With COVID-19 cases increasing and hospital beds filling up, state governors and local leaders may order additional lockdown measures. Lockdowns typically limit social gatherings and require non-essential businesses to close. The goal is to slow the spread of the coronavirus before hospital systems get completely overwhelmed with patients. 

Lockdowns put a strain on individuals and families physically, mentally, and financially. The better prepared you are, though, the easier it will be for everyone. 

The Impact of a Lockdown

Lockdowns serve a noble purpose, but they affect everyone differently. One study found that young adults, women, and people with lower incomes were among those most likely to report feeling lonely during COVID-19 lockdowns. 

To combat feelings of isolation, follow these tips from Jennifer Wild, a consultant clinical psychologist and author of the book 7 Key Skills to Transform Your Life From Ordinary to Extraordinary.

Plan Ahead for Each Day

Planning gives your life purpose and structure, which can help keep negative thoughts and worries at bay. Create a routine that requires you to get up at a certain time each day. Make coffee, eat breakfast, browse your phone for a little, and then tackle your to-do list within thirty minutes to an hour of waking up. 

Make each day's list the night before so you know exactly what you need to do. That will prevent you from lying in bed all day, leading to fatigue, lethargy, and poor mental health. Your list can include things like "take a shower," "fold laundry," "read two more chapters," or "call cousin Gina." Just stay busy. 

Give Yourself Three-Minute Rewards

Sometimes it feels difficult to get things done during a period of isolation. But you're more than capable of doing any task for three minutes at a time. 

Tell yourself you'll do something for just three minutes, such as washing the dishes or reading through work emails. After three minutes, decide if you'll reward yourself with a break, positive self-talk, or a snack. Or keep going for another three minutes. You may be surprised how much you get done after overcoming the hurdle of just getting started.

Keep a Worry Diary

If you worry a lot, try writing down your worries in a notebook. This can help clear space in your mind by safely storing your thoughts on paper, and decreasing rumination -- having one thought go through your mind over and over. 

Get into the habit of reviewing last week's worries. Now that some time has passed, do those worries seem overblown? How many came true? With practice, you'll start to recognize that most worries only exist in your mind. 

Practice Positive Imagery

Isolation and loneliness can increase negative thoughts. It's important to break the negativity cycle, but the lockdown may make your usual distractions -- like hanging out with friends or going to the gym -- less accessible. 

Start practicing positive imagery. Choose a thought or memory that makes you happy. Take yourself on a mental tour of your dream home, for example, or imagine yourself performing really well at your favorite sport. Practice focusing on these positive images when you feel upbeat so that it's a little easier to recall them when negative thoughts intrude. 

Talk to Your Confidant Team

Reframe how you think about a lockdown: it's a chance to really focus on strengthening your mental health. But you don't have to do it alone. 

If you have struggled with worries, anxiety, or depression in the past, you may benefit from professional support during a lockdown or period of isolation. Regularly check in with your Confidant team via the app for help setting goals, developing a daily routine, and thinking positive thoughts.