As soon as things started to escalate here in Brooklyn, and when my mood took a steep downward turn, I knew I was going to need to refocus my energy somewhere more positive. Something I’m sure a lot of us are feeling, too.
I know it’s been a weird time, living in lockdown or quarantine—for all of us. To help manage the anxiety and the stress from this bizarre situation, I’ve started taking certain steps to stay sane, while staying safe. Stuck at home and not sure how to cope, I’ve had to find creative ways to enjoy each day.
Like many of my friends, I’m taking it day by day. And by doing a lot of little things, each day is becoming more and more manageable, and, in fact, better.
Our lives have been upended, but thankfully it’s something we’re all going through together. While the loneliness was difficult at first, I’ve found other ways to maintain my meaningful connections. That’s helped.
Here are all the little things I’m doing to manage my anxiety during all of this.
12 Little Things I’m Doing to Reduce my Anxiety
Exercise every day
I’m trying my best to keep a regular sleep schedule, and as part of that, I’m making sure to wake up at a reasonable hour each morning. With that time in the morning, I’m then making a concerted effort to exercise and stretch.
I’m finding that morning activity, even just 20 minutes, is helping me to start the day fresh and actually with a boost of energy. Using YouTube to find different ab workouts, stretching, or 10-minute exercises has really helped. And doing it consistently is helping me to keep a daily routine.
Make your bed
Even if when I was a kid, I wasn’t always the best at making my bed. Since living on my own, though, I’ve found making your bed each morning is actually important. Making your bed sends a subconscious signal that the day is starting, and while working from home, it helps to have as little clutter as possible.
Meditate, and breathe, regularly
Friends have been recommending meditation to me for the last few months, but I only seriously started the habit this past week. Using the Headspace app, I’m doing their daily guided meditation sessions a few times a day.
Making space in your day to clear your mind and focusing on your breathing can really help calm the nerves. I’ve found it really useful when I get distracted from doing my work or need to take a break from the news.
Get dressed every day
Part of having a routine is also dressing for one. I’m dressing comfortably but making sure I put on clean clothes each morning helps signal that it’s a new day. It’s amazing how good fresh socks and clean underwear feels!
Cook (and eat) healthy foods
Cooking has always been one of my favorite pastimes. The opportunity to disconnect from my phone and get my hands dirty feels so refreshing. Personally, I’m doing my best to avoid snacking between meals because it usually just makes me feel lethargic. So cooking hearty but healthy meals for lunch and dinner (and a breakfast of fresh fruit) has really helped me maintain a schedule.
While cooking every meal each day is exhausting and time-consuming, it’s a great way to spend time and focus on something other than what’s happening in the world right now.
Stay in touch with friends & family
Since the world turned upside down, I’ve suddenly found myself in several group iMessage chats. It’s strange for so many of us to be so apart from one another, but still connected. I’ve been home alone for over a week now and while it’s nice to have the space to myself, the silence is deafening.
At first, I was going hours or days not speaking a single word out loud, but I’ve since managed to set up semi-regular calls with my friends and family around the world. Those regular interactions are helping me keep my sanity. It’s better than talking to my new plant.
Walk while on the phone
Spending so much time inside, and with the gyms closed, I’m obviously not getting as much physical activity as normal. What with walking to and from the subway, visiting coffee shops, going for walks in the park—none of that is normal anymore.
So, in an effort to do something small but sustainable, I’ve started pacing and walking around apartment during each phone call I’m on. It’s more comfortable than lying in bed, and keeps me from falling too far down a slump.
Write a daily list of positives
Probably the biggest positive thing I’ve started doing during the lockdown is really pretty easy. Each morning, on a piece of paper, I start a list for the day of all the positive things I’ve done or felt that day. Then, at the end of the day, I post a selfie to my Instagram story with the list of positives, mostly for myself. But maybe it’s also helpful to remind others that there are positive things happening in the world, however small.
The physical act of writing it down and then transferring it to another medium makes my evening a little more enjoyable and less lonely, too. It makes me reflect on the positives from the day, and then I do get a little thrill from sharing it publicly.
Limit your Instagram screen time
Apparently, Instagram’s usage has gone way up since most of the country went on lockdown. It makes sense because it is our most popular social media tool, and it’s turned out to be a great source of local information and news.
It’s how I’ve kept up with my favorite local bars and restaurants, the restaurant/bar industry staff that are suffering, and my friends around the world. But I do still find Instagram to be pretty toxic. And even with almost everyone I know stuck in lockdown and staying home, there’s oddly still a lot of FOMO. Jealous of my friends who have puzzles, or roommates, or art supplies, or all the other things I’m missing while stuck at home.
So, to avoid that toxicity and to try and stay as positive as possible, I’ve started limiting my Instagram screen time. Using the iPhone Screen Time app, I’ve managed to limit my usage, and then I also hope by only checking in occasionally on the app, I’m keeping my mental health in check.
Avoid alcohol & drugs
On any given week, I was going out to the bars quite a bit. But with an uncertain future of who-knows-how-much-income, I’m really trying to save money where I can. That means I’m being more aware of what I’m spending my money on: and alcohol is something I’m trying to reduce.
But, importantly, I’m also trying to stay as healthy as possible. The less alcohol I drink, the healthier I feel. Sure, it’s great for an escape. But in an effort to manage my alcohol intake, I’ve started only allowing myself to drink every other day. That means no wine at dinner, no cocktail in the evening, no White Claws for breakfast. But only every other day! ;)
Turn off the TV at a certain point
I could easily fall into a time-suck Netflix binge, but I’m trying to avoid that. While the last week has been hard to focus on work, I’ve found that by turning off the TV at a certain point each day makes it easier to focus my energy on something more productive and positive.
Sure, I’ve enjoyed binging on Tiger King (it’s bizarre!), but I also know too much time on Netflix just causes me too much anxiety. So by turning it off each night, and not binging during the day, I’m able to maintain a relative semblance of normalcy.
Try to sleep better/regularly
For the past few months I was already struggling with sleep. Add in all this extra anxiety and worry, and bedtime has become even more challenging. But a few weeks ago, I started taking melatonin each night (10mg chewable tablets) and it’s helped me to fall asleep.
With not a lot to do each day during lockdown, I’m also finding myself going to bed earlier than usual (before midnight!). Waking up is still a challenge somedays because ~ life !, but at least with a healthier sleep schedule, hopefully my mind is getting some well-needed rest.
One side note about the melatonin, though: it has started to cause me to have some very vivid, hyper-realistic dreams. They have not always been the best dreams, but considering it was difficult for me to fall asleep a month ago, at least I’m getting some rest now.
• • •
These have been some really weird times right now. With everything happening, I’m finding it’s all the little things I do each day which help me maintain my sanity. It’s not been easy, and it’s not going to be any easier in the coming weeks or months, but by focusing my attention on small things I can control, I’m at least able to enjoy each day as it comes.