Staying Mentally Fit During Social Distancing


mother feeding her daughter

Are you experiencing cabin fever? If so, you’re not alone. Sudden lifestyle changes and extended time at home is a reality for many during the COVID-19 outbreak. Social distancing, while necessary for slowing the spread of the coronavirus, can be challenging, especially for those already dealing with anxiety. But approaching social distancing in a strategic way can not only help you cope in the moment but be good for your overall mental health as well.

Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the COVID-19 outbreak can be stressful for people. The constant churning of coronavirus developments in the news and on social media can be overwhelming for adults and children alike. For some, the fear of catching the coronavirus—or having a loved one catch it—is a source of stress. For others, the feeling of isolation from social distancing can be unsettling. While everyone reacts to stressful situations differently, the CDC has outlined common behaviors of people affected:

  • Fear or worry about your own health and the health of loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Talk to your doctor if you believe stress is affecting your health. By knowing the source of your anxiety, you can put a plan into place to help calm it.

Challenges of Social Distancing

Social distancing remains one of the most effective measures you can take to lower the spread of the coronavirus. It protects your health and the health of your community. It places an emphasis on the practice of everyday health habits, like handwashing.

But it also has its fair share of issues. Essential employees are still expected to report to work, while some employed by non-essential businesses have actually lost their jobs. Even those who telework can run into difficulties. For example, if you’re a parent working from home, you may have to spend more time tending to your children with schools and daycares closed. In addition, too much time at home can spur feelings of irritability, isolation, loneliness, and helplessness in both adults and children.

What You Can Do About It

Social distancing can be inconvenient, but how you go about it can make a big difference. Here are some tips the CDC recommends for supporting your mental health:

  • Limit news consumption. Hearing about the coronavirus 24/7 can be upsetting. While it’s good to be informed, taking a break from watching, reading, or listening to news stories can be helpful.
  • Get active. Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it can be therapeutic as well. Go for a walk outdoors, jog, tend to your garden, or meditate. Do something you enjoy.
  • Eat healthy. A balanced diet with nutrient-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is good for your brain. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Unwind. Take deep breaths, try to relax as much as you can, and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Talk to someone. A nice conversation with a family member or friend that doesn’t involve COVID-19 is always a good thing. But if you’re feeling stressed, talk to someone you trust about how you feel.

TRICARE Mental Health Options

TRICARE covers a variety of mental health services ranging from therapy to non-clinical support services, such as Military OneSource. TRICARE even offers mental health services remotely through telemedicine when appropriate. Talk to your doctor if you believe stress is affecting your health. You can also contact the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line.

As you continue to take proactive steps to lower the spread of the coronavirus, remember to take charge of your mental health.

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At the time of posting, this information is current. Visit or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information.

Last Updated 6/13/2022