A lot of us feel helpless right now. We feel scared, or outright terrified. And not just because of a virus, but because of how it has impacted almost every aspect of our lives, the economy, the ability to find toilet paper (too soon?) and our health and safety.
And now the quarantines.
We all have to stay home — and this can be tough, but it’s absolutely necessary in order for our country to survive this
(and to protect those whose bodies are ill equipped to fight COVID-19). But with kids at home with no school, bills that need paying, job insecurity, and financial hardship, it’s hard for this “break” to feel like a blessing.
While some of us can work from home or get some PTO to make ends meet, many Americans (and global citizens, for that matter) can’t go to work and don’t have paid time off. Children who rely on school meals to eat are in trouble. There’s so much uncertainty, leading the fear to seep in even deeper.
But these are all things we can’t control. Truly, this part of the current situation is entirely out of our hands. And while we don’t have the answers or fixes to a lot of these problems, we do have one thing we can control: our mood and our attitude.
How do we make the most of an otherwise sh*tty situation? How do we maintain connection in a time of social distancing? How do we keep ourselves from mentally falling apart?
This may (initially) sound trite, but … self care (I know, I know). But hear me out:
we have control over our outlook, and by taking care of ourselves at home and using every tool in the box that we have for our mental health, we may be able to better face the challenges ahead.
Create a Bucket List
All the to-dos, books, hobbies, projects, and activities you keep meaning to get to? Now is your time to do them. Write down all the home projects (Pantry organization? Cleaning out your closet? Refinishing a chair?), books and movies you’ve been meaning to get to, hobbies you’ve wanted to take up (New recipes? Learning a new language?), and self-care things you wish you had time for (Coloring? Jigsaw puzzles?). Get it all down on a piece of paper, and start right away. Even if you only spend an hour a day getting to these, you might feel a little stronger mentally having taken care of your own personal to-dos, especially since we de-prioritize these so often.
Carve Out Time Every Day for Mediation and Yoga
This aspect of our brain-body connection is so important, and its effects are better if you commit to a daily practice — even just five minutes. Whether you’re using a special app for these practices or simply going through your own regimen, the end result is the same: an activated parasympathetic nervous system (aka, the “off button” to your fight-flight-freeze response) and a calmer, healthier mind and body. This is one of the absolute best ways to relieve stress and anxiety (according to my psychiatrist). I’ll personally be using apps like Calm, FitOn and Glow by PopSugar to help me do some Yin and daily meditation during lockdown.
Learn and Grow
Nourish your brain and find something productive to direct your thoughts toward. In this case, you can seriously use the internet to your advantage. Learn a language or new skill, take a business course, further your education, teach yourself a program. Whether you use the MasterClass app, tune into some YouTube classes, download an app to learn Italian or Japanese, listen to educational podcasts (might I suggest the new Svn Space podcast, The Space?), or start to read some educational books (self development totally counts). This truly is limitless. Start a digital book club with your friends! Take a virtual tour of the Louvre or a zoo (or another museum or destination). Connect with a tutor on Skype or FaceTime, or sign up for an online course with a buddy.
Get Some Fresh Air
Even if it’s just on your patio, porch, backyard, or through an open window: get some air. Get some sun. This seriously helps, especially if you get some of that sun early in the day (it helps to calibrate your circadian rhythm so you can get better sleep).
Working out at home is more than just about staying fit or losing weight — it helps you from going stir crazy. When you can’t get to your regular gym or studio, you might find yourself glued to the couch. Get some of that stress out of your system by breaking a sweat and getting your heart rate up. There are zillions of free workout videos on YouTube, and several fitness companies are offering free at-home workouts on apps during the COVID outbreak.
Clean Your Space
When things feel out of control and anxiety is at the wheel, sometimes it helps to feel a sense of control over your space (and it’s a good idea to keep things extra clean during a viral pandemic, anyway). Scrub the stress away by doing a deep clean of your house. Organize your closets and cupboards, make a donation bag of items you need to KonMari (set free anything that doesn’t spark joy, sister), clorox your shower, sinks, and toilets, lysol the doorknobs and light switches, mop, dust, vacuum, do laundry… you get it. It’s a daunting task when you’ve got to be in the office every week day, but if you find yourself with lots of free time during quarantine, you can now tackle all of it. And just think of how good (and energized) you’ll feel with a clean, tidy space.
Nourish Your Body and Mind
Ensure, the best you can, that you’re getting high-quality foods in your body. It can be particularly tough during times of intense stress, but try your best to get lots of healthy foods and an array of nutrients into your system. The cleaner the fuel, the better off you’ll be. Of course, we’re also partial to using CBD as part of this nourishment, whether it’s in a tincture, capsule, or edible treat. Other anti-stress nutrients include magnesium (a little Calm powder in a glass of water goes a long way), omega-3 fatty acids (get that salmon, girl — it’s for your brain!), and L-theanine (which can be found in some teas and supplements).
Find a Self Care Ritual You Love
You can sit in silence for 15 minutes with a cup of coffee or tea. You can use all your fancy bath products and take a hot soak with a book. You can take that book onto your porch and read in the sun for an hour. You can bust out the colored pencils and spend time filling out a cat-themed coloring book. You can snuggle your dog, or do a 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle. You can have a Harry Potter or Star Wars marathon. Find something that allows you to tune out for at least a little bit each day — this is super important not just for your health, but surviving and keeping your head above water during an intensely tough time.
Assemble Your Team
Whether it’s a group text, a FaceTime with mom, or a virtual appointment with a therapist (or all of the above), it’s important to not isolate yourself mentally when you’re isolated physically. You’re not alone. Get your team together, stay in close communication, vent your struggles, and ask for help when and where you need it.
We don’t want to gloss over the gravity of the situation that millions of people are facing right now with a “just take a hot bath and meditate!” approach. This isn’t to say that this list will effectively make all your problems disappear — not even slightly. Again, we don’t have the answers to this massive systemic, economic, societal, logistic, and health crisis at hand (Do you? Does anyone? Pls advise).
But when things are entirely out of your control, it’s imperative that we all take steps to ensure our heads are clear.
Mental health is more important now than ever, and the stronger we are mentally, the braver we will be when we face the next steps in the coming weeks.
Do what you can to take care of yourself, friends. And pass it on — we all need a little more strength and calm right about now.
Written by: Dominique Astorino