As governments and experts give around the clock updates of all the tragic things that are happening in the world because of the coronavirus outbreak that has completely turned our lives upside down, it can feel like we are being constantly being bombarded with distressing news. Even at the best of times, news and social media can add stress to our lives, but in the midst of these anxious and unprecedented times, where the situation is unfolding quickly and much of the information has seemed confusing and contradictory, the risk is even greater.
Although it is easy to feel a sense of helplessness during a time of radical uncertainty, it is important to remember that nobody has ever known what tomorrow held – yet life has always moved on. Even when extremely bad or hurtful things happen, the situation, however frightful, remains finite.
And the good news is that there are many practical, proactive things everyone can do to support and manage their wellbeing and lift their mood during such times.
1. KEEP A ROUTINE AND KEEP BUSY
Shower, get dressed and make a to-do of all the things you want to achieve each day to give yourself some structure and a sense of normality and productivity. Whether you have work to distract you or not, eventually, staying isolated at home can feel like a punishment. But there are numerous things that people can do to ensure they aren’t bored during the lockdown. Try different activities to distract you and occupy your time like exercising, reading, drawing, baking, journaling, playing music and continue educating yourself by researching topics you are interested in.
2. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE
While social isolation is now the new normal, it doesn’t mean you should cut yourself off. We may be physically separated, but many of us are in the same boat and are connected by the same emotions. This is a great time to reach out and connect with each other, offering presence even in our isolation, and there are plenty of ways we can harness the internet to create digital communities. Set up virtual family chats or hangouts with friends through platforms like Houseparty, FaceTime or Netflix Party, which allows users to link up with friends and host long-distance movie nights. You can play the video at the same time, mute to discuss key plot points, and even enjoy a meal together while you watch. Even book clubs are operating digitally, with private WhatsApp groups forming to share reading lists.
3. EXERCISE BODY AND MIND
When the anxiety hits, delving into some physical exercise can help greatly. While we're self-isolating and socially distancing, going outside is still okay in many cases. You could go for a walk in a local park, and let the natural surroundings relax you. Exercise classes have also moved from gyms to online, creating videos or "lives" on Instagram and Facebook. Many fitness clubs are providing online workouts people can do at home and YouTube is a treasure trove of free workout videos teaching everything from Yoga to CrossFit. And for true relaxation, there are hundreds of guided meditation videos.
4. FOCUS ON THE SMALL THINGS
Try not to project too far into the future. Instead, curb the fear of the unknown with gratitude and appreciation for what currently exists in your life and focusing on the things you can control. You still have many small moments to savour that shouldn’t be underestimated. Take this an opportunity to slow down and stop to take in these moments, rather than let them rush by on automatic pilot. This gives your brain a chance to process the pleasure, which elevates your serotonin – the neurotransmitter that is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.
5. BALANCE YOUR NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONSUMPTION
While it is important to stay informed about the situation via reliable sources, taking breaks from news websites and social media can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed. There is a lot of misinformation swirling around so choose carefully the media you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Stick to trusted sources of information such as government officials and medical experts and consider limiting your exposure to news you perceive as upsetting, perhaps only accessing those sources once per day. On social media, there are tools to help you avoid distressing information. On Twitter, you can mute key words which might be triggering and unfollow or mute accounts. You can also mute WhatsApp groups and hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming.