Currently, we are living in an anxious time. For many, what’s going on around us can trigger negative thoughts and feelings. I want to give you some tools to help manage your health during the coronavirus quarantine.
Manage Your Thoughts
While things are constantly changing around us day by day, it is normal to feel out of control. What we can have control over however, are our thoughts. When we have fear-based thoughts on loop in our minds, we will naturally feel anxious. Here is a great method I use to re-frame fear-based thoughts:
Step 1: Identify the fear-based thought. For example: “I’m scared about my kids catching the coronavirus, and I can’t sleep because of it.”
Step 2: Be gentle with yourself as you recognize the thought. For example: “Of course I am scared about this. This is a normal fear.”
Step 3: Replace this thought with a positive thought that is true for you. For example: “We are healthy right now, and we are taking the right precautions.”
This process will take some practice, but it is an effective way to pull yourself out of fear-based thinking.
Commit to Routine
While it may be tempting to stay in your pajamas and binge watch TV all day, I encourage you to follow a similar schedule to what you did prior to the quarantine. Wake up at the same time, get ready for the day, have tasks to complete for the day, and go to bed at the same time. It is tempting to have late nights and late mornings, but this will only disrupt the schedule that has kept you mentally and physically healthy.
What’s more, having a disrupted schedule will likely cause changes in the time you take medication, or possibly cause you to forget taking your medication altogether. This will have a negative effect on your mood, so committing to having a routine with your medication during this time is essential. Set an alarm on your phone if you need to!
Take Care of Your Body
During times of intense stress, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. There are simple things you can do to get your body out of fight or flight mode and into a more relaxed place. Here are some important ways to care for your body:
Diet: Rather than snacking all day, make sure to eat complete meals throughout the day.
Exercise: Exercise can be a great tool to combat anxiety and depression during this time. There are at-home workouts you can find online, or you might consider safely going outside for a walk or run, being sure to maintain a distance of six-feet to any passerby.
Sleep: Good sleep hygiene is necessary for our wellness. Allow yourself to get enough sleep and try sticking to the same bedtime every day. If you are struggling with anxiety before bed, make sure you are not watching the news close to your bedtime. It is normal to scroll through social media before falling asleep, but this will only keep your mind dwelling on the coronavirus. Try reading a book, journaling, or doing some deep breathing instead.
Take Care of Your Home
While everything around us seems to be out of control, allow your home to be a controlled, safe, and predictable environment. They say a chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind, so use this time at home to purge items you don’t need, reorganize, and clean. Following the first tool I mentioned, re-frame “I am stuck inside,” to “I can use this time to focus on my home!”
Work Around Isolation
Feeling isolated for long periods of time is a sure recipe for depression. Here are some tips I recommend to manage isolation during this time:
Schedule video or phone calls with friends and family. Not only will this help you feel more connected, but your presence during a stressful time will be a blessing to others!
Set boundaries with the news. Hearing the coronavirus news throughout the day will perpetuate your anxiety and cause you to feel more isolated. While it is important to stay informed, it is also imperative that you set limits on how often you will watch the news or stay on social media. Allow yourself to be updated, then move on.
Reach out for professional help. During times of high stress, it is common for some people to feel triggered; past grief or trauma may be resurfacing, issues you thought you had resolved may suddenly feel unresolved, and anxiety may feel unmanageable. If you are experiencing any of these things, it may be helpful to talk to someone.
Lean Into Spiritual Practices
Our spiritual tools are important now more than ever. They can create an overall sense of peace and calmness that greatly impact those around us. Here are some common spiritual methods for staying anchored:
Prayer & Meditation
Slow, deep breathing: Practice breathing in slowly for 4 seconds, hold it for 6 seconds, and slowly exhale for 7 seconds. Repeat this 3-4 times.
Practice Gratitude: Shifting our focus to what we have and what is going right in our lives is crucial for balancing the negativity going on around us. Try writing a few things you are grateful for each day. If you are co-quarantining with a partner or child(ren), try this practice with them.
I hope these tools serve you and help you find your power during this time.
Mishaal Riaz, M.A., LPC-Intern, is the Manager of Counseling Services at The Stewpot, under the supervision of Keri Riggs, M.A, LPC-S. She provides therapy for individuals who are at risk or experiencing homelessness, as well as psycho-education to the community.
If you would like to speak with Mishaal, she is available for phone and video consultations/sessions. You can reach her via email.
lead photo: courtesy of Edward Jenner/Pexels