Social distancing and self-isolation can put tremendous strain on anyone’s sanity. But some people are finding opportunities amid this crisis.
“I have been using this as an opportunity to be productive around the house—organizing, deep cleaning, etc.,” said Sonoran Foothills resident Anna Lewandowski. “I still work from home but I am saving about an hour and a half by not commuting, so I use that time to my advantage.”
Local resident Ashlie Brewer offered a totally different suggestion: “Go camping.”
Psychologists and health experts applaud such approaches, and they offer other practical ways to help us all endure and maybe even thrive a little during these challenging times.
“Thinking thoughts like I can do this and we can get through this, helps ward off the anxious spiraling of feeling like you can’t tolerate uncertainty,” says Mary Alvord, PhD, a psychologist practicing in Maryland who focuses on resilience. “If you find your thoughts spinning to catastrophic thinking or gloomy thoughts, then calm your body.”
Resilience is about taking action on the things in life you can control, and not being consumed by the things that are out of your control, Alvord told In&Out. She suggests taking walks and really paying attention to nature, the color of the sky, the feel of the air. She also recommends taking a few deep breaths, literally.
In fact, deep breathing has been shown to relieve stress and even have outright physical health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and multiple studies. Try this: Sit or lie down and relax and breathe in slowly and fully through your nose, then exhale fully through your mouth.
- Fill your belly first, feeling it expand, then fill the chest, then feel the air raise your collar bones.
- Count the seconds as you go. Hold the breath for a few counts, then exhale completely, pushing the last of the air out using your stomach muscles.
- Count a few beats, and repeat.
We normally breathe 12 to 16 times per minute. With deep breathing, aim to get that down to six to 10 breaths per minute and do it for as long as you wish. After 10 to 15 minutes, don’t be surprised if you nod off.
Spin the Positives
Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science professor at Ball State University, offers several suggestions for turning isolation into positive experiences:
- Clear the clutter and donate unused items.
- Clean the house, which offers much-needed physical activity and is good for hygiene.
- Maintain routine work hours, activities and your sleep-wake cycle. (Don’t oversleep!)
- Reassess your work skills and consider an online course.
- Focus on improving diet, exercise, and maybe even your personality.
- Explore new activities or revive old ones: music, dance, biking, yoga? Learn a new language?
- Look through your contacts list for friends, family and neighbors who might need help.
- Cook for yourself and others in need.
Most of all: “Do not isolate yourself totally,” Khubchandani says. “Don’t be afraid, don’t panic, and do keep communicating with others.” Just keep a safe distance whenever possible.
Text HOME to 741741, the Crisis Text Line, connect with a trained crisis counselor. The free service is available 24/7.