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How to Stay Happy, Healthy, and Sane While Sheltering in Place

In this unprecedented time that we find ourselves living today, 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.

 

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 or fix the situation. We can work to accept that we can’t change this.

 

There is a peace that we find by accepting and not resisting a situation. Accepting something does not mean we have to like it or be happy about it. Acceptance gives us 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 just 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.

 

Allowing us to keep a present moment focus, we can channel our positive energy into something more productive, creative, or enjoyable.

 

Keeping our focus in the here and now is difficult to do now because we are bombarded with news, media, and updates on COVID-19. If you have been constantly monitoring the news, try and take some time away from media coverage.

 

Another way to help stop the stress response is to take a few deep breaths and try a 3-part breath.

 

To initiate the 3-part breathing practice, begin getting into a comfortable position that allows the spine to be long and the shoulders to be retracted, allowing space for the lungs to inflate/deflate. To visualize the 3-part breath, imagine the lungs and as you inhale you fill the lungs in three parts. Close your mouth and begin to breathe in through the nose, filling the bottom 1/3 of the lungs, pause continue filling the middle part of the lung, pause and continue filling the last 1/3 of the lungs, pause and reverse the practice for the exhale. Try and take 3-5 breaths and take a moment to notice how you feel. Repeat as often as needed!

 

If you find it hard to get started or to stay focused during the day, create a schedule.

 

Create a schedule that incorporates all of the parts of your life at home. If you are working, create time for work. Set up a place to work so you can focus and avoid distractions. Schedule time for exercise, cooking, care taking 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 season change, and stop to notice the small changes where you live. Take a walk around the neighborhood or find a park to walk. You will not 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. Many fitness professionals and gyms are posting workouts daily for people to follow, and most are free! Get dressed every day; there are many memes going around about changing from my day pajamas to my 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.

 

When we are faced with these challenging situations, 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 on TV or food, or whatever our distraction may be, accept it and move on. Kindness and understanding toward ourself and others will help us all accept and survive this time.