Fear and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus outbreak is growing. As there are constant daily reminders and updates that the virus is rapidly spreading around the globe and the number of sick people is exponentially increasing, these feelings are very understandable.
For many people, the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. Nobody knows how severe the outbreak might get and how our lives might be impacted. This uncertainty causes fear and panic and makes us feel powerless.
There are a lot of things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts and how bad the situation might get. The more we focus on these outside circumstances, the more we feel anxious and overwhelmed.
You can’t control how the outbreak develops, but you can control how you react to it, while keeping yourself as safe as possible.
In addition to all precautionary measures (washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, avoiding close contact with sick people, staying home and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces), the best thing you can do is to create healthy daily routines and step up your self-care.
Creating and maintaining healthy routines will give you sense of control, improve your well-being and decrease your stress and anxiety. When we feel stressed, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which suppress the immune system by lowering amounts of a protein required for signaling other immune cells. This, in turn, results in a reduced number of immune cells known as lymphocytes (B cells and T cells).
Consistent self-care practices can help you strengthen your immune system, the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria.
I’d like to share some of the daily self-care habits and routines, which have been helping me go through these challenging times. Even if you add only one or two of these habits to your daily life, it can make a difference.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule
As many of us work from home, it might be tempting to stay up late and hit a snooze button in the mornings, which interferes with sleep quality. Even if there is no reason to get up or go to bed at your usual time each day, it is important to keep consistent sleep schedule.
Maintaining a regular sleep routine and getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night will make you feel less stressed and boost your well-being and happiness. Try to wake up and go to sleep approximately the same time every day.
While all the gyms are now closed and we spend a lot of time inside, make sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, which improve your mood and lower stress. If possible, get outside for a run, hike, bike ride or just go for a walk.
There are many exercises you can do without any equipment, such as jumping jacks, squats, lunges, planks, push-ups or yoga. Look online for exercise videos you can follow and involve all your family in home workouts.
Eat more probiotics
In addition to eating nutrient-rich foods, eat more probiotics to create more good bacteria in the gut that strengthens your immune system.
Some examples of probiotic foods are Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi (fermented Korean vegetables) and fermented cucumbers.
Also, try limiting foods with added processed sugars, refined grains, fried food and highly processed snacks.
Limit news and social media consumption
While it is vital to stay informed on the important updates and recent developments in your area, constant exposure to the news about the virus can be counterproductive and increase your anxiety.
It might be helpful to limit your news and social media consumption to certain times throughout the day.
Practice mindful breathing
If you feel that your mind starts spinning out into negativity or panic, you can stop the negative spiral by bringing yourself back to the present moment.
The simplest way to return to the present moment is by focusing your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing or sitting; your eyes may be open or closed.
Start by taking a long breath with a deep inhale through your nostrils for three seconds, hold your breath for two seconds and exhale through your mouth for four seconds. Or you can simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it. You can focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.
Notice what you feel in your body and the sounds you hear around you. If your mind wanders, just bring your attention back you to your breath. Even a couple minutes of mindful breathing can make feel calmer and more relaxed.
Keep a journal
Writing down your thoughts in a journal gives your mental clarity and reduces stress level. When you are dealing with intense emotions or confusion, journaling can help you better understand these emotions and quicker release them.
Journaling is also a powerful tool for self-discovery and setting your goals and intentions.
Additionally, journaling a great way to practice gratitude. When you are overwhelmed with anxiety, sadness or anger, it can be hard to see what is going well in your life. Make it a habit to write down a number of things you are thankful for each day.
Organize your day
Start each day with setting up your daily priorities. Pick three most important tasks and do your best to complete them. It will give you a sense of accomplishment and progress.
If you work from home, work in focused intervals and take breaks between those work sessions. Getting outside or doing a short workout during your lunch break can help you maintain your focus. Also, keep your phone away from your desk not to get constantly distracted.
Set the boundaries of how late you are going to work and make sure to spend some time on the activities that you enjoy.
Even as we must practice social distancing, ensure to stay connected. Stay in touch with your family, friends and colleagues via phone calls or video chats.
Reach out to people who are isolated and might need help. Helping others can support your own emotional well-being and give you a sense of control over your life.
Choose your attitude
You can’t change the current situation. There are a lot of things in the world and in your life you have no control over. However, in any given set of circumstances, you have control over yourself, in particular your attitude and your actions. And that makes a huge difference.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Victor E. Frankl