Over the past few weeks, life as we know it has altered significantly. Many companies have employees working from home during COVID-19. Universities have moved classes to a virtual format. Restaurants have closed. Cities are issuing “shelter-in-place” orders.
We don’t know what will happen next and how long things will be this way, which is leading to lots of stress. The sort of stress that leads to people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Our lives have been thrown into a level of uncertainty that many of us are unfamiliar with and we’re all trying to adjust accordingly.
It’s completely natural to feel out of control right now given the level of uncertainty we all face. At the same time, there is also a lot in our control too.
Beyond having control over things like washing your hands and staying home (please please please stay home!), you also have control over how you react to the current situation. You get to decide if you want to respond in fear or take steps to respond in a nurturing way for yourself and others.
Our ability to react with a more positive, resilient mindset all starts with how we’re taking care of ourselves. Our mental, physical, and emotional state all contribute to how we process what’s happening around us and whether we’re spreading more positivity or fear.
By taking the time to focus on our own wellbeing, not only are we taking care of ourselves, we’re also supporting those around us. That old saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”? Yeah, there’s a lot of truth to it.
So what can you do to take care of yourself in the midst of this uncertainty? Here are some things that are working for me:
1. Find Ways To Connect To Others
Humans are community-oriented beings. We’re not used to being physically separate from one another for extended periods of time. We’re being told to practice social distancing. But if we’re not careful, we run the risk of feeling isolated (which is already a problem for many in our society).
I’ve worked at home and on distributed teams for a while. I know firsthand how hard it can be to spend all your time working alone in your apartment, separated from the world. Normally I’d suggest things like going to a networking event or working out of a coffee shop. But those just aren’t possible right now. That said, there’s still a lot we can do to find connection!
A few examples:
- Hang out virtually with friends and family. How lucky are we to live in a time where video conferencing is widely accessible and easy to use?! Schedule video calls with your loved ones so you can see their smiling faces and get some more human interaction. Not quite the same as a hug, but it helps!
- Check in on your neighbors. While this may not be the best time to host a building-wide gathering, it doesn’t mean you can’t connect with the people around you. Create a text or email chain in your building. Use it to share resources (whether it’s website info or a much needed roll of toilet paper), alert anyone if you get sick, pitch in if anyone else needs help, and feel a sense of mutual support where you live.
- Have roommates? Host a dress up dinner together at home! A friend of mine mentioned she’s doing this with her roommate and I thought it was a brilliant idea! Get all dressed up like you’re going to go out, but dine in the comfort of your own home. Make a fun recipe or try a new cocktail you’ve been eyeing. Get creative and have fun with it!
2. Disconnect from Stressors
Yes, it’s super important to stay informed, but constantly reading news articles about COVID-19 isn’t going to help your stress levels. What can you do about it?
Reserve specific times of day for yourself to disconnect.
For example, determine the last possible time you’re allowed to read or watch the news before you go to bed. Why? Because scrolling through news sites right before you’re planning to go to sleep isn’t going to help you doze off. Give your brain time to decompress by closing your computer at least an hour before bed and reading a book for a bit. You’ll have plenty of time to read the news the next day.
Similarly, I recommend reserving first thing in the morning as “disconnected” time too. Your brain needs some time to wake up before it can process all of the news you’re reading. So give yourself time to take a shower, make a coffee, exercise, or meditate, and THEN you can look at the latest COVID-19 news.
3. Move Your Body
While being forced to stay home can make it easy to binge Netflix or get totally caught up in our computer screens, it’s important that we don’t just sit all day. Movement is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing.
Doing something to get your body moving and blood flowing is a great help for your mental clarity and how you respond to stress.
Even though your gym or favorite fitness studio is likely closed, it’s not quite so difficult to get in a workout. Lots of apps are providing their services for free right now to make fitness more accessible. Also check to see what your favorite local studio might be offering virtually as a way to support small businesses. Thanks technology!
4. Drink Water, Stay Rested
Repeat after me: Sleep, sleep, sleep! Water, water, water!
Getting adequate sleep and staying hydrated are both super important for supporting your immune system and your brain, which are crucial for keeping you healthy and managing your stress and reactions to the world around you.
Need help remembering to hydrate? Set phone or calendar reminders to yourself throughout the day to drink water. I also recommend setting a bedtime for yourself so you don’t find yourself staying up till 2am reading the news or watching TV.
5. Work on a Project, Reach for a Goal
Just because you’re stuck working from home during COVID-19 doesn’t mean you have to limit your productivity to office hours. Been putting off a goal for a while? Have a project you keep “never” having time for? Guess what? There’s an upside of being forced to slow down and stay home: You now have time on your hands!
This is the perfect time to get focused. Not only will you feel great once you accomplish your goal or finish your project, it can also be a great distraction from all of the COVID-19 news and posts you’re consuming.
If you’re like me, it can also be helpful to have an accountability partner so you stick to what you say you want to accomplish. It’s also a perfect excuse to get some virtual hangout time in with a friend.
6. Practice Gratitude
Sure, this pandemic is causing major upheaval and there are probably many things you feel super ungrateful for right now, but I guarantee that there are at least a few things you are grateful for. Focusing on those can have powerful psychological, physical, and social benefits.
There are many different ways you can practice gratitude while you’re stuck at home. Among my favorites are:
- Three Things Journal (writing down three things you’re grateful for before you go to bed each night)
- Sending an email to a someone telling them all of the ways you’re grateful for them
- Starting a gratitude jar
You can also use sharing what you’re grateful for as an opportunity to create connection, either within your home (if you live with others) or virtually.
Remember, there is a lot more in your control that you might think right now, beginning with how you take care of yourself.
By focusing on your wellbeing, you’ll be better able to handle uncertainty and to choose how you react to it. When you react with compassion over fear, you can have a positive ripple effect on those around you – and we could all use a little more positivity right now.
Liked what you read? You can read more on my site, Compass Maven.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor nor an expert on this pandemic in any way shape or form, so please follow CDC guidelines and your local government directives when determining if it’s okay to go outside, what to do if you have symptoms, etc.