I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling scattered. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Between my routines and schedules changing and feeling stuck in my house, my body is struggling to remain regulated. Not to mention how receiving all the information surrounding the coronavirus is making me feel. The information that works like a double-edged sword: I want to stay connected to what’s happening and to friends and family, but hearing about the overwhelmingness of this pandemic in every conversation is engaging my fear response. Making me feel on edge. Depressed. Triggering my fight-or-flight response. Turning my world upside down.
This week has made it clear to me that, now more than ever, it is important to find the safe space inside myself.
The space where I hear the voice of my authentic self. Telling me what to do. How to move my body. What to say to others so I respond instead of react. How to keep my fear response from being triggered. To try to keep me and my husband safe. So I don’t dissociate. Leaving my shell and my husband to deal.
Here are the things I’m doing in order to cope and to find the safe space inside myself. I hope they help you find the safe space inside yourself too:
- Determine when you will access information about coronavirus. To avoid getting caught up in it. Inducing anxiety. And making you feel overwhelmed. Earlier this week, I was reading texts and the news throughout the day. And of course everything is about coronavirus right now. I found that after, I was reeling. It was constantly engaging my fear response. So I’ve turned off my notifications so I can use my phone without getting caught up in the hysteria. And I only check things when I feel I can handle what I’ll see.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. I’ve worked from home for two years now, so I know how essential creating a schedule is to getting through the day safely. Now with my husband working from home too, we’ve created a schedule together to ensure I have the space and the quiet I need. So my fear response isn’t constantly engaged throughout the day by having him in and out of the space I’m working in. If you aren’t working right now, a schedule is still imperative to your daily activities. To help you feel accomplished. And like you haven’t wasted the day.
- Create a routine and stick to it. Routines go beyond schedules in that they aren’t just when you’ll do things, but how you’ll do them. They help me remember to do things during each scheduled time. And prevent me from getting confused if I get distracted while doing them. I find routines prevent me from feeling overwhelmed and help me avoid having a meltdown.
- Meditate. I’ve had a daily, morning meditation practice for a little over one year now. Right when I get out of bed, after I wash my face and brush my teeth, I meditate for around 20 minutes. It helps me connect to myself. And to set an intention for the day. During chaotic times like this, it is especially crucial to connect to yourself as soon as possible in the day. See tips on starting your meditation practice.
- Write. When I’m feeling this scattered, it’s difficult for me to write. But I write my scattered thoughts anyway. And usually, it helps me make sense of what I’m thinking and feeling. Write about what comes up during this time. Without judgement. To help you hear yourself. See tips on journaling to improve mental health.
- Move. Movement is one of the most important things to do to keep your nervous system regulated. And if you suffer from anxiety or depression or have a frequent flight-or-flight response, movement helps regulate your mental and emotional health the most. Whether it’s doing chores around the house, walking, dancing or running in place, make sure you move multiple times throughout the day.
- Do yoga. Yoga isn’t just moving. It’s connecting your breath to your body. Making space. Releasing. And allowing your emotions to surface. During this time of self-isolation especially, it’s important to be self-aware and to practice self-care. And yoga is one of the most accessible forms of self-care there is. You can do it anywhere. And there is a video for everything.
- Bathe. Taking a bath and soaking in magnesium (Epsom) salts relaxes your body. Your muscles. Helping you feel safe. And if you suffer from chronic pain like me, your body is probably extremely tense during this time. Give yourself a soak each day to feel better.
- Drink ice cold water. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about drinking ice cold water with lemon that helps me be present. Engaged. In the moment. I carry a 32-ounce bottle of cold water everywhere I go. And as soon as I feel overwhelmed, I take a big sip, and it always calms me down.
- Eat nourishing foods. It can be easy when schedules change to let your eating habits slip. To splurge. To treat yourself. And to indulge. While I think indulging is a wonderful thing to do, it should be done in moderation to avoid feeling sluggish or bringing on other issues like indigestion, heartburn and weight gain. Also, I’ve noticed that if I overeat or don’t stick to a healthy diet, I become overwhelmed even more quickly than usual. Which is something we all have to try to prevent during this time.
- Engage your senses. All you sensory warriors know what I’m talking about, but if you’re new to sensory regulation, be sure to engage all eight (yes, I said eight) senses daily. Smell foods and flowers, listen to music, do heavy lifting, etc. Engaging your senses helps you be in your body, thus helping you stay present. For more examples and to see my sensory diet, click here.
- Engage with others. It’s important for all of us to be socially connected, but for those of us who self-isolate often, this time is especially important to connect to others. I’m lucky to have my husband by my side during all of this, but especially if you’re alone, call, text and video chat with loved ones every day. To help you stay present and connected. Also, if you’re in therapy, try to keep your scheduled visits by phone or video chat. I spoke with my psychotherapist yesterday, and I am so happy I kept my appointment. She reminded me of my progress and my coping strategies. Both of which I needed to be reminded of during this time.
- Go outside and connect to nature. Especially when it’s cold. To engage your vagus nerve. Especially if you are alone in your quarantine. Grounding ourselves in nature is something we should be doing every day anyway. Listen to the birds and the trees. Breathe in the air. Touch the dirt. To help you connect to your authentic self.
- Do things that bring you joy. We should already be doing things that bring us joy each day, but we forget to with our busy schedules and hectic work days. Lately, I’ve been trying to do non-screen activities that bring me joy like organizing, coloring and cleaning. Remember to laugh and smile often too, especially during a time of social distancing.
- Keep your thoughts in the present. Don’t let your mind dwell in the past or move into the future. To when this is all over with. Instead, focus on right here. Right now. How you feel. What’s coming up. How you can relax your body and your mind. And how you can find peace inside yourself.
- Breathe. My psychotherapist told me yesterday that taking five deep breaths gets you breathing slower and deeper. Because it’s easy to have short, shallow breaths when you’re feeling anxious. And as we all know, breathing is the most essential part of everything. For nothing can happen without it.
I wish you all a safe and happy quarantine. May you find the strength and calm within yourself to not only survive this, but to stay connected to yourself in all that you do.