The coronavirus pandemic had led to many changes in our lives, for weeks on end. People in the United States are still experiencing record job loss, schools are still shuttered, and we have been practicing social distancing to help control the spread of the virus. On top of all this, this entire experience is quietly posing another risk, and it is to our mental wellbeing. According to a new poll, nearly half of Americans say this pandemic is harming their mental health. Impacts to our mental health can take many shapes and forms, including anxiety. And while there are signs of local economies reopening, health officials are warning of more waves of the virus, as social distancing orders are lessened. What this means is that we need to be prepared to continue sheltering-in-place for more weeks to come, and we need to be ready to manage stress and anxiety while we do so. Here are some tips to help you stay grounded during coronavirus.
Check in With Yourself
In order to help you stay grounded during coronavirus, it is first important to check in with yourself, and take note of how you are feeling. Sometimes symptoms of anxiety and stress may not be so obvious, and can be easy to overlook. For example, you may be having trouble sleeping, having digestive problems, or be feeling nervous. In order to check in, start to keep a daily handwritten journal. Research tells us there are many benefits to writing your journal by hand, such as increased processing abilities, and better understanding of emotions. You can choose which tools you would like to use, but any notebook and pen will do. Also, set a time of day to consistently write your journal entries, such as before bed. When you are ready to take the pen to the paper, you can answer some simple prompts, such as how you are feeling, what your mood is like, what your energy levels are like, and how happy you feel. You can also take a moment to write about at least one thing you are grateful for in that moment, to be reminded of the good things you have in your life, and help you feel grounded in the present. Writing these things down can take as little or as much time as you want, but do this consistently for a week. At the end of the week, you can look back on your entries, and have a nice gauge of how you felt overall. And the good news is, journaling is actually scientifically shown to provide you with health benefits, such as improved sleep, increased feelings of mindfulness, and even a stronger immune system.
Manage your schedule and goals
While practicing social distancing, many of us are working from home, and it can be challenging to operate in this new schedule without feeling stressed. To help you stay grounded during coronavirus, it is important to manage both your schedule and your goals. There are many ways you can do this, but here is an idea to get you started: before you head to bed, outline your schedule for the next day. To make sure you do not feel overwhelmed, you can keep yourself organized by using a time management app for your smartphone. Start by filling in your schedule with your most important or urgent tasks, and then see where you have free time to fit in other activities, such as exercising, working on long term goals, and even catching up on your favorite shows. By planning how you are going to spend your day, you are setting yourself up for success, and making sure some of your dreams and goals are not falling by the wayside during this time.
Nourish your body
Nourishing your body with nutritious foods can be an important step to help you stay grounded during coronavirus. Certain foods can actually help reduce symptoms of anxiety, for example:
- Foods rich in magnesium can help you feel calmer, such as leafy greens, nuts, and legumes.
- Foods rich in zinc have been linked to lower anxiety, such as cashews, beef, and egg yolks.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to reducing anxiety, such as salmon, avocado, and walnuts.
To make sure you nourish your body, plan out your meals in advance with meal prepping. By having healthy groceries on hand, and cooking food in advance, you can easily make choices that are best for you, instead of choosing something quick or easy once you become hungry. You can also make sure you have nutritious snacks on hand for when you get a craving. What is on your plate can play a big role in your mood and energy, and could play a crucial role in helping you feel grounded.
Stick with a meditative practice
It is no secret that meditative and mindfulness practices can help reduce anxiety. One massive study of dozens of medical trials found that meditation practices can help ease anxiety, depression, and pain. There are plenty of different practices you can try, to help you stay grounded during coronavirus, whether you are a beginner, or a seasoned practitioner. One practice you can try is known as alternate nostril breathing, which is a breathing technique practiced to help reduce stress, increase present awareness, and center the mind. In order to make this part of your daily rituals, set a time of day to practice it, such as first thing in the morning. You can also turn to this breath throughout your day, whenever you are looking to feel more grounded and calm, or if you are starting to feel stressed about something in particular. Also, find a quiet place to practice this breath, with little distractions. Set a low-volume timer on your phone while you are practicing, anywhere from 2-8 minutes, and fully focus on the breathing technique for this length of time. And whichever meditative practice you choose, the key is to make time for it daily, to reap the full benefits.
Spend time in nature
Spending time outside is scientifically proven to have a profound effect on anxiety and stress levels, and could be key in making you feel grounded. Especially while working from home, many of us are going outside a lot less than usual. Nature can help ease negative thinking, stimulate brain activity, and even trigger cortisol production in your body, which naturally soothes your fight-or-flight response. To help you stay grounded during coronavirus, spend some time outside everyday. Spending time outside may look very different, depending on where in the world you live. But to get you started, set aside 30 minutes during your lunch break, and take a walk or run around your neighborhood, following your proper local social distancing protocols. Working this time into your lunch break is great because aside from giving you a dose of nature, it can also break up your work day, and gives you the opportunity to disconnect from your technology. Whether your nature is a city park or a lush forest, make time to get outside every day, to help you stay grounded, and give yourself a mood boost.
It is important to find personal practices to help you stay grounded during coronavirus. None of us know how long this will last, and in order to set ourselves up for happiness and success, it is crucial that we prioritize our self-care and mental wellbeing. If you have any personal practices you have been using, we would love to hear your ideas. Even though we are practicing social distancing, feeling close can help us support each other through this entire experience.