The world is going through a tough time right now. While healthcare professionals and social workers are fighting hard to treat patients and restore normalcy, a large section is fighting internal battles at home. Many countries are under an official lockdown as a necessary measure to contain the spread. However, people are facing intense mental health issues ranging from anxiety, panic attacks, loneliness, stress, and whatnot. According to WHO, more than 264 million people across the world struggle with severe depression. The situation is even worse for people who have recently lost a loved one, divorced, or recovering from a health condition like Cancer.
I am living all by myself at home for close to 2 months now. The anxiety took the best of me at first until I decided to deal with it head-on. I decided to take charge of my life, and I have transformed for the better. Here’s the roadmap one can follow to defeat anxiety and live their best lives during and after the lockdown.
1. Ditch the Idea of Productivity For a While
Our social media feeds are flooded with quotes like, “If you don’t come out of the lockdown with a new skill, you never lacked time, but discipline.” It’s high time that we prioritize our mental health first, and I can assure that productivity will follow. As busy professionals, we love doing things On the Go. Whether it’s our morning coffee, exercise, reading, or any other activity, we take pride in doing a hundred things at a time.
I am not against the idea of productivity, but any success that comes at the cost of severe burnout and depression is not worthwhile. Therefore, we all must indulge in activities for our sanity over productivity. This is the time not only to sanitize our hands but our minds as well. Trust me. It’s the best time to focus on our mental health as other activities are going to resume after this gloomy period is over.
2. Build a Solid Routine
I have struggled with habits for over a decade, and now I can understand why. The lockdown gave me enough time to introspect, and I got most of my answers. When it comes to routine, we try to fit in too many activities good for our body and mind. Think of exercise, meditation, reading, healthy eating, and hobbies.
A little too much to accomplish, all at once. The idea behind a routine is to choose an activity that can create a GPS for your day and helps you with more energy, clarity, and focus. Sadly, gulping that shot of caffeine or drinking hot chocolate with loads of sugar is not the right practice.
I have sustained two years of a demanding IT job with graveyard night shifts with 10 cups of coffee a day. My body became a caffeine factory and was on the verge of crashing. Take the opportunity to build solid habits that are going to serve your physical and mental health for life. Here’s what you can do first thing:
- Drink a tall glass of warm water with lemon and honey to boost immunity
- Consume Aloe Vera, Basil, or Wheatgrass to improve digestion and fight aging
- Stretch and sweat your body for 15 minutes
- Write a 100-word gratitude journal
That’s it. When you start building your routine, start with simple activities like these to boost your confidence first. Even science says it takes 21 days to embed a habit in our routine. Avoid doing intense workouts or exercise at first, or your motivation can crash, resulting in more anxiety.
3. Spend Your Day Out of the Bed
Most of us are working from home right now and staying in bed gives us a sense of comfort. If you want to curb anxiety, it’s essential to stay active throughout the day. Again, it’s about finding your focus zone and not beating yourself up for less productivity. You might feel like crashing on bed every now and then, but then the anxiety is going to grapple you more. Therefore, once you have laid the foundation of a basic routine, choose your activities for the day.
For working professionals, it’s going to be 9 hours work with breaks in between. No matter if you are employed or not right now, pick up a few activities that fill your soul with joy. For me, it’s writing, creating, reading, and my newly discovered passion for cooking. For you, it can be drawing, running, gardening, or watching movies. Just get started and watch your joy soar.
4. Cut Down Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can be the difference between good and poor mental health. When we are stressed and anxious, our body releases stress hormones called cortisol. Once you start silencing your anxiety with alcohol, your body and sleep cycle takes a severe hit. According to Healthline, alcohol intake can cause fluctuation in neurotransmitter levels of your brain that can worsen your anxiety.
To make things worse, alcohol-induced anxiety can stay for days. So, it’s a golden opportunity to work your way to an alcohol-free life. When the craving hits, seek support from family members, talk to friends on the phone, or have more healthy substitutes like smoothies, lemon tea, and green tea. Green tea has potent antioxidants to relieve anxiety, whereas smoothies contain a blast of nutrients to eliminate anxiety slowly.
5. Moderate Information Consumption on Internet
Watching news has resulted in more anxiety for me than any other activity. We can only see how badly the world is suffering, how stressed our health workers are, and can pray for all this to end soon. Sadly, there is not much we can control. This helplessness causes mood swings and paralyzing anxiety, making us dysfunctional. So, please limit your news time.
Focus only on the important updates that you must follow to ensure well being and invest the rest of the time in watching or listening to good stuff such as podcasts, audiobooks, and more. Whenever I felt anxious or lonely, I switched to a sitcom and laughed like crazy. In moments of suppression, I listened to “I have a dream” speech or spiritually healing content from Jay Shetty and Arianna Huffington. Consuming self-help content truly helps if you can convert the advice into action.
6. Practice Pranayama and Mantras
Yoga awareness is a hot topic in the world, given its innumerable physical and mental benefits. For me, Yoga and Pranayama are not only tools for mental fitness, but a way of life. Although there are plenty of apps and advice around meditation, I would suggest you to start with chanting mantras and alternate nostril breathing. Healthline reports that alternate nostril breathing is a proven technique to lower down stress levels and calm anxiety.
There are plenty of other benefits as well, but it’s the right exercise to soothe your nerves and get a clear head. I am practicing for over a month now and I can see a considerable increase in my energy levels and mental focus. Chanting mantras create a positive vibration in your mind that are proven to alleviate anxiety.
Much of your anxiety is linked with disturbed sleep cycles and sleep deprivation. Practicing such relaxation techniques will ensure you get uninterrupted sleep, so you don’t have to wake up tired and groggy. You can also chant affirmations to eliminate your limiting beliefs and plant positive ones in your subconscious.
7. Perform Household Chores
The lockdown period made me an independent man. I learned cooking, cleaning, dishes, buying vegetables, and everything during this period. All these are immersive experiences and trust me, they can be therapeutic. A moving body is the key to a calm mind. Our sedentary lives have made us lazy and poisoned our health with unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and eating junk. It’s the best time to break out of all the negative patterns and forge a new life to live after the phase gets over. You will see a new version of yourself that is more confident, less anxious and is ready to take on different challenges with renewed spirits.
Give Yourself a Hug Today
As Jodi Picoult puts it perfectly, “Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” I am sure when this phase is over, mindfulness and self care will become the new fashion than chasing someone else’s’ version of success. We are going to be more kind and compassionate to our mind, which is essential to let go of testing times and to find our core inner strength. If you feel anxious all the time, just take the first step. Remember that you don’t have to figure out everything at once. It’s your life. Breathe and live your life, one step and one struggle at a time. My heartfelt wishes for everyone who has been strong enough to overcome mental adversity and anxiety. More power to you!