During this time of managing the coronavirus pandemic and sheltering in place, we’d like to share some tips for how to stay happy and lower stress at home. There’s increased anxiety and overwhelm for many — and we’re cooped in more than usual. Here are 12 ways to keep yourself and loved ones sane and feeling as well as you can during this time!
Keeping certain routines intact can make a big difference in your mental and emotional well-being. Try to keep your sleeping time and schedule consistent to what is usual for you, and the same with eating patterns.
Dramatic changes in eating habits can predispose some people to stress, anxiety, depression and more. If you’re already a little anxious, we recommend keeping to regular meals throughout the day. Keep an eye on stress and pro-actively do something to relax yourself if you notice it creeping up. Exercise, guided meditations using Calm or Headspace, or massages are great ways to relax.
Social contact is an important part of feeling emotionally fulfilled. We recommend scheduling video calls with friends and some group video chats every week. Even if you’re sheltering in place with loved ones, it’s good to connect with friends and others outside your home to broaden the nature of your interactions and continue receiving diverse feedback that helps you reflect on how you’re doing.
Zoom is a great online platform for group calls. You can use it to schedule afternoon tea, dinner parties with friends, or calls with people overseas. Video chats can seem a little flat at first, but come alive when people show one another their pets, give a tour of their space or show off a favorite project they’re working on. The Houseparty app is also a great to connect with others and have some virtual fun.
It can be important to stay plugged in to what’s going on. Staying current helps us be good social citizens, take appropriate action to protect ourselves and others — and feel empathy toward those who are struggling at this time. But consuming too much negative news can be detrimental to your mental well-being.
If you’re feeling some anxiety or stress from current events, we recommend tuning in occasionally to get the latest, but then giving yourself plenty of time to focus more on your immediate environment, like cleaning, cooking, spending time with loved ones or a hobby you are enjoying.
Touch is comforting to most, yet we often don’t utilize it enough when we interact. If you’re sheltering in place with loved ones, you might consider incorporating daily massage. A back rub or shoulder rub at the end of the day is a nice way to relax and prepare for sleep. A foot rub feels great and can be bonding and fun.
Similar to touch, exercise is healthful, regulating, lowers anxiety and stress and keeps your immune system functioning optimally. Safe methods of exercise at this time include in-home routines such as squats, yoga, and sit-ups, video-led dance or workout classes (plenty of local gyms are offering free virtual classes), taking a walk outside, jogging, hiking and going for bike rides in your neighborhood.
Music brightens our mood and dance gives us much needed movement and stress-relief at this time! You can use the extra downtime to try new music or to have a daily one or two-song dance party with family members taking turns choosing the music. It can be fun to learn and practice new dances from different countries using online tutorials and have some fun trying new moves.
Cleaning, getting rid of old or unnecessary items and organizing your living space can help you feel a sense of renewal and momentum. We often don’t have time to eliminate clutter and streamline our space, so now’s a great time! Deep cleaning also helps you to keep your space free of germs and makes it easier to clean surfaces going forward. Think about who could benefit from items you don’t need or use much and make piles or containers of things to give people you know or to charity. Thinking about your friends and feeling generous stimulates a positive state of mind.
Our sense of smell is one of the most direct pathways to deep parts of the brain and a great way to stimulate your senses. Go digging for scented candles you may have gotten at some point, or obtain some essential oils. You can make your own essential oil diffuser by placing some drops in simmering water on the stove, make a bottled spray to spritz around or use a real diffuser to keep your space smelling great. Some essential oils also have healing properties and can create a calming environment that lowers anxiety and stress.
Some of you are sheltering in place alone. We’ve had lots of questions from single individuals about how to continue dating and developing relationships during this time. We don’t recommend putting your pursuit for love on pause. Rather, use the extra time to set up video chats with people you match with and get to know them through conversation. It’s a great way to make the day feel more social, and you might get to know someone better by talking than on that fun date you might have gone on.
This is a great time to deepen bonds in your family. Plus activities that bring laughter are a bonus and strengthen the immune system. Here are some ideas!
-Games like Cranium, Spoons, Boggle, Yahtzee, backgammon or cards
-Making your own puzzle out of poster board
-Family karaoke contest
-Making photo books about recent vacations or kids’ childhood years
-Using an astronomy app to learn the night sky
-Family fashion show competitions on themes
-Playing ‘Who Knows You Best’
Whether it’s with your partner or with friends, now is a great time to focus on close people in your life and deepen your connection with them. Find ways to deepen your love with a spouse, or with kids — those are bonds that will carry the investment forward even after this time. The same is true with friends, and many people have extra time now to talk and share feelings.
Many therapists are now offering teletherapy through video chats like Zoom. If you’re feeling uncomfortably anxious, stressed or getting depressed — it’s a good time to reach out to a therapist and discuss it. You can explore how you feel, symptoms and methods of improvement. Talking through your feelings is also relieving and therapeutic.
Many therapy groups have also moved online. Joining a group gives you social contact, bonding with others, and is less expensive than individual sessions. Some clinics also offer virtual psychiatry should you need medicine to assist you in feeling balanced again.
Household meetings create a good opportunity to discuss current events and any feelings you’re having about what’s happening. The sharing can be bonding and helps to bring those sheltering in place closer together. It can be helpful to notice and share any underlying fear, anxiety or stress, as most people are carrying such feelings under the surface. Meetings also create a good opportunity to set a schedule for activities, chores, meals and more. Try creating a poster board that illustrates the schedule and balance you’re shooting for. Drawing out the schedule of activities can help kids feel involved in the planning of their days and weeks.
John Howard and Peter Craig are psychotherapists at PRESENCE, a wellness center supporting the integration of your mental, physical and relationship health so you can heal, grow, and thrive in life through leading-edge, science-based psychotherapy and medicine.