As of March 2020, COVID-19 has arrived in the US. It has had a huge impact on the way we are working, living, and engaging online. This time that we are all facing is unprecedented. Never before has the world been as connected as we are digitally, and faced a pandemic. In a way, this is wonderful – we have access to online resources and connections like never before. But we also have more access to news, conspiracy theories, and upsetting information than ever. It’s easy for any of us to spiral into anxiety, panic, or worry about the current situation and what the future holds.

But! Good news: you have choices. While you may not have much control over the current situation, it’s important to remember that you DO have control over some things. And those things can make a big difference.

Here are ten tips to make quarantine a healing, beneficial time for your body and your nervous system.

  1. Take breaks!
    If you can, try to limit your screen time. Make a plan. At the very least, plan to spend a few hours OFF computers and phones and TV every day, and then stick to it. No one can stay healthy (mentally, physically or otherwise) staring at a screen for hours on end – research shows it changes our brains and throws off our circadian rhythms, as well as other detrimental effects.
    It might be helpful to make a commitment to check the news or social media only twice a day, or to set a timer when you do. And, if you do find yourself online when you don’t need to be, have compassion. You’re doing your best. If you suspect your screen time is compulsive, or that you’re using it to distract yourself, take a time out for step 2. Then, see if the distraction compulsion is still there.
    And, if you have to be online for work or school, here’s a great document on how to care for your body while you are.
  2. Make time to feel
    We are all feeling a variety of things right now – most of us anxious and uncertain, many of us grieving losses, some of us angry or depressed, some of us numb. Whatever you’re feeling, please know that (a) you’re not alone and (b) it’s okay. You are human. You are not supposed to be positive all the time! Allow yourself 5 minutes each day – at least – to turn toward, and sit with, whatever you’re feeling — and really focus on the sensation of that emotion in your body. Afterward, make time for steps 3, 4, and 5 to nourish and reward yourself for taking the time to be present to yourself.
  3. Connect – in a good way!
    Schedule appointments to spend time with family members, friends, or other supportive people. Video chat is great for this, but a phone call works too. Now is a great time to re-connect with your extended family, or long-lost friends!
    If you’re feeling depleted or down in the dumps, reach out to someone you know who might be struggling and practice compassionate listening. Taking the focus off yourself, although it’s counter-intuitive when you’re feeling bad, can really lift your mood — as well as that of the other person.
    Make sure to get support for yourself, too. Ask for what you need. No matter how isolated you feel, there are those in your network who care and want to help.
    If you prefer to have some alone time, take it — and then set the intention to be fully present and connected to those quarantined with you. Your relationships will be better for it.
  4. Move
    Don’t neglect your body. Even if you just take 15 minutes, make sure you do something physical every day. If the weather’s nice, you can go for a walk or bike ride while still maintaining social distancing. If it’s yucky out, YouTube has lots of free workouts – just find one that suits your fancy and do it. Your local yoga studio or gym is probably suffering, so find out if they are offering online classes, and support them!
  5. Breathe
    It’s so simple, and so fundamental to our existence in every moment, and yet so easily forgotten. Take a moment right now to feel your breath, without changing it. Where are you breathing? Is it in your chest or your belly? Are you holding your breath? Is your breath deep or shallow?
    Chest breathing makes our heart rate go up and stokes the fires of the sympathetic nervous system. If you’re feeling anxious, bets are on that you’re chest breathing. Take a moment to slow down the breath and bring it into your belly. Focus just on feeling your breath for a few minutes. If you can’t feel it in your belly, try chanting the soft sound “voooo” in a low voice. Keep repeating it until you can feel it vibrate all the way down below your belly button. See? You’ve got this.
  6. Eat healthy food & drink plenty of water
    It may be tempting to binge on junk food right now, or maybe you’re feeling food scarcity and not eating much at all. Your brain needs fuel to function properly, and so does your body. Getting the right amount of calories, and balancing your nutrients (50% carbs, 20% protein, 30% fat) will keep you feeling grounded and ready to face the world. If you like, a tracking app can be great for this. I use My Fitness Pal, which is free and easy to use, but there are lots of great apps out there.
  7. Stick to a schedule
    For those of us not used to working from home, or who are suddenly faced with a layoff or unpaid time off, it may be difficult to structure our time at first. If you’re a pajama-loafer like me, I promise: the difference in how you feel will be amazing if you take at least one day, get dressed in your regular clothes, and eat on a schedule. And going to bed and getting up at around the same time every day can really help your body’s circadian rhythm stay on track.
  8. Write out your goals
    If you’re facing long stretches of time without work or activities outside the home, now is a great time to focus on long-neglected projects. Does the basement need organizing? Have you always wanted to learn to paint or play a musical instrument? Start a garden? (I have pallets in the garage with the intention to build a compost bin.) Now’s the time. Set a goal, write a plan, or make a vision board. I personally like lists that I can post somewhere I’ll see them every day. Then get to it!
  9. Find gratitude
    Research shows our brains have a negativity bias. Anything perceived as negative in our experience of life is naturally going to take precedence over the positive — we evolved that way because it helped our species survive. So keep this in mind, and don’t let “what’s wrong” take up more space in your head and heart than “what’s right.” I like having a gratitude practice.
    Allowing yourself to dwell on what’s good and right in your life, right now, can really bring a sense of control and balance to the situation, while also helping calm your nervous system and crushing any feelings of anxiety or depression. You can write down:

    • Three things you are grateful for (it helps if they are small, immediate, and tangible)
    • Three good things that happened today
    • What qualities in yourself, or actions of yours, helped bring about these good things?
  10. Stay in the moment
    Did you know it’s possible to focus on the moment, while still planning for the future? Possible, but not easy. It may feel tempting right now to try to prepare for the worst. Nothing is wrong with being prepared, but try to stay mentally and physically in the present – with what is happening right now, in your immediate space. Spiraling into rumination about the millions of dreadful possibilities of the future is not helpful, as much as your mind may try to convince you that it is. If you stay in touch with your body and your heart, you will know what to do when the time comes.

Whatever your situation, please know that Rooted Bliss is here for you. I’m offering online one-on-one sessions at a steep discount, with an optional payment plan, and I’m hosting a donation-based free group support call twice a week. I have lots of exciting things planned for this group, so I hope you’ll think about joining. Come in your pajamas, if you like — no judgment!

Finally, let me know what you think! How are YOU putting these steps into practice in your life? Is there anything you would add? Write a comment below!

Kate Hartman, SEP, C-IAYT
Evansville, Indiana

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