As we move into Philadelphia’s 2nd week of self-isolation, it’s normal to feel anxious. Information about COVD-19 is continually updating, normal routines have been shifted, and in-person social support systems have been disrupted. It’s hard to know what to expect right now, or how to feel in control. Given these circumstances, anxiety is a completely appropriate response. However, it is possible to take a few simple steps to minimize your anxiety. Here are some habits you can establish while in self-isolation:
- Take time away from social media and news.
Set aside 1 hour, twice a day, where you will take a break from social media and COVID-19 related information. Due to the continually shifting information available around rates of infection; city, state and even federal policies; it is easier than ever to stay glued to your news sources. Make sure to take a break! Constantly trying to take in new (and stressful) information can trigger fight/flight/freeze response. Scheduling two separate hours to take a break gives your brain time to recharge, rest and integrate new information. Turn off the news notifications on your phone. Watch a movie, take a walk, or whatever else you can think of to spend time away from the news. If you are spending this hour with a friend, make it a Corona-free conversation hour. Even better, add an additional 2 hours to bookend your day. Give yourself an hour at the beginning and end of each day to take a break, and slow your brain, and get ready to wake up/fall asleep.
2. Practice mindfulness.
In situations where you have incomplete information, mindfulness is a great tool for reducing stress. Mindfulness exercises help decrease anxiety because they interrupt the negative feedback loop between your pulse, respiratory rate and stress-hormone production. Mindfulness exercises allow you to intentionally slow down your heart and respiratory rate, which in turn send signals to your brain to stop producing adrenaline. Take a few deep breaths, or use these more in depth exercises: Color Breathing Technique or I See/I Hear/I Feel. Use mindfulness to bookend your day, setting intention and making space for calmness.
3. Go back to the basics.
Make sure you are taking care of your basic biological needs. Prioritize a regular sleep schedule. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Eat regularly. Drink water. Exercise. We call these “the basics” for a reason: skipping them throws your body out of sync, and will impact your mood; increasing crankiness, anxiety and even your ability to manage big feelings. During times of change and uncertainty, it can be easy to neglect these basic needs. Make sure you don’t!
4. Create a routine.
Anxiety thrives on unpredictability. Creating a routine can minimize it. Try to get up at the same time every day. If you are working from home, make sure to delineate hours when you are *not* working from home. Try “commuting” by adding a walk around the block before you start and when you end for the day. Have a standing “lunch hour” where you video chat with one person or a rotating cadre. As you are “going back to basics”, try to incorporate them into your day at regular times.
It is normal to feel anxious because of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. It is normal to feel anxious during self-isolation. However, if you find yourself having panic attacks, or otherwise unable to manage these feelings, consider making an appointment with a therapist. We are still accepting new clients, and are providing sessions via our HPPA-compliant video app. Lastly, if your anxious feelings are because you are unsure how to stay housed and safe during the COVID-19 crisis, you can look at our list of resources here.