In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, at least 1/3 of the country is either in quarantine or self-isolation. People are becoming antsy, feeling claustrophobic, getting ‘cabin fever’ and are otherwise going stir-crazy indoors.
It is ironic that we are getting to the point where we can’t even bear to be in our own environments and maintain our sanity. What is even more ironic is that, when we leave work everyday, our home is our solace, our ‘port in the storm’ and safe haven.
So, how do we now manage life indoors? There is always Facetime, Google Duo, and Skype for visual communication-effective forums which align with social distancing. Nonetheless, they don’t offer enough physical activity for many of us. We want the open air-the good ole’ outdoors. But, we can’t enjoy the outdoor environment as liberally as we have grown accustomed to.
We can still go outside alone to exercise or take a leisurely walk, but not too leisurely. We must maintain social distancing and return home immediately thereafter. At any other time, we would feel a sense of relaxed comfort, safety and sanctuary from the outside world. That has now changed for lots of folk, and it is relatively early in this effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
If you have a front or backyard that you call your own, then you can go outside, without laving your house or having close contact with others. You can sit on your front porch, the kids can still play outside. But, if you live in any large urban city, it is likely you live in an apartment building. Your options are fewer, in terms of getting fresh air, unless you have a balcony.
Whatever the living situation, feelings of confinement or cabin fever while in quarantine or isolation don’t have to completely stress you out at home. Should any such feelings arise, they can be managed strategically. These are some of the things that you can do to help you feel more comfortable and experience less stress in your space:
#1. Open your windows. Pull back your curtains, or draw the blinds during the day and welcome the sunlight. Sunlight triggers the body’s production of Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’. It is critical for overall health, protects against inflammation, lowers blood pressure, helps muscles, improves brain function and may even protect against cancer.
Exposure to sunlight has also been known to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called seratonin.
Seratonin is associated with boosting mood and can help shake off the wintertime blues. Be advised that too much sunlight exposure, can be a danger, as the ultraviolet rays from direct sunlight are carcinogenic. The key is moderate sunlight, and while indoors, that’s what you will get- moderate, indirect exposure to the sun.
#2. Meditate. A few minutes of practice each day can help ease anxiety, making you more resilient to stress. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting, either out loud or silently, a positive mantra such as, “I love myself.” or “I feel at peace.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let all distracting thoughts float away like clouds.
#3. Breathe deeply. This will only take about 5 minutes. Focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath begin in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. Deep breathing counters the effect of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
#4. Reach out. Your social network is still one of your best tools for handling stress. Continue to talk to others via social media or video chats. At the very least, you can still have telephone conversations. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective and still keep your connections strong.
#5. Be present. Stay in the moment. Slow down. Focus on only one behavior with awareness. Notice how the air feels on your face while you’re walking through your house. Taste each bite of your food and notice the texture. When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
#6. Visual Imagery. Find a quiet spot in your house. Sit or lay down straight, hands at your side. Close your eyes and begin to breather in and out, slowly and deliberately. After 2 or 3 deep breaths, imagine yourself in a special place. You can choose a day at the beach, in the mountains, or gazing into the sky at dusk. You can picture yourself in Paris in the spring or any place you find inviting, exciting or that will have a calming effect on you.
#7. Organize your digital life. Make backups of all of your important files on a flash drive, external hard drive or in the cloud. Scan photos, too. Also, clean up your desktop with designated folders for your files.
#8. Clean out your purse and wallet. Since you won’t be going out soon where you’ll need a big bag, it’s a good time to clean and declutter. Get rid of those old receipts, expired coupons, old unused lipsticks, old candy and gum and toss it all.
#9.Learn to give yourself a manicure or pedicure. You won’t be visiting your salon any time soon. So, give yourself a basic mani-pedi to relax and treat yourself. You can experiment with nail art or a crazy new polish color never worn. Be bold. Who knows! You may grow to love it.
#10. Clean your makeup brushes and your beauty drawer. You probably have at least one eye shadow never worn, old makeup past its expiration date, and lipsticks without the tops or worse yet without any creme left in the container. These things touch your face and close to your mouth. If salvageable, clean items per instructions.
#11. Read a book. Pick up that book that has been sitting on your shelf or coffee table. You’ve been meaning to read it. Better yet, read to or with your child. Nonetheless, now’s a good time to get lost in a good book. So many adventures are to be had inside of those books. Take one!
#12. Update your resume, LinkedIn and CV. Even if you aren’t out of work or looking for a job right now, take a little time to reflect on how far you’ve come in your career and celebrate those highlights. Enlist a savvy friend, via video or email, to help you if needed. You probably will, because chances are you’ve done so many amazing things at work, you may not be able to keep track of them all.
#13. Have a Netflix binge. Get lost inside of a string of movies and TV series on Netflix. That is, if you don’t have the kids with you, or aren’t a parent. If you are a parent, choose some family-friendly shows, and don’t forget to include documentaries, too.
#14. Send some thank you notes. Nobody sends old fashioned than you cards anymore. You can. Is there someone who made at difference at work? A distant family member or friend who acknowledged your birthday this year? A heartfelt thank you letter explaining how it helped you or how much it meant to you will go a long way in making you both feel great.
#15. Volunteer. I am volunteering in a school community at a ‘grab n go’ food drive during this coronavirus. You, too can volunteer and show some kindness to others at this time….or at an time. Make the time, and there’s no time like now. It’s so meaningful and necessary. One can volunteer while keeping with ‘social distancing’ protocols.
#16. Explore the great outdoors from your living room couch.Yellowstone National Park offers virtual tours. Explore Mars virtually through NASA’s Curiosity Rover. Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers virtual tours.
#17. Have a night at the museum. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has exhibits you can view online. Certainly, there are other museums that offer the same.
#18. Go to the zoo. The San Diego Zoo can be visited online. Take your kids along with you.
#19. Take a cooking class. All of Julia Child’s classic cooking collection. Have a virtual video party with friends or a real one with your kids. Let them help in the prep of food. Enjoy dinner together.
#20. Go to Broadway. Broadway HK is offering free trials to watch from home without having to travel to NYC. Besides, since Broadway is also shut down right now, viewing from your home is perfect.
Of course, these are just a few of the many activities that you can try, not only during this global crisis, but at any time. Stay positive and think creatively about the many, many ways that you can make the best of your time at home. This is particularly important if you have your children at home with you. The way that they cope will be greatly influenced by the way you cope.
Protect your mental health and wellness at all times. Cabin fever won’t last forever! No matter how you may feel, you are not alone. We are all in this together! Stay positive, stay home and stay safe from harm!