RED WING — Schools are out. Parents are working remotely. And now Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an order to prohibit nonessential travel outside the home and temporarily close some businesses in order to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The governor's "Safer at Home" order calls on Wisconsinites to self-isolate, including cancelling playdates, parties and large family dinners. There was no similar shelter-in-place order in Minnesota as of Tuesday, March 24, but the state health department recommended social distancing, particular for people 65 and older or with underlying medical conditions.

So how to keep from coming down with cabin fever?

The nonprofit mental health advocacy and education organization Mental Health Minnesota said anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic can be made worse by social distancing.

“Nationally, online screenings for anxiety have increased by nearly 20% over the last few weeks, and for many, social distancing inevitably means isolation and loneliness," said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director, in a news release.

The organization has tips for managing mental health here (link is external). Suggestions include:

  • Check-in with others and connect through more than just email, text and social media.
  • Maintain structure in your day.
  • Take breaks from social media and news articles that are focused on COVID-19.

Dr. Jennifer Radtke / Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing
Dr. Jennifer Radtke / Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing

For more, we reached out to Dr. Jennifer Radtke, an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing. Here's what she had to say about keeping it together while staying at home.

Q: For folks who work best around others, what are some ways to keep from feeling cut off or lonely when working from home?

RADTKE: Working from home doesn’t mean being all alone or out of touch. You may be connecting with others more via email or over the phone, but that doesn’t exclude make personal connections. Develop those relationships by asking a co-worker how they are feeling. Share a few conversations about how you are coping with the changes going on, and find out what others are doing. Staying in touch with friends and family is important, too, whether it is a phone call, video chat or through social media.

Q: On the flipside, how can we keep from getting on the nerves of family members sharing the house all day?

RADTKE: Remember that this is a temporary situation, and emotions are heightened. Use your personal support network to generate ideas about how to solve problems and help diffuse tension. Stretch, meditate or practice deep breathing when you feel angry or overwhelmed. Remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Set up a virtual play date with your child's friend. Kids can be fulfilled from watching others play. Children can also take part in the same activity by virtually playing with each other, resulting and supporting parallel play.

Q: What's the importance of keeping a routine during this time of social distancing?

RADTKE: Routines are comforting because they help us know what to expect, even when other areas of our lives are disrupted. Routines are especially important for families with children. During social isolation, call grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends you normally would be interacting with, or connect with them via FaceTime or similar apps. This will help children not feel as isolated as they continue to maintain and build relationships with their loved ones. Set up a virtual play date with your child's friend. Kids can be fulfilled from watching others play. Children can also take part in the same activity by virtually playing with each other, resulting and supporting parallel play.

Q: What about exercise?

Yes, exercise is doubly good because the diversion can relax your mind while you do something that is positive for your body. Walking and other moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to help stabilize your mood and help with depressive symptoms. Studies have also found that regular exercise helps people better control their stress and regulate their emotions. Besides the emotional and physical benefits, exercise also has been shown to enhance learning and sharpen memory. And there are many forms of exercise to choose from that don’t conflict with following social distancing, such as walking, running, yoga and floor exercises, to name a few.

Mental Health Resources

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