Such strange times, right?
You don’t have to be an anxious person to recognise that we’re living in what feels like a post-apocalyptic world. With the global spread of coronavirus, many thousands of people have lost jobs, loved ones and future plans.
This time three weeks ago, I was boarding a last-minute flight home to the UK from Austria, moments after the Austrian government had announced a national lockdown. Stepping aboard a plane full of anxious passengers and cagey crewmembers was an unsettling flying experience I won’t soon forget. Over the last several days, my eyes have been glued to the news, my face grimacing with every COVID-19 update and wondering what good could come out of this crisis.
Over the last few days, my emotions have felt super up and down. On the days where my anxiety weighs on me the most, I try to take it moment by moment. For me right now, life is about taking little steps throughout the day that help me nurture my mind, body and soul and encouraging others to do the same. I wanted to share with y’all some of the habits I’ve been trying to put in place to help manage my anxiety during lockdown.
One. Accept how you feel and take a deep breath.
This season has been a great opportunity to practice checking in with myself. I don’t know about you but lately my days have felt like a nauseating carnival ride. The morning begins full of promise with a long list of ‘to-dos’, only to succumb to a wave of anxiety the moment the Breaking News notifications alert my phone. If you’re like me then you’ll also be hard on yourself for feeling this way when in reality it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious right now. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event in our lifetime so it’s natural to feel a mixture of emotions, especially anxiety. What I’ve tried to do in these moments is to have realistic expectations about what I can and cannot control. And how I do that is by stepping back from the media and take a deep breath.
The other day when I was feeling anxious, I couldn’t help but notice that my chest began to feel tight. Because chest tightness is a key symptom of coronavirus, I couldn’t help but start to worry. Why is my chest getting tighter? Am I getting sick? Talk about a vicious cycle! This is where learning to take deep breaths comes into play. By limiting my exposure time to the media and by practicing deep breathing in the moments when I’m feeling anxious, I am slowly regaining control over my emotions. Don’t get me wrong; it’s difficult to calm a racing mind. But allowing myself to relax as much as possible and rationalising some of my feelings – perhaps my shortness of breath is from over-thinking and not coronavirus – in that moment I noticed that my anxiety started to level out. This simple practice of checking in with ourselves is really important and can help promote healthy wellbeing during a very stressful time for all of us.
Two. Find your people.
Crises have a funny way of bringing people together. If there’s one thing I have learned in these last few weeks; it’s in the tough times where you find out who your friends are. As we are all forced to slow down our lives, many of us have taken to Zoom (all hail the app of 2020) to catch up with our friends and family members. No longer can we hide behind the guise of ‘Sorry, I’m just too busy right now’. Connection has become a top priority for all of us; however I’ve learned that you can’t force connection.
Let’s put it this way. Forced love is not real love. The same goes for connection. Everyone has their people. You’ve got yours and I have mine; part of this whole lockdown conundrum might just be discovering who our people really are. Find your crew; the ones who are at the end of a crying phone call. Hold tight and (in the words of Pilot Pete’s Mom) don’t let them go. Schedule date nights with the people in your life that you love and embrace the technological magic that is FaceTime.
Three. Develop a routine.
Lockdown has killed any semblance of my daily routine. In fact, what day is it?
As someone who enjoys a bit of planned spontaneity, I’ve noticed my anxiety has increased as the days mesh into one big blur. After a week of needless trial and error (I mean who am I kidding? It was always going to be a sweatpants kind of work week); my husband James and I realised that our days demanded more structure so we came up with a more stringent routine for our work week.
If you’re like me and you’re not used to working from home every day, I’ve found that mapping out my workday has helped my mood and increased my own productivity levels. Whether it’s creating a separate workspace in your house (I repeat, do not work from bed) or starting your mornings with a HIIT workout, I’ve since discovered that sticking to a daily routine is key to establishing some kind of normality in what is an otherwise very abnormal situation.
Four. Stay active.
As a gym junkie myself, not being able to go to the gym has been one of the hardest things about lockdown. But in the age of Joe Wicks YouTube videos and home Pilates apps, never before has working out been easier to do at home. Of course, there are so many other ways to get your daily dose of exercise. Whether it’s going for mid-day walk to stretch your legs or riding your bike around the neighbourhood, I really believe that exercise will be a lot of peoples’ saving grace right now. Lately, I’ve been walking around some of Edinburgh’s green spaces while listening to a relaxing podcast. James and I have been taking advantage of this opportune time and going for evening walks around the city after work. It’s a lovely way to catch up with each other about our days while breathing in some fresh air. Whatever your thing is, find something that works for you and your body and set aside time to focus on you.
Five. Don’t forget to dream about the future.
When all of this is over, and our routines return to something along the lines of ‘normal’, we will need to find a way to pick up the pieces and move forward. For some of us, that sounds impossible because maybe our job situation is really tricky or our future looks uncertain. I completely understand that dreaming about the future may feel like a pipe-dream in this moment of time. For me, it’s one of the main ways I am staying emotionally well. Let me explain.
Sometimes when you hit a massive brick wall, it forces you to start examining every aspect of your life. Do I like the job I’m doing? What’s something I wish I had more time for? What’s one dream I want to make into a reality this year? I have been asking myself these questions on a daily basis; and while it may sound like a lot of unnecessary pressure; it’s actually brought me a lot of focus I’m craving right now. I’m trying to see this lockdown more as an opportunity to grow as a person; particularly my creative projects. Pouring myself into writing, reading poetry books and creating new recipes in my kitchen has been a relaxing and therapeutic outlet for me to channel a lot of my anxiety and create something new and beautiful. Not only that, but I’ve started putting together a ‘post-lockdown’ list of travel destinations as something to look forward to. What places are on the top of your list? Not every one of us will have the desire to create something like a blog post or poem; but I would encourage you to discover what brings your soul joy.
This goes without saying, but I am definitely in no way an expert when it comes to nailing this whole lockdown lifestyle. The last few weeks have been very up and down for me as I’ve been trying to identify the right routines that will help thrive physically, emotionally and mentally. I recognise that some of these habits may not work for you and that’s perfectly okay but what I would encourage us all to do is to use this time to be intentional about our lifestyles right now. Never before in our lives have we had to collectively slow down and re-evaluate our priorities. As we discover how to move forward safe and well, remember to take it one day at a time and to celebrate the little things.