Many people are working from home, schools and businesses are closing, grocery store shelves are depleted and “social distancing” guidelines have severely restricted our public gatherings. With so many stress factors from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s perfectly normal to feel some level of anxiety. You may be feeling unsafe, have trouble sleeping, experience distressing emotions, feel lonely due to social isolation or dealing with work-life balance issues. The more stress, the more vulnerable you can become to viruses.

I wanted to share a few things that can help you stay calm and function normally during this trying season.

Managing your Media Intake

There’s a fine line between staying informed and feeling overwhelmed by the news. In times like these, people tend to read and listen to the news most of the day. Research has shown that in natural disasters as people’s media exposure increases, so does their anxiety. While you shouldn’t avoid the news entirely, it’s important to limit your exposure. This is particularly true for social media, which can be vague or sensationalized. Rely on trusted forms of communication such as our local Marin County authorities, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Stick to Routine as Much as Possible

Your usual commute and life schedule might be uprooted, especially if you are working from home. Creating and following a new routine can be very calming, especially when it feels as though a lot of things are changing around you.

For example, set a schedule for yourself if you are telecommuting which allows you to take proper breaks and get enough relaxation. If you have children at home because schools are closed, plan a new routine schedule that works for all of you. Try and make the most of additional time spent with your family.

It’s also important to continue to exercise and eat healthy foods (and avoid caffeine which can increase your anxiety). If you usually relax on the weekend with books or movies, continue to do that. Prioritize sleep as research shows that people who are rested are better at protecting themselves from viruses.

Try and live “in the moment”

Give mindfulness a try. Each day brings us enough to deal with and decisions to be made. You will feel less anxiety if you live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow. Being mindful is not complicated or obscure: it means to take note of what is happening with the people and environment around you in the in the moment. Examples of everyday mindfulness include being present in a conversation, enjoying a walk with a loved one, or savoring every bite of your favorite food. Finding joy in simple pleasures can help you feel happier.

Be mindful of your emotions. If you allow yourself to feel your emotions they will more quickly pass. Anxiety gets worse when you try and shut out your feelings. You may look for ways to distract yourself, and that can be helpful as long as you still allow yourself time to feel.

Know you are not alone

Stay connected with family and friends because the pandemic can be very isolating. Looking out for your neighbors, family, friends and coworkers can also provide relief because we are social creatures by nature and helping others gives us a sense of purpose, reminding us that are are all in this together. When reaching out to friends and family try to find other things to talk about as it makes life feel more normal and can relieve their anxiety as well as your own.

Get outside in the fresh air

Getting out in the sunshine or nature can relax you. Realizing there is good in the world while in the midst of crisis can help you feel grounded. From a practical perspective, research has found that viruses have more difficulty adhering to people and surfaces in the fresh air. So go for that walk, sit outside and enjoy the beauty of creation.

May you and your family stay healthy, happy and calm during this temporary season.

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