In the face of this unprecedented global crisis that brings into focus all things we take for granted, and all ways in which we have lost touch with ourselves and each other, here is a checklist of things we might want to remind ourselves of and a little toolbox of ways we can cope.
It is certain that a pandemic of this nature is disorienting, isolating and anxiety-provoking, to say the least. However, it is also an opportunity to look inward to reevaluate our priorities and remind ourselves that we are all in this together. To minimize your stress and a feeling of doom and gloom, here are some things you can do to help your day-to-day existence in the time of a global quarantine:
• Limit your exposure to news and social media. It’s one thing to stay informed, but it’s quite another to have a running commentary of doom and gloom in the background.
• Make a list of daily tasks so you can stay productive.
• Remember to make time for socializing even if it’s via video conference. Call friends and loved ones and make a point to discuss things beyond COVID-19.
• Connect with your family and children; play board games, puzzles, charades, and cards.
• Get creative. This is a perfect time for art projects. If you feel scared, create a visual, verbal, or audio representation of your emotional experience. It is a healthy way to process feelings.
• Journal. We are experiencing a historic moment. It is a good time to document what is happening so we can remember and learn.
• Spend some time outdoors in nature. It’s good to air out the virus, as well as get some vitamin D, fresh air, and physical exercise.
• Teach yourself something new: an instrument, a song, a language, or a craft.
• Take care of those little household projects now that you finally have the time: paint a wall, clean your garage, fix that door handle.
• Take a few minutes out of your day to make a mental list of things you are grateful for. Gratitude helps ground us and gives us a better perspective on our lives. It is also clinically proven to regulate stress hormones and lower anxiety.
• Communal reading of fantasy novels, poetry, short stories with comic relief and other entertaining literature can be extremely soothing, especially for the young ones in our families. It brings us together in an integral, primal way that entails a powerful sense of familiarity and safety. Since the dawn of days, humans congregated to share stories together; we gather around a fire to share, distract and entertain ourselves.
• Play music and move your body. It releases endorphins which are happy chemicals in your brain. Anxiety actually lowers our brain function and prevents us from being able to utilize all of our cerebral resources. To make sound decisions, it is important to manage stress.
• Meditate. Deep breathing, concentration/focusing, and relaxation techniques restore our hormone levels and nervous system functioning. UCLA’s website offers free meditation and audio recordings (visit uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations), and you can find guided meditations on apps such as Headspace and Calm.
• Yoga, stretching and other in-home exercise routines are extremely important to keep your body in good shape while in self-isolation. Make a point to accelerate your heartbeat for at least 15 minutes a day. This is good for your lungs, heart, and blood flow, which promotes healing, collagen production and cell regeneration in your skin, as well as improves blood pressure and heart function.
Last but not least, please remember, humanity is built on its ability to survive. We as a civilization have weathered worse situations with far less resources. We have plenty of historical examples where isolation and hardship brought forward outstanding growth and transformation. Pain is a divine opportunity for evolution and transcendence. spt