It’s easy to be consumed by anxiety amid the pandemic but just as self-care is important, so too is showing kindness and solidarity to those who are vulnerable
By Kaye Lopez Lukosz | Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response/Unsplash
On Mar. 12, we all woke up to the alarming news that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. As more countries continued to cancel events, shut down schools and close borders, it didn’t take long before Metro Manila and eventually the entire Luzon was placed under enhanced community quarantine.
Since then, we have been under strict orders to stay home except to go out and buy necessities or for medical reasons. That means no school, no late-night partying, no work, no malls, no social gatherings, no date-nights out, no gym, no yoga, no Pilates, no spinning, no group training, no racing, and so on. Such aggressive social distancing measures have been implemented in hopes of slowing down the spread of infection especially to the most vulnerable members of our community, which will then “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm our healthcare system.
We understand the rationale behind all this but how do we deal with the stress that comes with this major jolt in our daily routine? What can we do now, at home, for the next weeks and possibly months to protect not just our physical health but our mental well-being as well?
Do your part and feel good about it
When a fit, healthy and asymptomatic person chooses to stay home, it’s not just about protecting yourself from acquiring the virus but, more importantly, it’s about doing your part in protecting at-risk people within your community. Dr. Graham Medley, an infectious diseases professor, said it best. “Most people have a fear of acquiring the virus. I think that a good way of doing it is to imagine that you do have the virus and change your behavior so that you’re not transmitting it.”
You may not be one of the brave and selfless healthcare frontliners out there working tirelessly to save lives but you are already doing a lot just by adhering to self-quarantine measures. When things start to get stressful, remind yourself that others are also benefiting from your adherence to stay home and that you are doing something for the greater good of humanity. However, if possible, you may also offer help or donate to those in need. While it’s easy to let anxiety or stress consume you, it’s also an opportunity to check your privilege and consider proactive measures that could alleviate the sufferings of others. Trust us when we say that exercising kindness has its own rewards.
Follow your usual schedule
Just because #WalangPasok or you’re sentenced to WFH doesn’t mean you have the license to wear pajamas and binge on junk food and booze all day. Set a daily schedule or at least create structure—wake up at the same time, go through your usual morning routine, get dressed, eat when you would normally eat, make time for exercise and stick to your lifestyle while keeping it as healthy as possible. If you haven’t jumped on the healthy bandwagon yet, now is a great time to start. If you are working from home, you might just be surprised how the simple act of getting out of your sleepwear and designating a certain area as your workspace can shift your brain from resting state to productive mode.
Start a journal
These are unprecedented times, at least for our generation, so you might want to consider keeping a log of events as they happen so you have something to look back to when all of this is over. It can be therapeutic to write all your worries down on paper but be sure to practice balanced thinking by finding joyful moments to write about as well. What you don’t want is to be sucked into a downward spiral of negativity and pessimism because reviewing it can lead to rumination or anxious thoughts about things you can’t control, and that can put a damper on your mood instead of uplifting it.
Stay informed but don’t stay plugged in
While it’s good to keep up with news on the coronavirus pandemic, there’s only so much information we can take without feeling overwhelmed. To prevent digital overload and avoid misinformation, get your daily dose of coronavirus news from one reliable source and check in for updates no more than twice a day. Stick to the facts, question rumors, and stay away from conspiracy theories. Ask yourself, at the rate COVID-19 is spreading, will it do anyone good to subscribe to the theory that coronavirus is a man-made virus, created in a lab and developed as a biological weapon, especially if you are getting your information from an unverified source?
If your newsfeed gets flooded with anxiety-inducing posts from well-meaning friends, family or influencers, it might be a good idea to unfollow them, at least until things calm down. The coronavirus is not the only contagion we need to protect ourselves from. Emotional contagion is just as real and could lead to unhealthy levels of anxiety and widespread panic. In addition to social distancing, practice self-distancing as well and learn to unplug from all things COVID-19 throughout the day.
Start on new projects
Some might still be busy working from home, spending time with children or taking care of the household, but if you find yourself a little free and wondering how to make the most of it, start or finish that project or activity you’ve always found an excuse not to do. If you can’t think of any, here are some ideas:
- Spring clean
- Check out YouTube for free home workout videos you can do anytime
- Expand your skincare routine and don’t skimp on your self-care practice
- Redecorate your house or move stuff around
- Learn to cook at home
- Read those books that have been sitting in your shelf or Kindle
- Sort through your collection of paper documents
- Go through your e-mail inbox and start pressing delete
- Make playlists or search for interesting podcasts
- Do something creative, even if it means unearthing that adult coloring book you got as a gift and never thought would come in handy someday.
- Learn a new language
- Start a 30-day challenge. I highly recommend Adriene Mishler’s “30 Days of Yoga with Adriene” series, especially for those who are starting their yoga journey
Stay connected with family, friends and your community
While it’s true that globalization and technological advancements on travel have made it easier for COVID-19 to spread like wildfire, thanks to technology, we have many means to stay connected without risking each others’ health. Humans are built with an innate need for connection and to not feel alone, especially during these uncertain times. Take advantage of the digital age that we live in to maintain social support networks but stay in contact only with those who are truly supportive and helpful while steering clear of those who may be unwittingly adding to your stress. If you feel like you need professional help, ask your doctor about tele-therapy or find an online support group. Also, make the most out of the opportunity you have with loved ones by doing bonding activities that you otherwise would not have been able to do and may not be able to continue doing once things go back to normal.
No one knows when this crisis and home quarantine will end, not even the experts. It may be all over in 30 days, maybe less, maybe more. But one thing’s for sure, if we are going to survive this, we need to stay physically healthy and have our wits about us through this whole ordeal.
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