COVID-19 Survival Guide: How to Stay Happy, Healthy and Sane While Sheltering in Place

Categories: News

Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

In this unprecedented time that we find ourselves in, the challenges are great and our ability to cope is compromised. We want to provide some ideas to help guide us through these next few weeks knowing it can’t last forever.

No one asked for or could have prepared for this current health crisis. One thing we know for sure is that we can’t do anything to change the situation, but we can work to accept that. There is a peace in accepting and not resisting a situation. Accepting something does not mean we have to like it or be happy about it. Acceptance gives up permission to stop using our positive energy to resist or be unhappy. Of course, this sounds like an easy solution but it requires effort.

Our brains are built for survival. We all learned about the stress response and the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. Our brain signals the body to react to danger before we are conscious of the fact there is danger. This unconscious signal is the stress response. All of the constant updates, sheltering in place, and social isolation creates a continuous alarm to our normal state of being. This stress response is what wears us down, shifts our mood, and creates anxiety.

Freedom comes when we give up the need to control the situation and accept reality. We are able to bring our focus to the present moment, the only moment we are able to control. Then we can channel our positive energy into more productive, creative, or enjoyable moment. Keeping our focus in the here and now is difficult to do now because we are bombarded with news, media, and updates on the COVID-19. If you have been constantly monitoring the news, try and take some time away from the media coverage.

If you find it hard to get started or to stay focused during the day, create a schedule. You should make a schedule that incorporates all of the parts of your life at home. If you are working, create time and space for work. Set up a place to work so you can focus and avoid distractions. Be sure to schedule time for exercise, cooking, caretaking, or homeschooling, if you have children at home too. Most importantly, take time to do something that brings you joy each day. We need to find some joy and happiness every day!

Take time each day to get outside, especially as we turn the corner to spring sunshine and warmer temperatures. Spending time outdoors is an instant mood booster! Spend time appreciating the beauty that surrounds us outdoors. Feel gratitude for the beauty in nature, marvel at the mystery of the changing season, and stop to notice the small changes where you live. Take a walk around the neighborhood or find a park. You won’t feel isolated because so many people are doing the same. Remember practicing social distancing is important, but smiling and saying hello to others also improves your mood.

Self-care is important during this period of self -isolation. Try to keep your daily routine as consistent as possible. Go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. Exercise is essential to our physical and mental health. Go outside and move or choose an exercise video or app to follow. There are many fitness professionals and gyms that are posting daily workouts for people to follow. Get dressed every day, there are many memes going around about changing from day pajamas to night pajamas that are funny but getting dressed makes you feel more productive. Try and make healthy choices for meals and snacks, all the comforting goodies we love will add up over time and that can impact our mood too.

Being mindful of our daily choices is important too. Pay attention to our daily habits, what we eat, and how we move through the day matters. Be mindful of new habits you may develop and check in with ourselves.

Always keep in mind, when we are faced with these challenging situations, be ready to give yourself permission to “fail.” We will all have days when we feel energized and days when we can’t get going. Regardless of our dedication to stay on our schedule, we will have unproductive days. When we have a day of binging TV or whatever our distraction may be, accept it and move on. Kindness toward ourselves and others will help us all accept and survive this through time.