Today is a beautiful, awesome day!

Hmm, what came up when you read that?

Did it invoke feelings of anger? Shock? Disgust? Were you immediately thinking: 

“How could someone say that at a time like right now?”

“WTF! We are in a pandemic? What are you thinking?”

“Yeah right, I’m out of toilet paper and laid off of work, today sucks.”

Right now, we are experiencing a tumultuous time. Life as we knew it is different. No longer can we walk around crowded malls, hang out with friends, attend our weekly Meetup groups, or for many, go to work.

Fear over our health, the health of our nation, and the ability to live our everyday lives are mounting. If you turn on the news, log into Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, all you will hear is the current death toll and infection rate of COVID-19.

If you walk into a grocery store, the shelves will be empty.

You hear of people being laid off from their jobs, small businesses, large businesses, all businesses worrying about the ability to stay open.

People are loading up on guns and ammo (no pun intended) in fear that the country will soon turn into a full out “every man for himself” apocalypse.

I hope you can see that it is not just the virus that is infecting people – it is also fear that is overtaking people’s minds and bodies. 

coronavirus anxiety

Fear over our basic needs hits us at a core level. When our ability to obtain food, water, shelter, money, and yes, social interaction is threatened, our survival instincts kick in.

This is our “reptilian brain” – that part that controls our basic drives in our subconscious.

You may be feeling anxious or depressed, having angry outbursts and not understand why. This is because your “reptilian brain” is overtaking. So, what does this tell us? It tells us that our reptilian brain is going to continue to try to survive. But we must ask ourselves:

“Is how we are feeling, acting, and going about our day truly serving us?”

Right now, there is good reason to feel anxious, fearful, and stressed with all that is going on. But, is feeling constantly anxious, angry, and stressed truly helping our chances at “surviving”?

While practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and all of the current recommendations are something we should be doing – is an emotional state of panic, anxiety, and fear, helping?

This “survival guide” is intended to help you shift your mindset to help you reflect on how you are feeling, why you are feeling this way, and how you can “flip the script” on this time to create transformation within yourself.

In other words, let’s make lemonade out of lemons. Why the hell not?

coronavirus COVID-19 anxiety

If you’re ready to feel calm, centered, and begin to grow as a person – read on. I’m sure you have spare time.

What can you do to not only survive but thrive? Let’s go over the top 12 things you can do.

1. What Are My Needs?

It is easy to feel defeated right now. Why shower? Why not eat 16 cookies? Exercise? – The gym isn’t open! Sure, for a couple of days, it may be what you need to grieve your losses. And yes, everyone has experienced a significant loss, and we should acknowledge that. But it is essential to, at some point, pick yourself up and say: “ok, what do I really need right now?”

Take out a piece of paper, journal, or open a document on your computer. Begin to write out what your *needs* are and *why*

For example:

  1. Sleeping 8 hours per night – to feel rested 
  2. Talking to my sister each day – to feel connected to my family
  3. Laughter – to feel joy and “let go.”
  4. Walking my dog – to ensure I am taking care of my dog’s needs
  5. Eating – for fuel
  6. Exercise – to move my body and feel energized
  7. Comfort and assurance – I need to know what I am feeling is ok

When looking at your needs, ask yourself what is and isn’t being met right now. For your needs that are being met, great, keep doing what you are doing. For the needs that are not being met, but you feel you could be met, what is something you can do to change that? For example:

Exercise – to move my body and feel energized

If you are not currently exercising but could be what is holding you back? What are the perceived obstacles? – The gym is closed.

 I can exercise at home. Boom, there is step one of your plan. Now detail a time, place, and all the details to make this happen. Obstacles may come up:

 What are the real obstacles? – I don’t have weights at home?

 Hmm, what is a solution to this? Bodyweight exercise? Looking on YouTube? The solutions are there – it’s time to get creative.

Next, what are the needs that are not being met, and you are not sure how to meet them? For example:

Comfort and assurance – I need to know what I am feeling is ok.

If you feel that you don’t know how to meet this need, it is time to reach out. Ask a friend, journal deeply about what you are scared about, what it would take for this need to be met, etc.

If you are still struggling, reach out to us. We can help 480-531-2557.

what are my needs right now?

2. Identifying Fear and Self Talk

We all have constant chatter in our brains – we call this “self talk.” Sometimes it’s on a subconscious level (reptilian brain), and other times it is something we say over and over in our conscious brains –

“I am not good at ___ (fill in the blank).”

Your self-talk creates your beliefs. A belief is a thought that you think over and over again. So, we have a lot of power over our beliefs – we just may not use our power enough. Identifying what your fears and self-talk are essential. Now, get out that paper and pen again and write out your fears, or things you continually think:

For example:

  1. I am going to die from the coronavirus
  2. I will go broke and lose everything
  3. I am not ok
  4. Everything is so scary
  5. People are horrible and don’t care about each other
  6. I am so bored, and there is nothing to do
  7. Etc. Etc.

Ok, now, which of these can be looked at from a different perspective? I challenge you to look at ALL of your thoughts from a different perspective. Were you ever on the debate team at school where you did not get to pick the side you debated on? If so, use those skills, if not, try to take yourself out of the feeling and look at it objectively. Make a rebuttal to EVERY thought you have. This is important to be able to change your thoughts and therefore change your beliefs.

For example:

“People are horrible and don’t care about each other”

Find examples to prove that this may not be 100% true.

  1. My cousin reached out his neighbor to buy them groceries
  2. People are fearful right now and want to ensure they have what they need for their families
  3. We often hear/see the “horrible” stories online and don’t always hear about the good things
  4. My community started a food drive
  5. Etc. etc

By challenging our beliefs, it opens us up to the possibility of changing them. It also helps us to stop thinking in “all-or-nothing” and “black-or-white.” By challenging our beliefs, we can see things are somewhat true, possibly true, and look at things in “shades of grey.”

negative self talk

3. Switch Your Focus to Those Around You

It is easy to get caught up in our own fears, emotions, and thoughts. One of the best ways to get out of our own heads is by switching our focus to other people. Being that “rock” for others takes the power from our own emotions and helps us to become stronger, more stable, and more centered by “stepping up” for others. Sounds simple right? Yeah, it is! Begin to engage with those around you from a place of strength. You will help them meet their needs of assurance and your needs at the same time. Double bonus!

4. Reflect on What You Miss and What You Don’t Miss

Ok, I get it, there is a lot to miss about how things were before. But, what are some of the things you are enjoying about right now? Do you miss your job? Or are you glad to have a break from seeing your rude boss and staring at a screen all day?

Do you miss seeing your friends, but are you glad that you can spend more time with your pets? Playing with them, cuddling with them?

How about eating at your favorite bars and restaurants? Missing the hustle and bustle? The $2 tacos on Tuesday? On the other hand, have you been flexing your culinary skills in the kitchen? Buying funky ingredients and tuning into the Food Network?

What parts of your life need a revamp? Is it time to make a switch and begin following your passions? Are there areas of your life that you took for granted before and realize that they mean more to you than you ever thought?

enjoying time at home

5. Ask yourself, what have I not had the time to do lately, or what have I been neglecting in my life?

Right now you may be feeling claustrophobic or bored with being cooped up in the house the last few days, but try to think of this time as an opportunity to do things that have been on your to-do list the last few years, but haven’t had to time finish due to work and other life responsibilities. 

It’s easy to get caught up in daily life and realize years later that things that were once important to you have been put on the side burner. You’re likely not to have another opportunity in which you have this amount of free time again in the near future, so take advantage of the time to accomplish things you wouldn’t usually accomplish. 

What do I mean by things that you have not had time for recently? Well, this question is specific to each individual, so the answer to this question will come down to some self-reflection again. Maybe you’ve been wanting to clean out that spare room that over the years has slowly accumulated things becoming more of a storage room, or possibly you may have wanted to try out a new cooking recipe (if you can find the ingredients in stores)! 

Look at this time as “catch-up time” or a space of opportunity. Always wanted to try painting? What about that blog you have been meaning to start? What about working on getting in shape? That brings us to our next point:

6. Move Your Body

You may have been flabbergasted upon waking one morning to find that your gym that you regularly attend decided to shut their doors for the foreseeable future. While you may have been irritated at this inconvenience, a part of you may have secretly rejoiced that now there was a real excuse for cutting out that 40 minutes of hard work you perform daily or three to four times per week. 

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, or more accurately, the shatterer of excuses, but there are plenty of exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. During times of self-quarantine, your daily exercising can not be neglected. Exercise is essential not only for our physical health but for our mental well-being. 

Have you ever stayed in your house for a few days and started to feel a little down and gloomy, or like the world feels a little less bright than normal? This is entirely normal as humans are meant to out socializing and exercising; it is literally hardwired into our brains. What you are feeling is your brain saying, “Hey, this isn’t what is good for you!” 

Take the information that your brain is giving you and start exercising from home to feel better during this unusual time. If you’re asking yourself what kind of exercises you can do from your home, there is quite a bit you can accomplish with what you already have without having to go purchase weights or other equipment. 

If you’re someone that looks forward to their yoga sessions at their gym, you may find an acceptable substitute pulling up guided yoga sessions on your computer and following along in a cleared out section of the floor. There are many other videos on calisthenics and other exercises that can be found for free in a quick Google or Youtube search. 

Weightlifters shouldn’t panic as we have not forgotten you! This may be an excellent time to start to perform bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, planks, dips, and more. Weightlifting at home may require you to be a little creative if you don’t have weights thrown in the corner of your garage, but we think flexing your creative muscles is a good thing. If you have a few milk jugs sitting around, fill these with sand or water to create quick do-it-yourself weights! The fact is there are many other ways to create your free-weights, with bricks and other materials for those that are going through gym withdrawal. 

exercise at home

7. Get Creative in the Kitchen

You may be thinking that cooking your meals sounds like a strange suggestion to include on this list, but what we are really talking about is taking the time to plan, prepare, and enjoy your food. Food is one of those basic drives that hit us, humans, at a core level, so it should make sense that taking the time to genuinely enjoy your food will both improve your cooking skills and make you happier. There are countless recipes online for the same dish, but now may be a good time to try a recipe you haven’t eaten before. 

If you go through the work of finding an amazing recipe only to realize that you can’t find a specific ingredient in your cupboards or local grocery store, try to lookup an acceptable alternative that can be substituted. Google is a fantastic tool that, when used properly, can help you solve problems!

On the same note, notice if you are using food for comfort. If you are, you are not alone. Food can be a source of security for people as it releases feel-good endorphins, which can soothe our anxiety and uplift our mood. Before you reach for cookies, leftovers, and all your quarantine snacks – get out your journal. Ask yourself, what need am I trying to meet? Is snacking the best way to meet this? Or is there something else I could be doing?

8. Restrict Reading About COVID-19

We recommend that you restrict the amount of time you spend reading about the coronavirus to one time per day MAX. Those that are plugged in for hours per day obsessing about the virus will only add to their stress and anxiety. The truth is that there is a lot of misinformation about this virus on the internet, with the media sensationalizing half-truths or outright falsehoods. 

If you want to know more about what is occurring at your designated time each day, then use reliable sources such as the center for disease control (CDC). Organizations like these have little to gain by publishing false information and much to lose. What you will learn by only viewing reliable sources is that the information provided is slow to change, this is because it takes time and much human effort to uncover reliable data. Trust us when we say you’ll be much happier, only updating yourself about the virus one time per day or less!

covid-19 stress

9. Create (and stick to) a Schedule

This may be one of the most critical tips provided in this list for ensuring that you don’t lose your mind to boredom or become remarkably unproductive.

Scheduling your day will ensure you are productive each day and that you are making the most out of your time at home. 

Scheduling your day starts with putting down what time you plan to wake up in the morning through what time you plan on going to bed. You must set times that you go to bed and wake each morning so that you don’t end up sleeping your days away. This is a sign you could be falling into a depression. Also, research has shown that getting too much sleep is as harmful to humans as getting too little sleep! That says a lot about the need to set a sleep schedule!

10. Don’t Stay in Your PJs All Day

Yea, we know, it’s tempting to wake up in the morning, realize there is nowhere you have to go during the day, and not change out of your sleeping clothes. Avoid falling into this complacency, as often how we look will translate into how we feel throughout the day. Think about it, when you stay in your PJ’s during the day, don’t you feel more tired and less motivated? 

Wake up each morning like you would any other day, going through your regular routine to prepare for work, including making your morning cup of Joe, showering, and changing out of the clothes you wear sleeping. This will prepare you to be productive and energized throughout your day at home and avoid you falling into a funk. Plus, maintaining your regular morning routine will help you get back into the groove of things when it’s time to go back into your physical office. 

get ready each day COVID-19

11. Restrict TV Time

Restricting the amount of television you’re watching each day sounds like a no-brainer, but its worth discussing briefly. How often have you sat down to watch a show only to fall into a Netflix, AmazonPrime, or Hulu binge? We’re guessing it’s happened more than once. It’s easy to feel like you can keep watching television when there is nothing pressing occurring during your day, but avoid this binging trap, which will suck your productivity out of your day. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with setting a specific time during the day to watch one of your favorite shows – we just caution you to limit the amount of time in these sessions. Besides the apparent productivity loss, often after binging television for hours, we just don’t feel good about ourselves. There is no need to add to the depressing effects of staying in your house all day by wasting hours binging TV.

12. Get Outdoors

We mentioned multiple times throughout this article that being cooped up in your house can have a depressing effect on your mood. This underscores the importance of getting outside numerous times per day. This can be outside in your backyard or a walk around the block with your dog (they need exercise too!). Also, try opening the doors and windows to your house or apartment throughout the day as this can let in sunshine and fresh air that can decrease some of the feelings of social isolation.

Remember that you are not alone. Almost every other person is feeling similar to how you are feeling. If you are struggling with anxiety, fear, depression, our doctors can help. Reach out to us to schedule a phone or telemedicine appointment.