By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC
If you’re feeling flaky and exhausted these days, you’re not alone. Whether you’re isolated at home or continuing to go to work, all of us are dealing with tremendous change and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Anxiety over coronavirus can manifest in myriad ways. Many people are experiencing symptoms such as insomnia, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, and lower energy levels.
The situation surrounding coronavirus is likely to remain uncertain for a long time, so it’s important to establish good practices that help safeguard your mental and emotional health as conditions evolve. Try some of these approaches for protecting your emotional well-being during the pandemic.
First, understand that it’s perfectly normal to feel tired and scattered during times of uncertainty. If you find yourself being less productive than usual, don’t beat yourself up. Resist the urge to compare yourself to people on social media who claim to be using their surplus of downtime to organize their closets or learn a new language. Accept that this situation is temporary, and you are entitled to adjust your ideas of what it means to be productive.
Recognize that even small acts can be important accomplishments right now. If all you do during the day is get up, get dressed, make your bed, feed your family, and get some work done, let that be enough. Just like the changing of the seasons, we go through different periods of productivity and rest during our lives. Let this be a time of rest, and let go of the need to be constantly accomplishing something.
The term “self-care” often conjures up images of bubble baths and pedicures, but it’s much more than that. Self-care can be taking whatever steps are necessary to protect your well-being and peace of mind. That may mean blocking certain people on social media, or taking a break from social media altogether.
Good self-care during this time may mean scheduling some time during the day to sit quietly with a cup of coffee, away from the incessant stress of the news cycle. It may mean taking the dog for a long walk and enjoying being in nature. Schedule time to engage in whatever activities help you feel more grounded.
Many of us have had our routines upended. We may be working from home, or may be furloughed, or may have kids who need help with online classes. Even if we’re returning to our place of work, it may look very different than it did before.
It may be a long time before things return to anything that resembles what we think of as “normal,” but we can create a new normal. Research shows that having a consistent routine is good for both physical and emotional health.
Having a routine can help reduce stress. A set routine makes situations feel more predictable and controllable. It also helps reduce the number of decisions you have to make throughout the day, which allows you to conserve mental energy for important decisions.
A regular routine can also help improve your sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and establish a nighttime routine that includes turning off electronic devices at a designated time.
Consider creating a morning routine that helps you start the day on a positive note. Instead of getting up and going straight to the computer for work, take some time to journal, meditate, and plan your day. Identify three things you would like to accomplish for the day—but make them realistic and attainable. Being able to cross items off your list can help you feel more in control, but don’t stress if you don’t get them all done.
It’s well documented that physical activity reduces stress, and boosts the immune system as well. Like everything else, your exercise routine may look very different than it did before the pandemic. Rather than a high-intensity spin class, shift to gentler forms of exercise. Try yoga, which is associated with reduced stress and improved cardiovascular function.
If weather and your location allow, simply going for a walk is also associated with numerous benefits, including improved mood and lower risk of chronic disease.
Above all, allow yourself to find joy and peace where you can without feeling guilty about it. Focus on the things you have to be grateful for, whether that’s steady income, a safe place to shelter, or healthy family members. If you feel anxious or depressed to the extent that you could benefit from professional health, seek out a support group or find a therapist who offers telehealth services. You don’t have to face the uncertainty alone.
Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.