Staying well while staying at home and processing all of the events going on in the world right now is proving difficult for many of us. This, combined with the stresses of losing a job, perhaps being food insecure, and not knowing when things will turn around can make us feel like we’re really not in control. This anxiety forces us to push self-care and wellness to the back of the line because it seems like there are more pressing issues to take care of. Self-care and wellness can be incorporated into our daily routines in small doses, however. I have found seven ways to help reduce the anxiety and overwhelm in our lives as we move through this incredibly tough season.
1. Have a Routine
The one thing that can go missing from our lives when we don’t wake up to go to a physical place of work everyday is routine. Some people do just fine without structure, but I know that I am not one of those people. Figure out what your prime working hours are and design your day around those hours, being sure to make time for breaks and meals. Then, plan a wake-up time that you can be consistent with, and a target bed time, setting alarms until it becomes a habit. Do the same kinds of things during the same blocks of time everyday. For example, if you meditate or do bible study at 6am before breakfast, try to keep that appointment with yourself everyday.
This goes the same for time blocks for exercise, planning, reading and spending time with family. It’s okay if these blocks of time are flexible, because life doesn’t always follow routine perfectly, but try your best to stay on track. Setting up a routine will also help you to keep track of your days so that they don’t all blur together. Having a routine like this gives you some more control over your life during a time when there is so much uncertainty. This is because you are setting consistent and discrete boundaries between your days and your activities, and deliberately choosing what priorities to tackle on a daily basis.
2. Get Some Sunshine
Staying at home is great for keeping everyone safe, but staying cooped up inside a building for long periods of time is terrible for our mental health. Depending on how small or how little natural light you get in your home, staying at home can feel like a prison sentence. To combat extreme cabin fever, take a little bit of time everyday to do something outside. This could be getting exercise, gardening, taking a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting outside and letting the sun hit your face for a few minutes.
Spending time outdoors helps me to refocus, briefly step away from my responsibilities and gain some perspective on my life. It reminds me that I am not alone and that my reality is larger than what I can see through the tunnel vision of my anxiety. Exercise in and of itself is also great for boosting your mood and keeping your body conditioned, especially since staying at home causes us to be more sedentary than we would usually be. Going outside is safe, just remember to wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
3. Drink Lots of Water and Eat Well
The stress of these uncertain times is driving many of us to reach for comfort food. I cannot even tell you the number of times I have ordered fast food or had donuts during these last few months. I ate a lot more of that stuff than I would have every couple of years! My anxiety and my overall feeling of wellness has taken a toll because of my poor dietary choices. I forget how good I feel after I eat a hearty salad, you know, not just plain lettuce, but a filling, nourishing salad with veggies and lean protein. I feel light, full and energized.
Eating well helps me to stay productive and focused throughout the day, without developing afternoon fatigue or brain fog. Working from home has made it possible for people, who would otherwise have less free time, to cook scratch meals in their own kitchens. If this is you, find some nutritious recipes online or follow an inspirational Instagram account to give you some ideas if you don’t know where to start. Eating well and staying hydrated by drinking lots of water are both key components of staying mentally and physically well while staying at home.
4. Call Friends and Family
Just because we have to keep our physical distance, doesn’t mean that we need to cut everybody off from our lives altogether. Stay in touch with family and friends, especially older parents and grandparents. Check in on them and see how they are faring, or if they need anything. Hearing your voice will brighten up their day and help you to feel like you are not alone in all of this. Texting and emailing is great, too, but there is something about hearing someone’s voice that actually makes you feel like you are right there with each other.
Switch it up with a video call, if you are able. There are plenty of free apps, including Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and Google Meet that can help you virtually connect with those you love. If you live close enough, offer to drop off some groceries or a cooked meal to show you care. Connecting with others takes the focus off of ourselves and helps us to manage our daily frustrations and anxieties with a large dose of perspective.
5. Write Down What You Are Grateful For
This goes along with the general theme of perspective. Anxiety causes our thoughts to hyperfocus on the worst possible scenario or the worst aspects of our own lives, when in reality, our lives aren’t all bad. Forcing ourselves to tune in to what the evidence actually shows about what our lives are like, versus hanging onto those toxic thoughts, can help us to create a coping mechanism for our stress and anxiety. Maybe incorporate some of this into your daily routine, by waking up every morning or ending everyday with a short list of 1-3 things that you are grateful for.
This might be hard to do to start with, but don’t give in to the frustration and give up. This will get easier the more that you do it. These items that you are grateful for don’t have to be larger than life. They can be as simple as, “I was able to have a meal today” or “today I was able to sleep in my own home”. Hold onto these thoughts of gratitude, and when you are having a tough day, just remember what you wrote during your most recent journaling session. Even on our worst days and in our hardest seasons of life, we can always find something positive that is true about our situation, even if it is as simple as the fact that we’re not alone.
6. Lean Into the Gift of Time
We may not be able to take advantage of many of the activities and experiences that we are used to, like going out to eat, shopping or catching the latest flick at the movie theater, but we can do other things. Staying home doesn’t have to be boring. Use the time you would have spent doing these recreational activities to learn a new skill, bake your own bread for the first time or do some repairs or upgrades to your home.
Stretch your mind and expand your horizons. If you lost your job, learn a skill that can get you an even higher paying job with benefits. Learn to code or get that certification that you’ve been putting off all this time. There is so much that we can do, and if there is one thing that staying at home has given us that we can definitely be grateful for is the gift of time.
So many times we say to ourselves, “Oh, I would totally do that if I had the time.” Well, now you do! If you’re home with your family, take this time to bond with them over some new experiences. Be creative. Take on some arts & crafts projects or fun do-it-yourself science experiments with the kids. This pandemic doesn’t have to take everything from you. Use this time to grow and meet your goals, and nurture your relationships, so when everything starts to return to normal, you can hit the ground running.
7. Turn Off the Television
While there are great educational shows on television, there is also a lot of negativity on the news. The longer you watch the news, the more it seems like the world is falling apart. It feels like we’re helpless to do anything about it. Yes, horrible things are happening, and these are unprecedented times, but there is also so much goodness in the world.
When we turn off the television, we can tune into those truths a little bit easier. Television is also a productivity killer. I was always the type of person that needed background noise to work. Since I grew up with the TV on in the house all the time, I just assumed that I worked better with it on. I turned the TV off for a whole week just to try it, and my life changed for the better. It turned out that I was a lot more productive, and my attitude was more positive. I also noticed that I got out of the house more and exercised more.
If watching television is part of your daily routine, I challenge you to leave it off for a whole week and see what happens. If you hate your life without it, by all means, turn it back on. But I think that you’ll find that you use that time instead to connect more deeply with family and friends, and finally finish that book you’ve been reading for a year now. Maybe you’ll gain some productivity, and maybe you’ll find that you’re less anxious. Getting the news is important, but everything can be found online these days. It’s easier to click out of a negative story that you’re reading as opposed to turning off the TV when it has your full attention.
Make Staying Well a Priority
Staying well while staying at home is tough. The uncertainty of these unprecedented times can take a toll on our mental, emotional and physical well-being. It is especially important to make staying well a priority now, even while our lives are turned upside down. Use this time to rise above the anxiety and get some perspective on your own life. Connect with your family and friends, learn something new and decide to be grateful for even the smallest things. Good news, this tough period of time will not last forever. Hopefully these tips give you some inspiration on how to cope with these times and perhaps, even thrive. If you found this post helpful, check out three ways to reduce stress around finances.