Managing Anxiety in Isolation
Many of us have made the wise choice to quarantine and “shelter in place” for the next few weeks to help lower the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. In doing so, we have also canceled any future travel plans, prepared for isolation by stocking up and are creating our “new normal” when it comes to working and teaching our kids schoolwork from home. It is no wonder our stress levels have skyrocketed as well as our anxiety levels.
When the dust settles and we sit and really take note of all the changes that needed to be made on a quick basis, it can be overwhelming. Those capsized travel plans, information overload and panic over scarce toilet paper is a perfect recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of sadness and isolation.
Here are some great tips to use to survive the flux of negative and worrisome thoughts that may flutter in and out of your world right now:
Shift your paradigm. Approach this time with a changed mindset of slowing down, experiencing all the little moments and focus on your needs.
• Instead of thinking of this quarantine as “I have to be stuck at home” to “I can finally focus on me, my home and my family.” This work-from-home policy is a great opportunity to take your attention from external factors to more internal. • Make sure you are doing one productive thing every day. This will boost your positive attitude and a little more motivation to keep going. Create a daily work/life schedule that works for you, where you can get your important work tasks done, but also check in on the kids and make sure they are keeping up with their work. • You will also want to throw in a little “me time” too. It doesn’t need to be a lot, a ten minute walk around the block to a five minute tea/coffee break daydreaming in your backyard. • You can use this time to reorganize an area in your home or get creative with some home projects or crafts.
Keep your normal daily routine. Maintain that same structure from before and keep your kids on that routine too. • The one true benefit is that you don’t have to get totally dressed up. The clean pajama pants are good to wear and not the ironed khakis. • Working from home may tempt you to become more laid back and lethargic in your lifestyle. This is what can lead to negative thinking and less productivity. • Keep your bedtime and wake time routines. • Eat your meals like you did before, maybe actually go outside on your lunch break and sit in the sun to eat. • Keep your exercise routine or build one into your new schedule. • Do your laundry on the same day you did before quarantine and get your kids to help out more with the chores. • Keeping your normal routine will keep you active and less likely to spiral down the negative rabbit hole. It will also be easier to readjust when the time comes to go back to the office.
Clear your clutter, clear your chaos. Keep your house and office organized, structured, predictable and clean-daily.
I inherited some extra time during this shift and at first I struggled with it, now I have put it to good use and have organized many areas of my home. Clutter equals chaos and chaos will increase your stress. • Every day, put away toys, bills, clothing and other items laying around. When your mind is focused on too many “distractions” you will increase your stress levels. Lowering them is easy when you learn to de-clutter. • Have your kids help too. Assign one part of their room every day to de-clutter and clean. Start with a sock drawer or their coloring book collection. Have them purge what they no longer use/wear and put the items in a donation bin or a toss bin. • Do not become lax on your boundaries either. If you ate dinner at the table, keep doing it instead of shifting to the couch or bed. If you work at a desk, do that instead of working from your couch or recliner. The more you can stick to your normal structure, the better off your stress levels will be.
Curb your COVID-19 coverage. Choose one or two times a day where you will tune in to what is happening with the pandemic. • Decide if you want to watch coverage from a trusted source in the morning, afternoon or evening and stick to that schedule. • Consulting Google, CNN or other websites throughout the day will just increase your level of stress and crates more obsessive behaviors. • Stick to your time frames and allow only 30 minutes each for learning something new about the virus, or what else you can do for your community.
Start a new ritual. This is a great time to start a new habit or ritual revolving around your stress management. • You could start a daily journal to write down thoughts, feelings and emotions that you are experiencing each day, with new information you heard. • You could start a new exercise routine that you can continue well after the quarantine ends. Take a daily walk at 7am to start your day, or at 5pm to end your day. • Make it a habit to call your friends or family members on a specific day and time each week to catch up and check in. • Take an online painting class and add to your painting a little bit each day. • Start an online/Zoom weekly or monthly book club. • Set aside time every day to work in your yard or flower garden.
Become friends with telehealth. Many doctor’s offices are switching to providing care, support and guidance via telehealth services. • Find out how you can chat online with your therapist and/or ask your general practitioner who to contact to help you with your anxiety when it does become too high and unmanageable. • Let go of the feeling that you are a lesser person by asking for help. You are more brave and courageous to take your mental health so seriously. • Knowing that you cannot control other people, but you can control yourself and your reactions to situations. Find peace in knowing that you are doing your part in your community to “flatten the curve” and your actions will help build your self-esteem and mental strength to be able to handle any stressful situation that pops up.