Managing Stress in the Time of Covid-19
Posted on April 09 2020
We’re a little over 3 weeks into quarantine here in Los Angeles and I don’t know about you, but it’s been a unique challenge in staying calm and grounded for the two of us in my household. Even our pets are getting stir-crazy. As someone that suffers from Mental Illness, I have some days where I'm plain just not okay. And you know what? It’s okay to feel like you’re not okay. What can anyone really expect when we’re struggling with the stress of financial hardship, lack of personal space and freedom, and the fear of getting sick. The entire world has had to change the way we live and it’s just A LOT. It’s okay to feel the weight of that. I think most of us are down to do what is best for the greater good but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get hard to cope.
I have been wanting to write up a list of things that have helped me feel some semblance of calm and control in the midst of all of this. Some of these tips may feel like clichés but sometimes clichés exist because they work (not always). Take my advice with a grain of salt and always do what is best for you! Learning to listen to ourselves is actually tip #1.
1- Try to check-in with yourself and allow plenty of space to nurture your body and mind.
Taking care of yourself first might feel selfish, but you will be a better support to others if you are able to nurture your own needs. It’s easy sometimes to ignore what we need (and sometimes we just don’t have a choice), but the tension always builds in the end and something has to give. You are more likely to stay level-headed (and healthy) if you can give yourself what you need. Learning to be in-tune with your body and mind isn’t always easy but in the quietness of quarantine, try to listen to yourself. If you need extra rest, nourishment, meditation, or you need to watch tv and turn your brain off for a bit…just do it. Providing a lot of room for self-compassion is important in times like this. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be productive or creative. You can’t always force those things and at the end of the day, you’re experiencing a traumatic event. It’s important to care for yourself and be extra patient with yourself.
I know, I know! This doesn’t sound fun at all, but with so much out of our control, it helps me immensely to have a loose routine. This starts with going to bed roughly around the same time every night. I try not to be too strict with myself (always coming back to listening to what your body needs) but loosely having a bedtime allows you to have a normal sleep schedule which is one of the most important things for physical and mental health. Sleep is what your immune system needs and it helps to level out your mood. Granted, a set bedtime isn’t always possible but when you can get to bed at a normal (for you) hour, it’s super helpful.
Going to bed around the same time means you will generally wake up around the same time every day. This allows you to get in a rhythm for your days which gives you a sense of normalcy amongst this highly abnormal situation.
3- Make your bed.
This is something we always hear about regarding working from home and it’s definitely not a hot, new tip. It used to feel arbitrary to me because I’m just going to mess it up again! But once I started doing it, I realized how it changed my mindset. First, it just looks nice and I’m a very visual person that tends to have my moods ruled by my environment. Second, once your bed is made it kind of helps you to be in this frame of mind of straightening up and keeping your house clean (or semi-clean in my case!) I really believe that having a generally organized space will help to keep your mind clear as well. I’m definitely a maximalist and love my stuff, so this one isn’t always easy for me. But once I’m in the groove of keeping the house straightened up it’s much easier to keep it that way. I slip up sometimes and it’s much harder to get back to that organized space (hello to my all-or-nothing behaviors) so I find that just a little tidying every day helps things feel less overwhelming.
And open those blinds! Sunshine does wonders for your mood and vitamin D is important for your immune system health.
4- Get dressed. Really.
Yes, revolutionary I know. This is another common piece of advice you will hear. But it’s true. I’m not saying do your makeup and put on a suit every day (unless you want.) But a comfortable outfit that isn’t pajamas does wonders. You will see most of my tips coming back to creating a sense of normalcy and routine. This is one that makes things feel normal for me, and not like an extended holiday break (which I think we would all honestly much prefer.)
Some days when I need a little extra pick-me-up, I will spray my fancy perfume that I only use on special occasions (I can’t afford to use this stuff every day, ok?) I know the dogs don’t care that I smell like English roses but it lifts my mood on days where I’m struggling. Plus, smelling familiar scents you enjoy is a nice grounding experience. It’s easy to feel like your floating above reality in times like these, so a quick sniff of your favorite scent on the wrist can make you feel like your feet are planted back on earth.
5- Eat your Breakfast.
It’s the most important meal of the day, after all. Even in quarantine. Breakfast helps wake you up and get some energy going. Even though you might be asking why you need any energy when your commute is from your bed to your living room, I just want to remind you that stress and anxiety are DRAINING. You might not even realize how stressful this situation is but stress manifests in lots of ways in the body. Fatigue and mental exhaustion are some of those ways. Feeding your body will help your mind feel less drained as well. Trust me! Or don’t, I mean I guess I am just a stranger on the internet.
6- Check in with loved ones.
I know we are all exhausted and probably tired of answering “How are you holding up?” texts. But you can just send out a few “Thinking of you. Love you.” texts to those that you miss. It’s wonderful to get a reminder that people are thinking of you without the pressure to go into every detail of what you’re feeling (however, sometimes we need those conversations too) but a simple check-in also helps you feel connected in times where you aren’t seeing anyone and maybe don’t have the energy for a long back and forth. So let people know you’re here without any expectation.
7- Give lots of benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand to my point above, don’t fault those that don’t get back to you. We’re all dealing with things differently and some folks need to preserve their energy. As someone that struggles with mental health, I can attest. Sometimes when you’re mentally exhausted, answering a text is difficult. So if you see someone is on social media but they’re not answering their texts, try not to take it personally. Sometimes posting memes is something you can manage but answering texts is exhausting. We’re all doing our best.
8- Check off things you've been avoiding.
But if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up! If you find one day you have the energy to tackle something you’ve put off (like pricing a car repair, putting together a budget, or doing your taxes) then take care of it. Your future self will thank you because we’re all just living a series of okay to not-so-okay days. Sometimes, self-care looks like doing the thing you don’t want to do. This might sound counterintuitive to my first point but they go hand-in-hand. Just listen to yourself and take on what you can handle when you can handle it.
Related to this point, if you have the energy and resources to help someone else out then do so. We will all need help at some point and we’re all in this together, even though we’re currently “alone.”
Just be careful not to take on more than feels healthy for you. Sometimes, it’s easy to say yes and spread ourselves thin. Now is a good time to create lots of boundaries and practice self-care. And ask for help if you need it and have the energy! I know when we’re feeling low, it’s harder to ask for help. But if you are able and there’s something a loved one can do to help, chances are they’d love the opportunity to help out a friend.
9- Pay attention to your mood.
I love to sit in front of the tv and stream true crime shows but I always hit a wall where I start to feel depressed. Learning to navigate the line between relaxing and triggering some plunge in mood is not easy, but learning when to switch up your activities will really help you to halt mental health dips.
If I’ve been watching the same show for a while and start to feel sad, I will switch up what I’m doing. Turn off the tv and put on some music, draw a picture, read a book (even if just a few pages.) When your anxiety is mounting or you feel your mood dipping, just switching up your scenery or position can help. That’s harder to do in quarantine as it’s not necessarily safe or realistic to go take a walk or take a ride across town. So play with a pet, paint your nails, turn on a podcast or change up your screen (yes I know tons of screen time isn’t ideal but sometimes if you just turn off the tv and play a game or do something else, even if on another screen, it will help.) Drink some cold water, do some stretches, or straighten up for 15 minutes.
Essentially, take a step back from whatever you’re doing and do something else. Pay attention to how that change makes you feel.
You will notice that the main underlying themes here are finding balance, practicing some intuitive behaviors, and trying to stay grounded. So while I try to stick to some form of routine, I also check in with myself regularly to see if I need anything else. My goal is to create tons of space to eliminate strict expectations on myself and others surrounding how we handle this situation. At the end of the day, we’re living through a major global health crisis and are all trying. It’s best to lead with love and compassion whenever possible.
If you have other tips, I would love to hear them! Let’s get a discussion going. Leave your comments below.