Mental Health and Skincare During Social Distancing

This is part of my series on wellness during the COVID-19 social distancing period. Click here to follow through the full series!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional (yet), so this is just my perspective on ways to help with your health during this time. I did have a board-certified dermatologist review the section on skin care! Please see a medical professional if you have any health concerns.

Sending my best wishes for your health and happiness during these times.

This goes along with finding a routine while adapting this major lifestyle change, but be sure to stay on top of taking any medications that you are prescribed. I know that when my daily schedule changed significantly - for example, when I would go home for winter break or am traveling - I often forget to take my vitamins and asthma inhaler, so I can imagine that with such a drastic lifestyle change, it is hard for people to remember to take medications.


Right now it’s really important to be active in your healthcare, so I just thought this would be important to mention. Setting an alarm or writing a reminder could help with this. Also, if you take vitamins, you can keep taking them, but there is a lot of misinformation going around about how various vitamins and supplements can “protect” or “prevent” COVID, and that is simply not true. The best ways to protect yourself are to practice good hygiene, home cleaning, and social distancing.

Related side note: Be sure to check that sources are valid

when reading any news or information about health or COVID!

A friend of mine who is a journalism major recommends picking

just ONE trustworthy news source that you feel comfortable getting

essential news from so you can stay updated without getting too

overwhelmed. And if keeping up with the news is making you anxious,

it is ok to take a break.


Mental Health

As this time of uncertainty and isolation can provoke anxiety and loneliness, it is especially crucial to take medications for mental health if that is a therapy you receive. It is important for everyone to be aware of their emotions and mental health right now, even if you have never experienced any mental health challenges previously. This is an unprecedented time and there is no right way to cope with all that is going on, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone will be affected emotionally in some way.


Love the encouraging messages from Morgan Harper Nichols!


A wonderful friend of mine, Mikaela, writes so eloquently about mental health and advocacy and I think she encapsulated this so well in her recent blog post, so I wanted to share some of her words with you:

“With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, anxiety is peaking for many people. Not only are we worried about getting sick or spreading illness to others, but also about what this spread means for our livelihood. Our income, housing, family systems, appointments, support, resources, and well-being can all be affected by this spread. That seems like a whole lot to worry about.
“With worry rising, we need to remember to take care of not only our physical health, but our mental health as well. Even when you are alone, you are not alone. If you are feeling worried, sad, or confused during this time, there are many resources available. You do not need to be face-to-face with someone to get help.”

Click here to read her full post - she has great resources, and I highly recommend checking out her other posts as well! She writes beautifully and speaks from the heart about important topics. I also think this site is a great resource: it is tailored to anxiety relating to COVID-19, and has ways to hear from experts, free meditations, fun ways to take breaks, and more!

Social distancing does not have to mean complete social isolation. Connecting with others is really key during this time; we can only get through this if we support each other. Although in-person contact is limited, you can stay in touch with friends and family through FaceTime, Zoom, social media, Netflix party to watch movies with friends, texting, phone calls - or even old-fashioned snail mail!


A pre-quarantine era postcard I got recently from a friend studying abroad!

Now is a fun time to send postcards and letters to those you love - I always think it is so fun to send and receive actual mail! You can do virtual brunch (or lunch or dinner or coffee) dates and either make a recipe “together” or just eat your own meals while you enjoy a nice chat!

For example, I did a virtual Mug Cake Monday (inspired by the event I organized for my medical school earlier this year) this morning, and it was so fun to share a recipe while getting to connect with my friends and Instagram followers! If you joined me, thank you so much and I hope you enjoyed your mug cake! I will be doing another virtual brunch this Saturday with my gal Maddie (check out her fun food blog Pescatarian Pisces - we will be doing a ballet barre (led by Maddie - she is a dancer at Juilliard and super talented!) followed by a barre-inspired workout (led by me), and then making a brunch! We haven’t decided on a recipe yet, but have some fun ideas, so stay tuned for timing and more details!

Skincare

As we all know, washing our hands and avoiding touching our faces is super important! Here is a guide to thoroughly washing hands, featuring a video by the chair of Dermatology at Northwestern (she is my mentor for my research project and is such an inspiration to me). Something fun to do is to sing a few verses of your favorite song when you wash your hands to make sure you are washing for long enough (at least 20 seconds).

With all this handwashing, it is also important to take care of the skin on your hands, especially if you are prone to dry, irritated skin! To do so, it is best to use lukewarm water and a soap without fragrance, pat your hands gently dry rather than rubbing them, and then immediately apply a moisturizing lotion or cream (ideally also without fragrance if your skin gets irritated easily). Wearing gloves when outside in windy, cold weather is also helpful - and will also minimize contact with fomites (objects and surfaces that can be contaminated with and transfer infectious particles like viruses).

Keep up your skincare routine as well; I know sometimes when I stay at home for a long time and don’t go anywhere, I get out of the habit of washing my face immediately after waking up, and it definitely makes a difference. So I am trying to be very conscious about sticking to my routine - cleanse, moisturize, and apply sun protection! See my post here for my skincare routine and advice.

SPF is your BFF - even when indoors!

If your social distancing location has windows (I sure hope it does; it would be rather sad otherwise!), it is a good idea to wear sunscreen on exposed skin. The sun’s rays will reach you through the windows, even if you are indoors! Interesting fact: dermatologists in the US see more sun damage and skin cancers on the left sides of people’s faces as opposed to the right, especially truck drivers or those who drive for long periods of time, due to the sunlight exposure from the car windows! So while it may not be intuitive to wear sunscreen if you don’t plan to go outside, if you spend a lot of time by windows, be sure to protect your skin!


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