In the wake of the coronavirus, our lives have been turned upside down. We’re already seeing the tremendous physical, mental and emotional toll that the virus has brought into our world.
We’re all asking the same questions: “How long is this going to last?” “What happens if I get sick?” “Are my loved ones in danger?” “What about my job?” And for the most part, we don’t have any answers, which feels really scary.
Coronavirus anxiety is completely normal; we’re all experiencing it to some degree. The good news is that we can find ways to counter it so we can come out on the other side of this a healthier, more positive version of ourselves.
Small steps and simple changes can help us to manage our fears, doubts and uncertainty so that anxiety doesn’t get the best of us. Here are a few of them.
Seek out the positivity.
Embrace the happiness in even the smallest flashes of joy that pop up throughout your day. We may need to actively seek out these moments, but they’re there. Start by tuning in to even the smallest acts of compassion and resilience so that we intentionally fill our energy and our minds with these stories of kindness, compassion and grace.
One space that we can look to for inspiration and positivity is the incredible response of so many organizations working together to do good. From nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies, they are making big changes to help support our frontline workers and our community.
Manage your stress.
Chronic stress wreaks havoc on our immune system, so it’s very important that we regularly manage the stressors in our lives. Set boundaries on exposure to news and coronavirus updates. Stay informed, of course, but make sure you’re taking enough time to step away and separate your thoughts, energy and focus.
Stack your habits.
Habit stacking is a term used by the team at Thrive Global, an incredible resource for all things positivity and wellness, and refers to adding a new habit that we’re trying to form on top of an existing one to create a built-in reminder.
One example of habit stacking is the “gratitude hand wash.” While you’re washing your hands, take the 20 seconds to think of one, two or three things you are grateful for. Instead of singing “Happy Birthday” twice, use the opportunity to reflect on all the good that is in your life.
For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit Ochsner.org/coronavirus.
Develop a daily routine.
You’ve probably heard this many times already, but if you haven’t done it already, develop a schedule – for yourself, and for your family, if needed. Having a daily routine in place can help you feel more in control and make room for what really matters.
Routine can benefit your emotional health, plus it can help you strengthen healthy habits, reduce stress levels and help you to cope with the changing world. Think about what your daily schedule will look like in terms of sleep, work (especially for those working from home), physical activity, mealtimes and chill time.
Block off windows of time for your focus and productivity, scheduling these hours like you would any other meeting. During these times, do your best to minimize distractions from emails, texts, calls and social media. This may not be as feasible when you’re layering in home schooling with working from home, but try to coincide your children’s study time with your own focus time.
Find a morning ritual that works for you.
Especially if you’re working from home, having a morning ritual can help to start the day on a positive note. If your home feels like mayhem these days, consider waking up a few minutes before everyone else to have a bit of quiet time for reading, exercise, meditation or even just reviewing your game plan for the day ahead.
Pause for mental refreshers throughout the day. Carve out time to make lunch, go for a walk, read a magazine, sit outside or call a friend (especially one who’s calm and emotionally steady).
Stop working when appropriate.
It’s hard to make yourself stop working when you are at home, because it can seem like nothing’s ever finished. We also don’t have the normal end-of-day cues like we do at the office, such as seeing other people leaving for the day. Set a time to stop working and stick with it. The work will always be there; we need to be sure we’re protecting our emotional energy as well.
Review your to-do list before you wrap up.
Before I end the workday, I run through my to-do list for that day or coming days and cross off what I accomplished. I prefer pen and paper for this, versus a digital list, as there’s just something satisfying about crossing items off the list. I also re-write this list as needed, as I’ve often jotted notes and more to-dos throughout the day.
Fill your downtime with things you enjoy.
Take walks with family or other quarantine-mates. Cook dinner, experimenting with new recipes. Read books, watch movies, start a new hobby or work on those projects you’ve wanted to do or try, but never had the time to do so.
This is all just a small sliver of the steps we can take to ensure we’re truly caring for ourselves. Continue to surround yourself with positive messaging. Follow wellness experts on social media who are sharing stories of inspiration and self-care. Tune in to the simple things that have a huge impact on your happiness. And, most important, start doing these things now.
Click here to listen to Molly’s FUELED podcast version of this article.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD, registered dietitian with Ochsner Health System, manages the nutrition department of Ochsner Fitness Center and is founder of the Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative.
Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow the Eat Fit team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @EatFitNOLA. Looking for healthy recipes? Download the Eat Fit Smartphone app and check out the NEW! Eat Fit Cookbook at www.EatFitCookbook.com. For more details, visit OchsnerEatFit.org