For good mental health, do the D.I.S.H.E.S.

Written by Jeffrey Drugge, Ph.D. on March 30th during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

For many of us, practicing self-isolation and social distancing are the most difficult aspects of this crisis. As a mental health professional, I use this little memory device when I talk to other people about how they are coping, and I hope it may be of some use to you.

Artwork by Cindy Tsay

Do the D.I.S.H.E.S.

D: Disconnect as much as you can from news about the crisis. Good news will come slowly, as the sacrifices we make now start to make a difference. Obsessing about the news will not help that happen any faster. Relax, lose yourself in a book, a film, a game, a puzzle, or a hobby you have been neglecting; do anything you like that takes your mind away from the crisis.

I: Be Industrious (that is, work on something) every day, but know when to stop. In crisis situations, work can give our lives meaning and structure, but it can also take over our lives. This can be particularly true when we are working from home. As much as possible, call a regular part of the day “work” time and when that time is over, stop.

S: Socialize as much as your situation allows. Unfortunately, in-person social contact allows the virus to jump from one household to another, and that is why we must absolutely avoid it for now. However, our opportunities to connect with others from a distance are almost unlimited. We can chat as easily with friends across the world as across the street. Practicing social distancing is challenging, but it is our best hope to starve the virus and prevent it from continuing to affect our communities.

H: Help others as much as you safely can. Helping others gives our lives meaning and purpose. Most of us can help others by reaching out to those who may feel lonely, afraid or just bored. If we are employed or have means, we may be able to help those who may now have reduced incomes.

E: Exercise every day. Physical exercise is the most effective thing we can do to maintain our physical and emotional health. If it is safe to go outdoors, take a brisk walk. Indoors, if we have exercise equipment in our home, now is the time to use it, consistently, every day. If we don’t have such options, there are always activities which do not require equipment or space.

S: Sleep on a regular schedule. When our minds and bodies are responding to a crisis, regular and restful sleep can be hard to find, but we need it to stay healthy. At all times, good sleep hygiene includes going to bed at a regular time, avoiding television and internet before bed, having a quiet, dark place to lie down to sleep, and if you wake up and are unable to go back to sleep, choosing a quiet activity to do until you are sleepy again. We all face our challenges better after a good night’s sleep.

So, to review:

Disconnect from news about the crisis as much as you can

Industry – do some meaningful, sustained activity each day

Socialize as much as is safely possible

Help others as much as you safely can

Exercise every day

Sleep on a regular schedule

The current situation is challenging, but the virus’ fatal weakness is that it cannot spread unless we allow it to. By practicing social distancing and working together, we can defeat it. We can all help one another and ourselves to outlast the virus by doing the D.I.S.H.E.S., every day!