Life in quarantine has been an adjustment to say the least. Over the last two weeks I have found myself running the gamut of emotions, and cycling through all these emotions at record speeds can sometimes leave me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The first couple weeks have been hard, but it’s been worth it to do my part in order to flatten the curve and save lives. While some days are harder than others, they have all been manageable. Through it all, I’ve needed to reminded myself that it is okay to feel the way I am feeling — worried, sad, disappointed, angry, frustrated, scared, and sometimes all of those in a single day. I’ve realized that it is perfectly normal to feel these emotions, especially in times like this, but the key is to not to let any one of these feelings take hold and control me.
With that in mind I’ve decided to post a few of the things that have helped me keep both mine and my family's anxiety and depression at bay these last few weeks. While they may not all work for everyone, this ever-growing list of tactics has worked best for me:
- Take things day-by-day: I have found that looking too far ahead and worrying about things I can not control triggers my anxiety to go through the roof. I feel much better when I focus on the present.
- Get outside when you can: Getting out of the house, being mindful of social distancing, has been so important for us as a family. We take walks or go on bike rides around the block at least once a day, rain or shine. The fresh air and change of scenery boosts our moods. If I am still feeling glum after our first lap I will take a second lap. By the time I return I am usually feeling much more optimistic… and getting exercise to boot!
- Music: Music is a natural mood booster, and a lot of times it will also get us up moving which is a huge bonus.
- Plant a garden and watch it grow: This is a perfect time of year to start a garden. We are lucky that earlier this year we built a raised garden bed on the side of our house. Last weekend the kids and I planted our vegetables and herbs, and picked up a whole bunch of wild flower seeds that we will be planting in pots the coming days. If you don’t have a garden space or if the weather is not cooperating, you can always plant a little window herb or flower garden. My mother-in-law insists you can grow the best tomatoes in five gallon buckets! In general, I have always found gardening and planting very relaxing and rewarding — something we all need more of during these times.
- Reach out and talk to friends and family: Of course don’t literally reach out, that would break the rules! Sometimes just hearing a familiar voice is enough to pull you out of a down mood. We’ve used the phone, Alexa, and even used FaceTime to play the board game “Clue” with my sister-in-law. Remember: we are all in this together, and it’s important to support each other.
- Find a routine and try stick to it: Now that the kids have started remote learning, we are trying to get into a routine that works for all of us. I have found that this works best when paired with a consistent sleep schedule. Both kids and adults alike can get cranky when our sleep schedules are thrown out of whack! Further, we have all been making a point of getting dressed and doing the normal things we would do on a typical morning. We try to stick with the same daily schedule which includes schooling, meals, chores, walks, exercise, and of course some leisure time to decompress.
- Take care of yourself: When I don’t do this I feel worse, so take the time to do the things that make you happy. I have noticed that when I am starting to get into a funk, self-care is one of the first things I neglect.
- Hide your phone for a while: While I do love staying connected, we absolutely need breaks from our devices. I get noticeably more anxious and depressed when I have had too much screen time, so I’ve begun to apply the same rules to myself that I apply to the kids.
- Limit News Media: I want to be informed but not to the point where I am stressed out and anxious about it. Just like your phone, you need a break from the media… or what sometimes passes for it. I have limited my media watching just to once a day so that I can balance being informed with staying sane. While ignorance is definitely not bliss, neither is total immersion in current affairs.
- Help others: I sometimes feel anxious or depressed if I don’t feel like I am giving back. In this particular case, we are all contributing simply by staying home, washing our hands, and following the guidance of the healthcare professionals. If you are able to do more, within the guidance and while staying safe, do so. Helping others will make you feel better and give you a sense of purpose. There are many ways to contribute to the greater good that don’t require you put yourself and others at risk.
- Find something fun to do: It has helped us to all to have family game nights or movie nights. It’s been a great reminder that we can have a lot of fun without the glow of a screen. Do something that you all enjoy that takes your mind off of things for an hour or two — maybe a puzzle or board game… read a book… or perhaps dust off an old hobby and rekindle your passion.
- Reach out and talk to a professional: During this time of quarantine and social distancing, like us, most therapists are working from home. Because people still sometimes need help and support, they are also offering to meet online, sometimes for free or at reduced costs. If you find yourself getting too deep into negative emotions it might best to chat with a professional. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for help — we all need it from time to time. If it all becomes a bit too much for you or someone you know and you find you need emotional support, please leverage the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. We can all get through this together.
- Find your zen place: It is ironic that at a time when we are all so cut off from the rest of the world, finding a safe place to be alone is still so critical. While there is a good amount of physical distance between us and our community, within the walls of our homes those rules go right out the window. Living on top of each other for an extended period of time can test even the best of marriages and families, so be sure you carve out some space in which to have a little me-time too! Think of those moments like a little re-charge to your battery… to give you the juice you need to help the kids with their studies or not murder your spouse when they leave the seat up… again.
These are but some of the things that are helping me get through these weeks of social distancing and the uncertainty of our times. I am sure by the time this is all over I’ll have collected a books-worth! What have you found that has helped you in these times? I would love to hear what has worked for you and your families.