The Indoor Days
Mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus requires that we social distance and stay inside of our homes. Yet, how do we successfully adapt to and make the most of life indoors? Truthfully, we are all just learning the answer to this question as we make our way along. Here are a few ideas to contribute to our growing, collective body of knowledge about living our best indoor days.
Build in Structure
Educators, employers, and mental health providers promote building a schedule into your daily life at home. Get up each morning and engage in a routine – shower, coffee, waffles for the kids, etc. Change out of those comfy pajamas. Talk with your partner and family members about how to structure your daily schedule and physical space within the home so that you have time together... and ideally, a wee bit of alone time and space too.
Engage in Small Acts of Kindness – Each Day (yes, each and every day)
Ever notice how being kind to someone can brighten your own mood? Being kind is a gift we can give to both others and ourselves. Offering kindness also temporarily shifts the focus of our attention and worry off of ourselves and onto someone else – which can be a huge help when managing persistent stress and low mood.
Thanking someone is an example of a small – yet powerful -- act of kindness. For example, join me now in thanking the employees and people out on the ground; those who are dedicated to helping our activities of daily life continue in regularity as much as possible (i.e., grocers, waste management crews, food delivery services, postal workers, technical engineers enabling virtual communication, and of course, all of the health care providers worldwide.)
Learn & Practice Skills to Tolerate Uncertainty
Uncertainty is a hallmark characteristic of the Covid-19 pandemic. We remain uncertain about various aspects of the illness, how long shelter in place will be sustained, when our children will return to school, when businesses will re-open, the economic fallout of the situation, and more. All this being said,, it’ll be important to build our uncertainty-tolerance muscles in the coming weeks and months. Here are few ideas:
(1) Shift the Panic-Promoting Stories in Your Mind
For decades, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has taught that the way we interpret situations can directly impact our emotions and actions. The potentially panic-provoking stories in your head about the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 can worsen your mood, increase anxiety, and backfire by reducing health-promoting behaviors. For sustained mental wellness, I invite you to be mindful of the amount of the time and energy you spend thinking through worst-case scenarios and other highly frightening possibilities. Both will necessarily predict the degree of panic you experience. Don’t get me wrong, anxiety is actually quite normative and expected in this situation -- it is, after all, literally anxiety-provoking. But panic changes us and pushes us into pure flight or fight – when we panic, we lose our ability to access wise mind, to make choices that are best for our mental and physical health. Panic consumes our time, zaps our energy, reduces clarity of thoughts, and prevents us from being mindful and present during precious moments of calm and enjoyment. CBT skills such as thought restructuring can be instrumental in mitigating the degree of anxiety and panic you experience.
(2) Practice Mindfulness, Relaxation, and Exercise
Get to know your body’s signals of heightened anxiety. For many people, it manifests in a racing heartbeat, sweaty armpits, clammy hands, tight muscles, and/or poor sleep. Upon noticing these body sensations, intervene via a mindfulness meditation, relaxation exercise, and/or physical activity. Taking steps to dial down your anxiety before it escalates may help reduce how many times you hit intense panic.
Infuse calm through:
- Circumscribing a time block in your day to ingest the news. Be connected to what is going on and select your top media outlets, but be intentional about how much news you consume (and when you consume it). Often, folks find reading the news right before bedtime can disrupt sleep. Experiment with what time works best for you.
- Find a time each day to get grounded and centered. Diaphragmatic breathing, mindful meditations, and physical activity can be instrumentally helpful.
- Gratitude journal daily. Write down and/or share aloud with others what you are grateful for each day. Even though it may seem to be odd to practice gratitude during this time, it’s actually more important now than ever– in fact, it can help you build reserves of strength and positivity to draw from when the going gets tough. Perhaps you are grateful that your kids engaged in their distance learning programs (even for a little bit!), you had a delicious cup of coffee, or found a fantastic yoga video on You Tube. Gratitude Journaling gives a microphone to the sunshine in our days.
Our journey through this pandemic will be a marathon, not a sprint. Together, let’s work our way through this.