As quarantine measures began being put in place in March, millions of people around the world have been adjusting to the new, and hopefully temporary, way of life amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Since then, working from home, telecommuting and social distancing have been the norm. Through video calls and conferencing, individuals have been able to connect with their workspaces, teams, communities and loved ones, albeit virtually.
However, meeting up and communicating through screens certainly does not replace the personalization and authenticity of meeting in-person. Although countless global citizens are going through this together, now in particular it can be easy to feel not only isolated, but alone. In addition, many have been experiencing heightened general anxiety levels during the course of the year thus far, fueled by constant uncertainty, confusion and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Add in the relentless churning of the news cycle and the elevated anxiety levels that can result in people who may have either been presently dealing with anxious symptoms or have experienced anxious spikes following marijuana use (shout-out to My Perfect Solutions for connecting you with your perfect strain to prevent that) and it becomes simpler to understand how hunkering down at home can lead to stir craziness, cabin fever, frustration and even anger and restlessness.
While glimmers of good news have been seen regarding recovery rates and the steadying of new cases in pockets through the U.S., it continues to be paramount to stay at home and do our part to continue the downward trend. As of yesterday, the U.S. reported over 21,000 new cases and nearly 800 coronavirus deaths. We are not out of this pandemic yet and, straight up, it’s silly to think that getting “back to normal” following a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of approximately 5 million people and counting worldwide would come in just a couple of months.
So, stay home. Chill. Being safe inside with unlimited access to our phones, computers, streaming services, pets, beds and roofs is not tyranny.
That being said, it is crucial to sustain mental and physical health, which I know is easier said than done in a time such as this. If you’re experiencing anxious symptoms from being cooped up all day and night, here are some suggestions for how you can, literally and figuratively, step back, take a breath and gain a moment of levity.
I know this one sounds hella simple. But if you’re like me, you’ve had days in which you’ve found yourself glued to the couch and it isn’t until the sun has set and the moon has risen that you’re like, “damn, I’ve been inside all day.” Even if it’s just to step outside of your front door onto your porch, stoop, deck or lawn, taking in some fresh air can help to clear your mind and remind you that you’re not alone. Also, more so than usual, we’ve been spending a lot of time staring at screens from our phones, laptops and televisions. When you go outside, stretch your vision and flex your eyes literally by finding the horizon and focusing your sight as far as you possibly can. Your vision will thank you.
When one is experiencing anxiety, their breathing rate elevates while the breaths shorten. Sometimes, anxiety can physically appear in the subconscious holding of one’s breath. When you find yourself taking shorter and rapid breaths or holding it in altogether, take a brief moment to acknowledge that and let it go with a series of longer, deeper breaths. Even if just for a few seconds once a day, finding yourself present to how and where your body is harboring that anxiety or those distressing feelings is an essential first step to being able to release it.
Again, I do be getting stuck to that couch every now and again. Depression, anxiety, PTSD and a host of mental health symptoms can manifest themselves physically in debilitating fashion. Sitting for long periods of time also doesn’t do your spine any favors by constantly compressing it. And again, even if it’s just for a short instance, get up, stretch, dance, squat and/or wander around aimlessly when you find the blanket of negativity beginning to tuck you in. The human body was made to be moved.
These may sound like straightforward suggestions but it is extraordinary how often the reminders are needed. It’s not about forgetting the problems nor it is about removing unwanted emotions from your life. Problems and tough feelings are part of the wide spectrum that make up the highs and lows of being a human being. But through a constance conscious mental effort, it is possible to learn how to sit with those emotions, feel them, understand what they are doing for you and to you, know from where they come and where they are held in the body, and perhaps most importantly, how to breathe them out to make room for new ones.
Said, then done,