. Our Summit and Montclair offices have served thousands of people from northern and central New Jersey (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Union, Warren, and nearby counties); New York City; and Eastern Pennsylvania.

As an SPS client, you benefit from the best of all worlds: the comfort, privacy, and safety of a trusted therapist’s office; a wide range of services; and the depth and breadth of expertise offered by our multi-specialty team.

Summit Psychological Services offers two locations: in Summit at 482 Springfield Avenue and in Montclair, at 94 Valley Road. To reach us, contact Information@SummitPsychologicalServices.com or call 908-273-5558.

References:

(1) Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(2):254–263. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497.  

(2)  Yim J. Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2016 Jul;239(3):243-9. doi: 10.1620/tjem.239.243. Review. PubMed PMID: 27439375.

(3) Forrester-Jones, R., Dietzfelbinger, L., Stedman, D. et al. Including the ‘Spiritual’ Within Mental Health Care in the UK, from the Experiences of People with Mental Health Problems. J Relig Health 57, 384–407 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-017-0502-1