If someone told us we could take several weeks to rest, to take care of ourselves and do whatever we like, we probably would have envisioned having the most amazing time.
Now that it’s our reality, most of us can’t see beyond the fact we aren’t able to leave the seclusion of our homes, and this is breeding a state of mental unease. However, it is only by accepting this new, current state of existence that we can shift to a healthier, richer, and more productive state of mind.
Most of us, by nature, are very social beings, but social distancing and enforced isolation do not necessarily have to equate to misery. It doesn’t mean that we have to be melancholy, melting away into the couch, with chips in one hand and our phone in the other.
Remaining inside is an imperative measure for protecting – not only yourself – but your loved ones. However, there is no denying that it can lead to boredom, a lack of self-care, and reduced motivation.
Making matters worse is the constant and never-ending news cycle playing out before us. Our fixation with watching the chaos unfold and seeing what may happen next has us living in a constant state of fear. If left unchecked, this can degenerate into an overpowering and incredibly unhealthy form of panic.
We must make a conscious effort to take care of our bodies and our minds within this difficult time; and by implementing a sense of intention and a plan, it is even possible to thrive.
Here are four tips for keeping fear, frustration, and anxiety at bay and using your home-time to cultivate a state of positive, healthy, and productive living.
1. Practice Mental Hygiene
Understandably the key public focus right now is on our physical health. But the importance of individual mental wellness shouldn’t be overlooked.
The mind and body are inextricably linked, and by allowing negative emotions and prolonged anxiety to be present, we are enabling a continued production of stress hormones (like cortisol) to be released into our systems. This long-term and continued imbalance can also compromise your immune system.
It is perfectly normal to feel scared during a world crisis like this, but panic and paranoia will only serve to make matters worse.
Since we can’t control the media or the actions of people around us, we need to be in control of our mental state of mind.
Mantras are a great way to stop your fight-or-flight response and trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which can calm you down. When you feel yourself getting alarmed or worried, try saying this to yourself 3-5 times while taking deep breaths in and out:
I am healthy. I am safe. I am relaxed.
In doing so, you will feel the tension in your body slip away, the spiraling thoughts of despair will loosen their grip, and your levels of stress will be more manageable.
Now that you are clear and in control, do something valuable with your time.
2. Beat Boredom and Practice Productivity
The most inspiring message I have seen on the internet was by the poet Kitty O’Meara.
The poem begins with the evocative line: “And the people stayed home,” and goes on to describe an idyllic version of the months to come.
And The People Stayed Home
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”
If this doesn’t inspire you to want to use your time in quarantine wisely, I don’t know what will. So, read, journal, do something creative, meditate, play games, clean, take online classes, spend time with loved ones virtually, work on yourself, or finish that project you have had in the back of your mind for months.
Shift to excitement about all you can accomplish over the next few weeks, rather than dwell on those things you feel that you may be missing. Use this time as a time of enrichment instead of fostering feelings of absence.
3. Set Yourself Up for Success – The WOOP Method
During this difficult period, our routines will likely change (or be abandoned altogether), and we may find ourselves simply squandering away precious time.
By forming a goal or intention to keep yourself focused it can help you stay motivated, mentally strong, and productive.
The WOOP method is a four-part, goal-setting technique developed by New York University Professor Gabriele Oettingen. It is a simple acronym that can keep you on track and stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.
It can be adapted to suit any possible goal you may have, whether it’s trying to eat more healthily, regularly meditating, or staying active while you are stuck indoors.
Here’s how it works:
Wish – Define Your Goal
When you have a specific goal, it forces your mind to find logical ways to succeed at it, and by figuring out the intricacies of how you’re going to reach your goal, it leads to better performance. For example;
1. I will exercise and eat healthier
2. I will meditate once a day for 20-30 minutes.
Outcome – What Do You Want To Achieve?
Once you have a clear idea of your objective, ask yourself: what would be the best outcome from achieving your goal?
1. I will get in shape and have more energy, I will improve my mood, and build-up my immune system.
2. I will feel less fear, sadness, and stress and be more inspired and hopeful.
Obstacle – What Could Stand In The Way To Success?
A pitfall of succeeding is often when people jump from defining their goal to envisioning their desired outcome without considering what obstacles could stand in their way.
By thinking about this critical step, you will set yourself up for greater success through the process of switching gears and getting practical.
So, consider what could be standing in the way and what obstacles you might encounter.
1. I will lack self-control with a kitchen full of food. When I lay down and get comfortable in front of the television, I will be inclined to stay there since I don’t have anywhere to go.
2. I will have a hard time not using movies and social media to keep my brain occupied instead of quieting my mind with meditation.
Once you have all of the challenges clearly defined, now it’s time to make a plan.
Plan – How Will You Achieve Your Goal?
You have already figured out what you want, what amazing things you will achieve when you reach your goal, and what potential hazards could get in the way. Now it’s time for forming an ‘if-then plan’ to keep you on track.
1. IF I watch a movie, THEN I have to step away from electronics and do something active for 15-20 minutes. IF I go to eat snacks when I am not hungry, THEN I will brush my teeth so I am less likely to want food.
2. IF I spend an hour on social media, THEN I have to spend 10 minutes meditating before I can look again.
Setting goals, using this four-step technique, will help you remain on track, especially when being home makes it easy to lack ambition and self-control.
4. Now, Go to Bed!
In lieu of your usual routine, you may be tempted to stay up late watching television or playing on the computer to try and stave-off your boredom from being stuck at home. But that is the last thing you should do for keeping mentally and physically well during this time.
A lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, cause a loss of brain tissue and can worsen mood levels. You will find that you are more emotional, less focused, and have memory problems.
The long-term consequences of chronic sleep deprivation are severe and can include an increase in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, you can quadruple your risk of stroke, and it can even take years off of your life.
As there is no definitive end to the current status of social distancing, it is vital for us all to be aware of how best to stay healthy and the potential consequences of falling into bad routines.
Avoid using this quarantine time to loll around and waste time – this is the ideal opportunity to train your body to start going to bed earlier. You will be happier, your immune system will be better replenished to fight off viruses, and you will feel more motivated overall.
Another downside to a shortage of sleep is its link to overeating. When the body is sleep-deprived, it causes a chemical imbalance in the body. The levels of ghrelin (The Hunger Hormone) rise, while the levels of leptin (The Hunger Inhibitor) lower – leading to an increase in feelings of hunger.
Considering we have likely stocked up on several weeks’ worth of all of our favorite foods, this could be the recipe for a real problem.
Keep this in mind the next time you want to watch just one more Netflix show after your bedtime or play one more game on the computer. You are going to wake up with cookies and chips calling your name.
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely” – Auguste Rodin
It’s natural to feel fear right now. We are facing an unmapped dilemma, awash with uncertainty about how long this will last, the health of those we love, our wellbeing, and the impacts of this on us all financially.
It is easy to experience extreme stress and be overwhelmed by negative emotions, but the key point is to find a mindset of logic and reason and take control over the things that you can control for the betterment of self.
Remain focused on becoming stronger, smarter, and more accomplished than you were when this all began. It’s all about your mental attitude, whether you squander your quarantine or use it to your advantage, it is your choice.
And remember – “this too shall pass.”