With the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many states are enforcing emergency lockdowns in an effort to keep the virus from spreading. When you’re stuck inside your home, in a small space with your family or housemates, nerves are bound to snap. This, combined with uncertainty over when these safety measures will come to an end, panic over dwindling resources, and information overload results in the perfect recipe for anxiety and loneliness at a scale never before seen.
All of a sudden, the things that were normally recommended to help you cope with these feelings, such as getting fresh air, going out, and meeting with friends, are now prohibited. It’s a different kind of loss of freedom. We’re not locked in cells. Most of us are not under immediate threat, and we can leave for short periods, but it still feels disconcerting. So how do you cope with anxiety in these circumstances?
Acknowledge Your Anxiety, Don’t Try to Deflect It
The first thing you have to do is acknowledge your anxiety and accept it. The more you try to repress it or distract yourself from it, the more you’ll be increasing your stress levels. Generally, the more you try to think about not doing something, the more likely you are to do it. Although anxiety seems like the enemy because it’s an uncomfortable feeling, it’s actually a beneficial mechanism. It motivates us to be cautious and prepare. Without your anxiety, you’d be more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors. There would be no automatic reactions making you think of the negative consequences.
The key is to practice tolerating anxiety. This is very counterintuitive, but allowing anxiety to be present, acknowledging it, and reminding yourself that it’s ok to feel this way will make it more manageable. That’s why therapists focus on teaching their clients how to “cope” with unpleasant emotions, not how to “get rid” of them.
Try to Stick to Your Normal Routine
Those of us with children know how important a routine is to reduce tantrums. If you’ve started working from home, you can easily slip into a more lethargic lifestyle. Unfortunately, this can lead to negative thinking.
Try to give your days a structure. Wake up and go to sleep at around the same time, get out of your pajamas, shower, and eat regular meals. Do your laundry and clean the house every weekend like you usually would. A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind. Keeping your home clean, organized, and predictable will help you cope with the uncertainty happening outside. Clutter, on the other hand, will make you feel more claustrophobic.
You can organize your day by creating mental zones for various activities. Eat at your kitchen table and work at your desk. If you start eating and working in bed, you’re basically increasing the time you spend just lying in bed, and you’ll start feeling tired and sluggish, like you’re bed-bound.
Following a schedule will not only make it easier to readjust once the lockdown is over, but it will also keep you active and less likely to spiral.
You can reframe the lockdown as a chance to slow down and focus more on yourself. Since our exposure to natural light is limited right now, this will affect your melatonin and serotonin levels – both important to maintaining your mental health. You’ll want to avoid using your phone or laptop in bed as the screens emit blue light, which disrupts your circadian rhythm. Try to make your home as light and airy as possible, look into Vitamin D supplements and light therapy lamps.
During this time, you need to be mindful of your physical and emotional needs and look after yourself. Maybe you’re not able to work out at the gym or by playing outdoors sports, but you can run on the spot or download an exercise app and follow an easy routine. There are tons of good ones for free. By getting enough exercise and sleep, you’ll be increasing your resilience to stress and anxiety.
Avoid Unhealthy Habits
Lately, there have been many jokes on social media about drinking wine to cope with the lockdown. It’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant. You might feel more relaxed for the moment, but it will have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep, and it’s addictive.
If your anxiety is making it harder to fall asleep, taking a bath about 90 minutes before bedtimes could help. The drop in the body’s core temperature will make you sleepy. You can also get a weighted blanked and listen to guided meditation.
Sales in CBD products like the ones from Organic CBD Nugs have increased as a result of the lockdown. CBD is not a psychoactive cannabinoid, and it’s not addictive. There’s a lot of research looking into its therapeutic benefits, and results suggest it can help with both anxiety and insomnia. A 2019 study with 72 participants measured the effect of CBD on anxiety and sleep quality. Each person from the experimental group received a 25 mg CBD capsule per day. After four weeks, 79.2% of them reported experiencing lowers levels of anxiety, and 66.7% reported being able to sleep better. Maybe people are on to something. It’s definitely better than trying to drink your worries away. There’s a lot of research looking into its therapeutic benefits, and results suggest it can help with both anxiety and insomnia.
Don’t Obsess Over Coronavirus News
Although staying informed is important, the brain can only take so much information before it begins to overload, leading to more anxiety. It’s a bit of a vicious circle because, as our anxiety levels increase, the more we crave information. We keep thinking that if we read the right articles, watch the right shows or tune in to the right station, we’ll learn something that will help us stay safe and will give us a sense of control. Soon you’ll be consumed with 24/7 news giving you contradictory messages.
You need to give yourself a break, a chance to distance yourself from panic-inducing headlines and process things rationally. Limit yourself to trusted sources and in small increments — for example, only 30 minutes twice a day. You want to stay both informed and sane. How do you cope with anxiety?