Back to Top Skip to main content

'Home sweet home' leaves a sour taste for some quarantine-weary

Family playing board game Army Col. Nathan Keller and his family have enjoyed group activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also schedule solo time. (Courtesy photo Army Col. Nathan Keller)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

As physical distancing continues in efforts to avoid the spread of COVID-19, the old saying "there's no place like home" might be sounding bittersweet. Whether people live alone or with others, they may be experiencing fear, anxiety, and frustration over restricted movement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidance about businesses and workplaces reopening. But health care experts say until there's widespread testing and a vaccine for the contagious virus, staying home as much as possible remains the safest course of action. So how can people cope with the continued challenges of being largely confined to home?

"Human beings are social creatures and need to maintain connections through a variety of relationships that offer social support and a sense of security," said Army Col. Nathan Keller, Ph.D., director of the student counseling center at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

"When we're unable to do that, we can become frustrated and anxious," said Keller, who's also a clinical social worker. That's why it's important to focus on the positive aspects of your particular living situation, mental health experts say, and use available resources to stay connected to sources that help relieve stress.

"Being confined with others is beneficial because it's a collective experience," said Keller, who lives with his wife and their 17-year-old daughter. "You have the ability to commiserate, and to understand this isn't something that's happening only to you. You can focus on taking care of each other, remind one another of positive memories, and create new shared experiences."

For those who live alone, "Maybe there's a sense of relief or gratitude that you can focus on what you need to do without any disruptions," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tarah Lewis, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and assistant professor in USU's Graduate School of Nursing.

"And you can devote as much time as you want on personal projects," said Lewis, who lives alone in what she describes as a tiny one-bedroom apartment in downtown Bethesda.

"I don't even have a pet," she said. "And I don't have a car. I'm used to being outside, walking around and going to restaurants and shops, and that kind of thing."

Lewis said people who live alone may be particularly vulnerable to feeling lonely, "maybe even envious of others," she said. "You go on social media and see families going camping, or roommates cooking brunch together."

Reaching out to others helps.

For Lewis, that means online fitness challenges with friends, and playing games such as "two truths and a lie" during after-work video conferences with co-workers.

"That was really fun because I learned things about my colleagues that I never knew," Lewis said. "I actually felt more connected with some of them than I ever did before, even though I went into the office every day" pre-pandemic.

People who live with others need to find time alone, "even in a crowded house," Keller said. "Focusing on yourself when you live with others may sound selfish, but you need that self-care time so you have the patience and energy to support others."

Alone time might mean listening to music, dancing solo, reading, going for a walk or run, or meditating. "Think of those things that you find joy in, and put those in your toolbox," Lewis said.

Whether on your own or with others, Keller and Lewis suggest the following:

  • Stick with a schedule. "Having a routine provides structure and some sort of normalcy," Lewis said. Keller said his family created a plan so they're getting up at the same time, working the same hours, and eating meals together. Their schedule also allots personal and family fun time.  
  • Move your body. Exercise helps you feel better physically and mentally
  • Cut yourself some slack. "There are days where you're not going to feel as productive as you usually are, or you're not going to be the perfect parent or spouse," Keller said. "It's OK to have those moments."

"It's OK to not feel OK," Lewis added. "There's no shame in saying, I'm feeling off, and I need to talk to somebody." The Department of Defense's Psychological Health Center of Excellence offers information on mental health resources including call centers and mobile apps.

  • Keep your eye on the prize. "Eventually, this will pay off, and we're going to come out of it more resilient," Keller said. "We're not going to be stuck like this forever."

Lewis said, "The way I see it is, we're at war. And the boots on the ground are the health care providers and front-line workers. And my role? I'm going to practice physical distancing. I'm going to wash my hands. I'm going to cover my face if I have to be around other people. I'm going to do my part. Those are things that I have control over, and I take great comfort in that."

You also may be interested in...

Confronting the Coronavirus and Countering Complacency

Article
7/2/2020
Masked Navy members consult clipboard.

Call it the COVID-19 complacency conundrum.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Pentagon leaders brief department's COVID-19 response to reporters

Article
7/2/2020
Three men sit at blue table with American Flag and Pentagon symbol behind them.

The COVID-19 pandemic affects each area of the nation differently. Local leaders at military installations decide protocols for public safety on a case-by-case basis. The Military Health System supports those leaders by providing health surveillance data, updated to reflect current information.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

BAMC Change of Command 2020

Article
7/1/2020
Two masked soldier display an award in front of flags.

Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Wendy Harter, the first female commander in Brooke Army Medical Center’s history, turned over command to Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Shan Bagby, the first African American commander in BAMC’s history during a June 26 change of command ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

COVID-19 leads to innovation in military health care practices

Article
7/1/2020
Man in lab coat and mask prepares sample for COVID-19 testing.

MHS thinks outside of the box to bring care to patients during pandemic

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation

The role of data in the war against COVID-19

Article
6/29/2020
Clinician with mask looks at computer screen at a hospital.

How DoD’s COVID-19 registry supports readiness and health

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

How the military stays ready during disease outbreaks

Article
6/29/2020
Headshot of Dr. Sanchez

A Q&A with a health surveillance professional at Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Coronavirus

Summer PCS plans altered by COVID-19

Article
6/29/2020
Man wearing mask loading boxes into a car

Service members and families have suggestions to keep you safe.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Summer Safety

Invisible wounds: understanding PTSD

Article
6/26/2020
Service member appearing distressed with hand on head.

Identifing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and how to seek treatment.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Mental Health Care

BACH Civilian earns RHC-A Civilian of the Year

Article
6/26/2020
Soldier and woman standing by two flags, crossed.

[Guidry] will advance to the U.S. Army’s Medical Command (MEDCOM) Civilian of the Year competition later this year.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

DoD trains staff to collect convalescent plasma donations

Article
6/26/2020
A service member donates convalescent plasma at a blood donation center.

Learn about training features, locations, timetable

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

MHS Minute: DoD Focused on COVID-19 Testing and Treatment

Video
6/25/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

Have you recovered from COVID-19, or tested positive for antibodies? Consider donating convalescent plasma. To learn how, go to https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Army 2nd Lt. first to donate convalescent plasma at Benning

Article
6/24/2020
Soldier in chair, giving blood

Convalescent plasma contains antibodies to fight the disease.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Pharmacy Operations Division (POD) Reverse HPCON Status Guidance

Publication
6/24/2020

Guidance for Outpatient MTF Pharmacies in Response to COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID Pharmacy Guidance

Download Letter to Beneficiaries

Publication
6/24/2020

This message replaces guidance issued on March 31. It explains actions military pharmacies are taking to keep services and visits safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it outlines your pharmacy options as a TRICARE beneficiary.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID Pharmacy Guidance | TRICARE Health Program

DHA’s new MEDLOG IT PMO supports MHS logistics

Article
6/23/2020
Soldiers loading boxes onto helicopter

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MEDLOG IT PMO provided essential medical logistics IT and supply chain support across the MHS and Department of Defense.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Solution Delivery Division
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 16

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.