Consider trying to establish the following healthy mental habits, which can serve us well in this time of difficulty and beyond:
1. When you notice something triggering stress or anxiety, try to nip it in the bud before it starts feeding on itself. Take a few deep breaths, or ground your awareness in your feet for 30 seconds. Count to 30 while you focus on the physical sensations of pressure, warmth, tingling, etc. in your feet. This can help you stay calm. Avoid getting on the phone or social media if you are feeling panicky. This helps reduce the spread of anxiety through a phenomenon known as "social contagion." Panic and anxiety can be very contagious, and neither helps improve our individual or collective ability to cope.
2. Spread connection rather than contagion. If you feel the need to go on social media, ask yourself "What do I need right now?" rather than "What do I want?" Often, what we need is a sense of connection. Spread connection by giving your partner or children a hug. Cuddle with a pet. Call a friend if you are feeling calm.
3. Set limits on checking the news, to two or three times a day, to avoid getting "addicted" to anxiety-provoking updates. Particularly avoid checking the news before going to bed. If you find yourself craving an update first thing in the morning, also avoid making that the first thing you do every day.
4. Take it one day at a time. Remember that your brain does not like uncertainty, and it can get stuck in unproductive "What if?" habit loops if you focus too much on planning for the future during periods of uncertainty. Focus on today and the near term to avoid this type of overwhelm. Consider taking it hour-by-hour to help you stay calm and keep thinking more clearly.
5. Nourish yourself with healthy food and kindness. Kindness is sweeter than junk food and does not give you a bellyache from overindulging. Kindness feels good. Steps that can help promote kindness include the following: Take a moment to pray or meditate as an act of kindness toward yourself. Notice when you are feeling short-tempered toward those you are sheltering with and immediately apologize as an act of kindness toward them. Think of one act of kindness you can offer to someone else, such as a phone call or a thank you to a delivery person. Notice how good it feels when you engage in or pay attention to an act of kindness.
Taking care of yourself and those close to you can help you cope with stress and anxiety during these challenging and unsettling times. Some additional ideas to help deal with daily stress during this period include:
1. Take care of your body. Try to eat healthy meals, engage in regular physical activity, and prioritize sleep.
2. Make time to unwind. Try to do some activities you enjoy each day, such as listening to good music, yoga, or engaging in a creative hobby.
3. Connect with others. Call a close friend. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and your feelings. Provide support to others who may not have a strong emotional support system.
Adapted from information on the CDC's website and Dr. Jud Brewer's Coronavirus Anxiety Daily Updates.