Staying sane in self-isolation (with links)

Right now, we are all in the same boat…stuck at home. We are trying to adjust to our current normal of figuring out how to stay busy, with our newly freed schedules.

It could be in different ways, but we are all affected in some form or another by the COVID-19 pandemic. I know that a lot of us are used to being “on the go” and don’t ever have a chance to be this available. Sometimes it’s so boring it’s awkward. It’s like when you’re in a group photo and the photographer can’t get it right so everyone is just standing there smiling, not sure what pose to do, next to each other in silence.

I’m here to share with you how I have been keeping my sanity during this very strange and seemingly lonely time. I know it feels lonely, but we are all going through together, just in the privacy of our own homes.

Some people have chosen to succumb to the fear surrounding the uncertainty of this situation. Even though I am barely adjusted to my new city, am across the country from all my family, have been laid-off, and don’t know what my future holds, I am choosing to see the bright side. For me, seeing the bright side means that I have (quite literally) all the time in the world to do what I want. Well, inside my home. Seriously, how often does that happen?! NEVER. Plenty of times I feel like there’s “not enough hours in the day”. Now, I can catch up on all the cleaning that I usually make excuses not to do, I can fold the clean laundry when it’s dry, I can try the new recipes, I can read the books I bought months ago, I can learn a new skill, I can focus on me. I don’t think my time is better invested in anything more than personal growth. When all of this has passed and we have to start over again, that’s when self-development will truly shine through. The seeds we plant today will undoubtedly harvest later. You might look back and regret eating all the snacks and binge-watching every show on Netflix and Hulu, but I promise you won’t regret doing the inner work. Of course I haven’t done ALL of these things EVERY day, and I definitely have my binge days. We all need them.

My intention with this post is to help people who are perpetually bored during this time and have convinced themselves that they can’t do the activities I’m about to mention. You can do it. Yes, even if  you think you are not good at it or you’ve never done it before! I’m here to tell you how it has helped me and where you can help yourself.

If you are sick and tired of feeling bored out of your mind and unproductive, but you don’t know where to start…keep reading!

WHAT KEEPS ME GOING?

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  • Deep breathing

Coping with the fact that we cannot do many of our favorite activities that we are used to having at our fingertips is hard. Realizing that you or someone you love could be infected with the virus and could become hospitalized, or even die, is scary. The fact that your bills might not get paid and you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from is stressful. This is true for everyone. In uncertain times like this, we are blessed to live another day unscathed. One of the best reminders of this is our breath. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take 5 DEEP breaths before you allow it to get the best of you. I’m not talking about the kind you give the doctor when they are listening to your heart. I’m talking about the kind that fills your lungs so full, it feels like your belly is going to burst. And then when you exhale, your lungs are so empty, the walls of your abdomen and back could touch. Yeah, that kind. It is possible that you have never even taken this type of deep breath on purpose. That’s okay, but I challenge you to do it now. Even let out an audible *sigh* on the exhale if you need to. I like to close my eyes and imagine that I am breathing in hope, faith, gratitude, and positivity. Then, imagine that I am exhaling the doubt, fear, stress, worry, and negativity. It sounds simple, but it takes a few minutes of focus and has surprising affects on your mind and body. After this practice, you will feel lighter. PLUS, it strengthens your lungs, making it easier to fight against a respiratory disease (wink, wink). Learn more about the benefits of deep breathing at WebMD.

  • Writing

I know that some people do not enjoy writing as a hobby and would never consider keeping a journal or “diary”. I’m not asking you to do that. For me, simply writing down words to match my feelings helps me to work through them. It’s like once I morph the thoughts into a word and physically write it down, it transfers to the paper. It’s okay if you feel corny doing this. Nobody has to know, and if you are afraid of someone seeing what you wrote, rip it up into a million pieces and throw it away. Sometimes putting a word to our feelings can be difficult, so you can use this wheel to help. If you say you don’t have any feelings about these current events, you’re not fooling me. Nice try, though!

  • Stretching

Some people might refer to this practice as yoga, but I think that the technical term “yoga” scares people who have never tried it. Because of that, I am going to call it stretching. We have all stretched before, even if it was X years ago in PE class. By the way, if it has been that long since you took the time to stretch, PLEASE use this as an opportunity to do it. Stretching our body and muscles is a great way to pass time because you have to hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds for it to be effective. I like to start up at my neck and work down to my ankles. Not only will you become more flexible and less likely to injure yourself, but it is believed that trauma can be held physically in our cells. Work that out! Here’s a beginner’s routine.

  • Adult coloring

Getting back in touch with our inner child can remind us to not take life so seriously. Since I am not amazing at drawing, I like to use “adult coloring” books. I like these books for several reasons- it makes me feel artistic and creative, it takes me back to the good ol’ days, it is satisfying, and it calms me down. There’s just something special about seeing a black and white design, and then using your favorite colors to give it life. Since this has become trendy in recent times, you can find an adult coloring book almost anywhere, and with any theme. I particularly enjoy the floral designs, plants, nature, etc. I started making masterpieces with these cheap finds: book and markers.

  • Dancing

Oh, you think you suck at dancing?? Well, guess what? You’re stuck at home and nobody will see you. Theres a groovy beast waiting to be unleashed from within you. I dare you to turn on one of your favorite pump-up songs and let your body move. Only do this after stretching, of course. Dancing like nobody is watching (because they aren’t) is so liberating. It helps you clear your body of stagnant energy, gets your heart pumping, and boosts serotonin. Don’t believe me? Click here. It doesn’t have to be like an audition for Broadway. Get silly, perfect your 1, 2 step if you have to and laugh at yourself!

HITCH_the_Dance_Scene_with_Albert

Dancing is SERIOUSLY not your thing? Fine. Just be sure to get your exercise, even if it means taking a [socially distant] walk through the neighborhood. Home workouts are always an option too, but kids and pets can make it a real task.

  • Meditating

I get it, meditation sounds like a hippie thing. Well, it’s not just for “hippies”. It’s for me and for you. For all of us. I used to think meditation was a special skill that you had to either be Buddhist or an expert in order to do it successfully. After several years of practicing meditation, I’ve learned that just isn’t true. It does take practice to get really good at it, but anyone can do it. If this is foreign territory to you, start with just sitting down in a quiet and comfortable place. Close your eyes if you want, but not if you will fall asleep right away. Focus on your breath and your thoughts. Just allow yourself to exist. No music, no phone, no distractions. Just you, sitting with your innermost thoughts. Your mind might wander to strange places. That’s okay. Clearing your mind can seem impossible at first, but you will get there with time. Especially with a guided meditation. I LOVE guided meditations because they are timed and they can take your imagination on a wonderful journey, like a daydream. You will imagine things without even trying, and that’s your mind’s eye doing the work. See what your mind’s eye wants you to see. If you use Spotify, I highly recommend the Meditation Minis Podcast. If not, YouTube is a great resource! Here is a great 5-minute meditation for anyone. In my opinion, 5 minutes flies by, so try 10 if you’re up to it.

These activities are not going to work for everyone, and not everyone will find joy in my little acts of self-care. I understand that, but I ask that you at least give them a try if you haven’t before. You could surprise yourself! I know that these easy activities are helping me keep my sanity and fight against cabin fever. Maybe they can do the same for you! Stay safe, stay healthy, follow precautions, and don’t allow yourself to slip into a funk. Remember, unlike many, none of these activities can be canceled by the virus!

How to combat anxiety & learn to live normally again

This blog is quite a bit different from what I usually post, but it is something that is very important to me. I have noticed that I’m definitely not alone in the ways I’ve felt. This blog is dedicated to other people who know where I’m coming from and I hope at least one of these methods can resonate with you.

For some unfortunate and unclear reason, anxiety has been a popular topic of discussion in recent years. I’m not sure if this is due to the some of the advancements in our society (the way we interact with technology) or the fact that more people are comfortable recognizing/admitting they are not 100% mentally healthy. I hope it’s the ladder, because it is about time the mental health issue becomes something that we can all accept, understand and discuss.

I usually only open up about these type of issues with individuals that I feel a very strong connection with. Because I have noticed that many people suffer from anxiety, I am willing to share my experiences and advice on this topic. A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I once felt like I couldn’t come forward with my anxiety and I felt alone, like I was going crazy…like there was no way for me to fix it. I’m here to inform you that you are not crazy and you CAN work through it. Now I’m not sure if the methods that work for me, work for you. Everyone is different. Each person experiences anxiety in a unique way, therefore there are several different ways for us to cope with it. I can only hope that one of my ways to combat anxiety speaks to you.

Podcasts

If you’re a student, I highly suggest getting Spotify Premium (it comes with Hulu too) for $5 a month. I’m not sure if these podcasts are on Google Play or Apple Music because I only have Spotify. I have two favorites that always help me through anxious days. One is called Affirmation Pod and the other is Mini Meditations. Isolating myself in a calm, comfortable environment and listening to one of these episodes can help me reset my thoughts. It might not be the exact same, but if you can’t get Spotify, there’s always YouTube!

Stretching/Yoga

This is another great way to clear your mind. You can really focus on deep breathing and slowly working the stress and tension from anxiety out of your muscles. Try to be conscious of where you hold tension. Relax all of your muscles. You might notice yourself clenching your jaw or tightening your throat. Acknowledge this and then release the tension. Listening to soft music can also improve this experience.

Journal

Sometimes its much easier for us to write down our feelings than say them out loud to another person. It can be really gratifying to open up a notebook or journal to  blank page, grab your favorite pen and let your mind do the writing. Write down exactly how you feel. Then, write down what you think might be causing you to feel this way. Finally, next to each item, write down an idea on how to work through this feeling or to avoid what causes it.

Draw/paint/color

Even if you’re not the greatest artist in the world, I believe that getting in touch with your creative side can be very therapeutic. I personally like using vibrant colors that represent my feelings at that time to draw or paint. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just do whatever feels good.

Attitude of Gratitude

Each night before you go to bed, think of all the things you are grateful for. It can also help to write these down. Think about why you’re grateful for these things and how they make your life better. Remind yourself that there is so much to be happy about and that you’re doing just fine. You can also replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts throughout the day when you feel yourself creeping back into a negative mind space.

Atmosphere

Create an atmosphere that is comfortable and positive. For me, this includes diffusing essential oils, dimming the lights, lighting a candle or two and having a clean/tidy space.

Integrating each of these small changes into my everyday life have helped me work through my anxiety tremendously. I wish the same for you. It will be okay 🙂

Love & Light!