America just passed China to become the country with the most cases of COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus. Millions of Americans are forced to quarantine or “shelter in place,” while the rest of America anticipates receiving similar orders. While this time is challenging and traumatizing for many, it also presents an opportunity to take advantage of a valuable resource: time.
It’s likely you have a sense of what you want to accomplish during this time. Yet I’m hearing from many people that they aren’t as productive as they want to be. I’m hearing that they can’t get out of their heads, or they feel paralyzed, fearful, and anxious. This is honest feedback, and there’s a good chance you feel the same way.
The unsettled nature of this experience makes it challenging to ground into a new routine or get started on bold ambitions. There are things you must do to build a mindset and state of being to thrive in these conditions.
Here is a list of ways you can honor the needs of your mind, body, and spirit. By honoring these needs, you will better process the situation and create the space to be productive, build a new business, learn new skills, or explore areas for personal growth.
1. Accept the moment
This is the most important item on the list because there’s a good chance you’re experiencing a wide variety of emotions right now. You suddenly shifted from going to work all day and your regular routine to social distancing, staying home all day, and having few escapes to feel the anxiety, grief, and helplessness of this situation.
Those emotions can make you feel unsettled, paralyzed, and unable to focus or be productive. Rather than judge yourself for feeling off, accept that this moment is stressful and scary. You have no control over the situation and have no choice but to accept it. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can create the room for your mind to focus on other things.
The amount of bad news is overwhelming, and it may not get better in the short term. For this reason, it’s crucial to continue to laugh and feel joy.
You can get your laughs by talking or playing games with your friends and family (virtually, of course) or by watching funny shows and movies. When the world gets dark, laughter is often the fastest way to feel good.
3. Let yourself be angry/scared/vulnerable
Society has taught us that it’s not OK to feel bad. Feeling bad is a part of this experience that most people avoid. We have created numerous ways (social media, TV, alcohol, drugs) to avoid negative emotions (fear, anxiety, grief, sadness) that make us feel vulnerable or unsettled.
The reality is that these are stressful times. It’s normal to feel scared, angry, and vulnerable. You are entitled to all your emotions, not just joy and pride. Feeling fear does not mean you are weak, just like feeling pride doesn’t make you arrogant or selfish. Fear, anxiety, and anger are evolutionary tools and this is a great time to learn how to use them.
If you’re up for the challenge, try to feel all your emotions. If you don’t know-how, you can discuss it with a therapist or coach. Or you can do this on your own through the somatic process, although you should always seek professional help if you feel it’s necessary.
4. Have fun
There’s no question you’re seeing numerous invites to hangouts, dance parties, concerts, and other fun things over video conferencing. While it’s hard to keep up, be sure to get the human connection you need while honoring the physical distancing and health recommendations from experts and your local government.
5. Get sleep
Sleep helps you address two big things during a time like this: mental health and a healthy immune system. It’s so much easier to deal with the emotional and mental demands of this moment when your brain is rested and healthy.
On the physiological side, sleep helps your body maintain a strong immune system, which is imperative for fighting off the coronavirus or any other illnesses that may come your way during this time.
6. Make self-care a priority
Self-care becomes critical during a time when your nervous systems are overactive from stress and anxiety. Find the self-care routine that works well for you and don’t skip it. Common items include baths, self-massagers, yoga, stretching, and meditation.
Most governments are allowing citizens to go outside and exercise for a reason: it’s very good for you. Cardiovascular exercise will help you maintain healthy lungs, which is important because coronavirus is a respiratory illness.
Exercise will also keep your body flexible as your range of motion diminishes from staying at home all day. Lastly, exercise will also get you outside, breathing the fresh air that comes from a reduction in pollution.
There’s really no excuse not to exercise at the moment. If you’re physically able to exercise, it’s a good idea to get out there and walk or run. And of course, respect any physical distancing recommendations from your local government.
Meditation provides so many health benefits. It calms the nervous system, calms the mind, helps your immune system, and provides clarity of thought during a challenging time. If you don’t know how, try apps like Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace for guided meditations.
This is a unique moment to slow down and honor your emotional and mental needs. By doing so, you can create the space necessary to reach the level of productivity you desire.
Also, consider that this is a moment to go deeper than your to-do list. By embracing the ideas on this list, you can truly explore the big shifts, lessons, and opportunities that this situation presents.