Calm During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Reducing Anxiety and Making the Best of Social Distancing
By Jill Dutton
I woke one morning last week feeling as if I had escaped from a nightmare. Then the realization of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic crept back in, and I remembered it wasn’t a dream. You might know that feeling when someone dies, and you wake up from sleeping and, just for a moment, think the tragedy is just a dream. But it’s not.
I knew then that I needed to find a way to stay calm. Because in addition to the many deaths reported each day, it’s a death of our current way of life. I believe we’re feeling a collective grief for that loss.
I started implementing ways to find a balance between caution and calm.
When I became short of breath from so much news, so many reports, updates, and closures, instead of asking myself, “What if?” I asked myself, “What Is?”
And in that moment, I realized what Is for me in the current moment — I have my health, my home, and my friends, and so on. I have “enough.” And this realization brought calm.
As I settled in to take more time alone, I planned ways to continue that calm. Since cooking and growing things bring me joy, I started a fresh batch of sprouts — lentils and broccoli and radish sprouts, plus even one batch called Jill’s Salad Blend (now if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is) with sunflower, adzuki, mung, and pea. I started planning ways to entertain myself during a period of isolation:
Take an online Qi Gong class.
Daily walks outdoors (here’s an article about the power of sunshine and fresh air).
Work on writing essays that have been on hold while I was “too busy” traveling.
Explore online art galleries.
Listen to an online church service.
Check out eBooks from the library.
Enjoy more sewing/crafts/baking.
Take intentional breaks from checking up on the latest announcements regarding COVID-19.
(See the sidebar for more suggestions.)
Since I’ve worked from home most of my adult life, I’m used to a lot of time alone. Because of this, I will continue daily practices that help to move my energy and keep it from stagnating:
Make my bed each morning.
Take a shower.
Open the blinds and the windows if it’s nice outside.
Time for journaling/reflection/meditation.
Put away dishes and clean up before bed.
I will add to this list to continue, even though the future feels unsure, to dream and plan, because as Robert Conklin wrote, “Dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present.”
Even during uncertainty, I believe we must continue to dream.
Janna Brancolini is an American journalist living in Milan, Italy. In her article at Insider, “I'm living through the coronavirus lockdown in Milan, Italy. Here's how I'm managing my anxiety,” she shares:
“Logging off Twitter and Facebook also helped me get away from all the misinformation and rants. Being disciplined about what I read has helped me become prudent, not panicked; informed, but not obsessed. The situation is nuanced and constantly changing, and it's my job to know what's going on, so I stick to the official briefings and ignore most of the commentary on social media.
“Next, I made a list of all the things I could still do, instead of obsessing over the things I couldn't. I could still drink coffee and read books on my balcony. I could still meditate. I could still start my day with music and movement, even if it was dancing around my kitchen like an idiot.”
Vinay Saranga M.D., a child and adult psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry offers these six tips for staying calm during COVID-19 coverage.
Get your information from reliable sources
While COVID-19 is definitely something to stay informed about, make sure you are getting accurate information from trusted sources. What your neighbors and social media are saying, while perhaps well-intentioned, may not always be correct. Follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your own personal physician.
Being prepared minimizes worry
Just like with the flu or common cold, there’s nothing you can do to 100 percent guarantee you won’t become sick, but you can take steps to stay healthy, protect yourself, and minimize worry. Throughout the day, wash your hands with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Limit contact with anyone who is currently sick. Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes. Get plenty of rest. Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
Focus more on the things around you
Everyone should stay informed and know the latest with COVID-19, but perhaps one of the best things you can do for your own mental health and well-being is stay even more focused on your own world around you. Sitting in front of the TV all day to track where the virus is and how many people are currently infected isn’t necessarily helpful and can cause excess worry. Stay involved in your work, your family and friends, your personal hobbies, and interests.
Keep young children calm
It’s easy for young kids to get easily frightened if they catch news about COVID-19. Don’t be dishonest and say it’s nothing because: 1.) You want to maintain their trust; and 2.) They will likely continue to hear about it from various sources. Let them know it is a real thing, but always keep the conversation positive and reinforce that they are generally very safe.
Reduce your anxiety
Lowering your anxiety levels is always important. If you find yourself feeling more stressed or anxious than usual, and you suspect this is due to worry over COVID-19, it’s even more important to take steps to relax and calm down. Take some deep breaths in through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out through your mouth. Try some muscle relaxation exercises where you tense each muscle group for a few seconds and then release. Finally, focus on your internal dialog and remind yourself while it’s important to stay informed, there’s no need to cross the line to constant worry and panic.
Get professional help if you need it
If you are always thinking about COVID-19 lately; if you are having a difficult time with everyday tasks like eating, sleeping, and working; if you are withdrawing from situations and isolating yourself, please get professional help. A mental health professional can help you take control of your anxiety. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.
These are all great self-care measures to remain as calm as possible. And while still being cautious, one great way to support yourself is to support local businesses that cater to health and wellness. Please consider supporting Evolving Magazine advertisers who make it their business to care for the well-being of our community.
* * *
I wish you good health and peace of mind.
“And the people stayed home. And listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” --Kitty O'Meara
Jill Dutton is the creator and publisher of Evolving Magazine. Five years ago she began traveling North America by train (and plane) writing about local foods, wellness, and train travel. Follow Jill's travels at www.USAbyRail.blog. Listen to an NPR interview where Jill discusses train travel.
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10 Ways to boost your immune system.
WE. CAN. DO. THIS.
By Sumya Anani, owner of Learning2Fly
1. Exercise and move.
Go for a walk. Breathe the fresh air. If you're feeling cooped up, nature is always a great healer. Do deep breathing practices outside.
2. Think of the power of plants.
Grow sprouts. Bathe your body in minerals. Add turmeric, ginger. The trinity roots are garlic, ginger, and onion. Sauté them lightly in a pan. Add mushrooms—some are thought to be important for building physical strength and reducing inflammation. Indoor plants will lift your spirits. Green is a powerful healing color. Wear it. Surround yourself with it.
3. Drink apple cider vinegar every day.
Add liquid elderberry. It’s high in Vitamin C. Add lemon and drink this mixture first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This healing tonic can help support the body.
4. Eat nutrient-dense meals and snacks.
Choose plant-based foods, including nuts, seeds, grains (if you don't have allergies), veggies, fruits, and sprouts. These are real, living foods.
5. Take Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12.
Many studies show that maintaining proper vitamin D levels can be beneficial in fighting illness. We all spend way too much time indoors, under artificial lights. Let this sabbatical be a chance to reconnect to the wisdom of our ancestors. Sun is the source of all life. Our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D from sun exposure, so getting outside is always a good idea.
6. Just chillax.
Stress lowers our immunity. Watch some breathing or meditation videos.
7. Mind your mind.
Probably the most important factor is your own mindset. Don't be a negative nelly. Everyone is struggling. Focus on what is good about your situation. Gratitude is a powerful elixir.
8. Engage the social network.
This is a great time to reconnect through telephone or Skype calls with the people we've been missing. Studies show that strong social ties boost the immune system and help us live longer.
9. Practice random acts of kindness.
Kindness is healing. Do something nice for someone you love. When you go shopping, don't buy the last roll of toilet paper. Check on friends and people who are at risk. Think about someone other than yourself. It works miracles.
Breathe. Slow down. Read. Turn the gadgets off for a while.
WE. CAN. DO. THIS.