The coronavirus pandemic has spread all over the world. Many of us are staying inside our house to stop the spread of the virus. Some are working from home, and some are out of work. I am getting a lot of phone calls from my patients who are complaining about increasing stress, anxiety, and isolation during this period. Besides, many are fearful, panicking, and unable to sleep at night. Staying inside for multiple days is very stressful and can take a toll on anybody.
Today, I am going to discuss ten things we all can do while inside to stay positive and productive during this crisis. These are everyday things which most of us already know. But during a crisis, these are worth remembering and repeating. I have been practicing them to keep my sanity and have been recommending them to my patients who have found it beneficial. So, let’s start:
1.Structure & Routine: It is imperative to stay busy during this lockdown. An empty mind is a devil’s workshop. For those not used to work from home, this can be a significant challenge. The goal is to keep a structure. During normalcy, the world follows a routine. All work has a start and end time. All businesses, offices, schools have an opening and closing time. As you stay home, you have to give yourself, and if have small children, them, a structure. Set up a goal. Make a checklist, all the things to be done for the day, stick it up the wall and follow it.
2. Exercise: When we stay indoors, we have to move less, and we get less exercise. These cause sleep problems at night as our body is not tired enough, and over time we feel low. Staying indoors is no excuse for not getting a work out. Pushups, jumping jacks, stretching climbing stars repeatedly. You can work out your entire body with any weights that you have, or even using your body weight. Check out YouTube for home workout videos. The challenge is when we go to the gym, we get uninterrupted free time without distraction. At home, we have family, children, chores- in that case, spread your workout through the day, and do small chunks at a time. As long as you get a decent workout within the day, it is okay.
3. Avoid social isolation: Many Americans already feel lonely and isolated, which is a big reason for increasing mental illness. The coronavirus epidemic has exacerbated social isolation to an extreme level. Make it a priority to stay in touch with your friends and family through phone and video chat. Since most are locked inside, this is a perfect opportunity to touch base with distant family members and long-lost friends. This an ideal time to strengthen family bonds between husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend- father-son, mother-daughter by doing shared activities.
4. Be Outside Safely: Being inside does not mean that you are in prison. Make sure to keep windows open to let some fresh air inside. If you have a balcony, terrace, patio, backyard- make full use of it, and get as much free time as possible without incurring risk. You can also walk near around the house or in a trail as long as you maintain the six feet safety distance, use a protective face mask, and wash your hands before and after.
5. Stay Positive: During the time of panic and crisis, it is essential to stay positive. Do not criticize, and do not complain. Avoid watching news more than once a day as hearing all about sufferings and death around the world repeatedly is demoralizing and traumatizing. I see many are continually posting scary coronavirus updates on Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Remain hopeful. Whenever you say or think something negative, try to balance it with something positive.
6. Use social media: Generally, I have mixed feelings about social media. But this is an exceptional time. Many are uploading pictures of exercise, cooking, gardening, and other things they are doing from home during this time. It can be inspiring and uplifting. Also, social media can help you stay in touch with others. You can do positive things and upload them, and the positive feedback that you get will inspire you to do more. However, make sure to use it in moderation and not at the expense of other essential things.
7. Reading: Do you have a wish list of books that you have always wanted to read, but never got the time? Leisure time at home is the perfect time to renew the practice of reading. If you find reading a book taxing, try listening to an audiobook. Audiobooks are easy on the eyes, and you can listen to them, as you do household chores. Reading is an excellent mental exercise as it creates new images in mind. Reading keeps your mind active, youthful and protects against age-related memory loss.
8. New hobby: Many of us have always wanted to pursue a hobby or start a new project, but could never find time for it. Now is an excellent time to do what you have been putting off so long. I started my social media platform, including YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook page during this time. You can take online classes, watch videos to learn more about your interests. Good sources are masterclass and online courses.
9. Try Cooking: Most restaurants are closed now. We have to take care of our meals. Stay away from precooked processed food filled with sugar, salt, and chemical preservatives. As we are inside the home all day, this is a perfect time to hone our cooking skills. Whatever you want to cook, easy YouTube tutorials are available for free. Once you learn how to cook, you can make tasty food using all the healthy ingredients. Cooking is a life skill that will serve you more for your health than any other skill.
10. Mindfulness: As we stay at home, this is a great time to learn and practice mindfulness, which is a life-enhancing skill. Mindfulness improves our focus and attention and makes us more open-minded and less judgmental. Mindfulness is an excellent way to cope with anxiety, stress, and restlessness that many are feeling inside. Many organizations are providing free online mindfulness classes.
In summary, realize that this is a historical moment when the entire world is fighting a common cause. Observe and learn how things unfold. I recently read an excellent column by psychiatrist Dr. Shawn Sidhu who said that social distancing does not mean social isolation, nor does it mean self-imprisonment. Also, realize the value of human interaction. Practice mindfulness and use this moment to connect to something deeper within yourself. Stay inside, stay active, and stay positive. Make the best use of this time and opportunity, which may never come again in our lifetime.
*Dr. Panchajanya ‘Panch’ Paul, MD, ABIHM, ABPN, FAPA – is triple Board certified – Child, Adult, and Holistic Psychiatrist; and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Panch Paul is the medical director of the Southern Live Oak Wellness, and Atlanta Recovery Center. Dr. Paul holds an adjunct faculty position at Emory University, University of Georgia, and the University of Central Florida. He has authored several articles, research, and two books – Stress Rescue and Sleep Coaching available at Amazon. To schedule an appointment with Dr.Paul – call 678-250-8883 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.