There’s a lot of anxious energy in our area as we move into the unfamiliar territory of county shutdowns in light of COVID-19. It will be some trial and error as we navigate this time, but panic will not serve us. Most important is that we do not abandon ourselves while we isolate from each other!
She’s speaking that weird therapist language again. Don’t abandon yourself? What does that mean?? It means that while this time is uncertain and perhaps scary, it is also an opportunity. Some of us are still working, maybe we’ve gained back a bit of time we’d normally commute and that’s it. Maybe we’ve lost time to ourselves while taking care of the kids or partners also working from home, crowding our spaces.
This means we need to pay more attention to how we’re feeling and our needs. It’s easy to blur the lines between work and home and work more, or less. It’s easy to be excited about being able to work in pajamas and accidentally not shower for several days. It’s easy to be more sedentary and not get exercise we might normally get in our normal errands. But how do we feel when we do that? If we lose track of our routines, hygiene, health measures, more can slip away than we think.
-Get outside at some point during the day. Fresh air is healthy! The reminder that the world is still there can be reassuring. The open space can reduce the sense of claustrophobia of being indoors for so long. Taking a walk or a run gives us a physical sense of ‘moving forward’ and not feeling stuck. Increased oxygen and a little exercise are good for our health and burning some of the anxiety.
-Keep up with hygiene. Showering regularly does more than keep us from getting smelly, more than washing away germs. It reminds us of the boundary between our skin and our house. Sure that sounds funny, but most of us have had the experience of ‘melting into the couch’ from being too sedentary at some point. Reminders of our physical boundaries help our sense of identity.
-Discuss boundaries with people you live with. Talk about how much ‘alone time’ each of you needs and figure out ways to meet those needs.
-Address your environment. Many people have suggested this is an opportunity to get a household project done- and it may well be. If you are working from home for the first time, or sharing a home workspace for the first time, your space may not be ideal. Consider ergonomics, lighting, and general space. Is there clutter that could be moved to make the space feel better? Lighting a candle can change the ambiance, as well as help with an intentionality around when you’re in a particular room.
-Consider sound. Perhaps some background music will help you focus better, or create some calm, or joy, or some sound buffer against distracting sounds from housemates.
-Stay connected. We aren’t supposed to be physically close with others, but it doesn’t mean to not connect with friends. Reach out to each other. Check in on each other and vent as needed. Phone calls, video chats (perhaps not during the workday as bandwidth may be limited) are still ways of connecting. We can still play charades and word games from a distance. We can help create grounding for one another.
-If anxious thoughts start taking over, try some reframes. While this is scary for many, it is also an opportunity. The world is learning to slow down. We’re forced to be more creative. Let’s be curious about our own responses to this new experience and learn from it what we can. This time indoors is healing the planet of the pollution we subject it to.
-Create structure in your day. Where lines are blurred, we can create new ones for ourselves. Without change of environment, it may be even more important to be intentional with scheduling. A time for movement or stretching. A time to tidy the house. A time for play, a time for connecting. We can still work toward balance.
-Most strongly, I highly recommend staying off the news or social media a good 4 hours before bed. A lot of the information out there stimulates our brains and may leave us anxious before bed, unable to sleep. Protect your rest and be mindful about what stimulation you take in during the evening. Most of the news won’t be urgent and will wait for you to check it out tomorrow.
Take care. And if you need some support and want to check in, many mental health care professionals, including myself, are still available via telehealth. Call me at 408-418-6638 if you’d like to discuss making an appointment.