5 Ways to Stay Sane at Home During the Pandemic

5 Ways to Stay Sane at Home During the Pandemic

As we enter into our fourth month of social distancing and staying at home, we are forced to find a new normal in our life. Although we may be physically safe at home, some of us are starting to feel stir crazy. Most of our norms have been stripped away—working at the office, going to school, hanging out with friends, travelling, eating at restaurants, shopping at malls, and watching movies at theatres. Instead, we are suddenly forced to live a “virtual” life—working remotely from home, meeting up virtually, attending school virtually, and the list goes on.

The boundaries with our different roles are blurred and converged at home. Everything happens from there now. Our kitchen table has become our desk for work, classroom for school, entertainment area for family games, and table for meals. This can be a jarring experience for some of us.

More than ever, we need to have order and boundaries in our current situation. Until we have a “normal” life again, here are some ways to stay sane while we stay safe at home during COVID-19. Some of these principles are adopted from the work of trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk.

1. Predictability
Our body thrives on consistency, rhythm, and routine. Therefore, we must create a schedule for the day and the week, perhaps even the month. Each day, plan a physical activity, a social activity, a productive activity, a fun activity, and a self-care activity. Create a calendar of connections and activities. Your day will go by faster.

2. Mobility
When we sense a loss of agency about our current situation, our body innately wants to take action. It starts to produce stress hormones to mobilize us to protect ourselves. If we don’t release it, we’ll end up losing our temper with others. We can self-regulate through exercise (e.g., yoga, walking, working out), mindfulness (awareness of how we are doing and what we are feeling in the moment), and breathing (slow deep breaths to decrease stress and anxiety).

3. Connectivity
We are made for connection. Interaction with others keeps us safe and sane. Through the faces and voices of others, we regulate ourselves. These social rhythms allow us to develop and sustain ourselves. Ensure that we have daily face-to-face interactions with friends and family. If you live alone, this can be done via virtual meals/coffee, virtual games, virtual/physically distanced walks, and picnics at the park.

4. Hope for the Future
A prolonged period of staying at home may create a loss sense of time. Like the movie Groundhog Day, every day may feel the same. Life has been paused and staying at home feels like forever. This may stir up anxiety or depression for some people. Our brain and body thrive on planning for the future. Planning gives us a sense of hope, calm, and agency. It is therefore important to make plans for the future, even if it’s just the immediate future. Plan your week with activities described above. But also plan for the distant future. Dream of things that you’d like to do when we are able to interact together again. Have something to look forward to.

5. Self-Care
This is a stressful time for everyone. We are forced to make extreme adjustments in a short period of time. Everything is unpredictable and ever changing on a daily basis. As we’re trying to adjust to our new norm, juggle different roles at home, or grieve through the loss of a job or a loved one, self-care becomes integral. If you are at home with loved ones, practice affection (e.g., touch, cuddles, and hugs). Listen to music that makes you feel calm. Have some space for privacy where you can withdraw. Let go of unrealistic expectations of your children (e.g., let them watch more television during this time so you can get some work done, it’s not going to ruin their life!). Go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Do a fun activity for yourself (e.g., read, create, sing, nap). Be kind to yourself and you will be better for others around you!

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