7 Ways To Manage Quarantine Anxiety
If we as a society have learned anything over the past few weeks, it’s that our very way of life can disappear in an instant.
Regardless of how differently the Coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, has affected our lives, we all take heed of one, unified message: prioritizing our health has never been so crucial.
By now, you’re (hopefully) washing your hands regularly, staying inside whenever possible, and practicing good social distancing techniques (1).
For most of us, though, that’s about as close to a consistent routine as we have. Trust us, we get it, and you’re certainly not the only one struggling to find stability in their day to day.
Being confined to the comfort of our homes may have sounded preferable to some at first, but as soon as the monotony sets in and the uncertainty of the world becomes clear, an extra layer of stress can begin to manifest (raise your hand if you panic-cleaned your entire house more than once this week *HAND RAISE EMOJI*).
And that stress, otherwise known as that sudden lightning bolt feeling in your stomach, causes your body to produce high levels of cortisol (aka stress hormones), which over time can make you more susceptible to illness and lead to health issues like acne, skin irritation/hives, headaches, and hair loss (2). (Curious about how stress affects your skin? Learn more here.)
So, what’s missing here? Why does it eerily seem like we’re living in The Upside Down from Stranger Things?
One possible answer is clear: routine. Without our usual commutes, team lunches, coffee shop stops, and weekends exploring with friends, what is left of our “normalcy”?
Although it sounds unreachable given the circumstances, there is good news in all this: you can create it.
Ok, well, maybe not like that - BUT, studies have shown that maintaining habits throughout the week enables people to better manage their physical and mental health, while also greatly reducing stress levels (3).
On that note, here’s a starter list of healthy habits* to get you going. __________________________________________________________________
SUNDAY: Sanitize Your Skincare
Target activity time: Mid morning/early afternoon
One of the best ways to combat COVID-19 is maintaining proper hygiene, now being more critical than ever.
While we continue to clean our hands and avoid our faces, it’s important to include the items we’re touching to them as well: meaning our brushes, spongers and washcloths.
In one study from the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston University in Birmingham, United Kingdom, makeup brushes were proven to carry harmful bacteria like e.coli and staphylococci, while beauty blenders bred fungi contamination (4). This can be attributed to moist sponges, products dropping on the bathroom floor, and tools being tossed into dirty make-up containers or bags.
Did you know? When you’re sick, even your makeup and towels can collect bacteria from you, causing you to contract the same virus again later on if they’re not cleansed properly. YIKES.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- 1 bottle of shampoo, gentle formula preferred
- A sink
- 1 clean, dry towel (for drying your tools afterwards)
- *optional* 1 bar of soap
Brushes: Squeeze a small dollop of shampoo into the palm of your hand. Run just the bristles of the brush under the warm sink water. Swirl the wet bristles in the shampoo until the makeup begins to come off; continue washing. Rinse the brush as needed (again, just the bristles) and repeat until the water runs clear. Set the brush aside in a towel and wrap when everything is finished for quicker drying.
Sponges: Run the sponge/beauty blender under warm water. Dispense a small amount of shampoo onto the sponge and squeeze a few times to evenly distribute the shampoo. Rinse thoroughly and repeat until the water runs clear. Squeeze any excess water out before setting the sponge aside; use the same towel to wrap them up when everything is finished for quicker drying.
*Bonus*: rubbing the sponge over a bar of soap under warm water removes those stubborn makeup stains!
Towels: Easy - just gather and throw them in the wash with your regular laundry.
Pro tip: you’ll want to get on this activity by midday to allow time for everything to fully dry overnight.
Repeat weekly if necessary, break it up over time, or dedicate this day each week to wiping down your skincare and beauty tools. Whatever way you choose to approach it, adding this hygiene check offers a nice bonus layer of protection against harmful germs in your home.
MONDAY: Self Massage
Target activity time: End of day
One of the best ways to release tension in our bodies is to receive a tranquil, restorative professional massage. However, spas and wellness facilities are amongst the many businesses shutting their doors across the country due to Coronavirus, so for now you’ll need to take matters into your own hands - literally.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started:
- Find a quiet space in your home/work. If possible, shut yourself in a room, like when you’re preparing to meditate (or you know, hiding from reality).
- Take a few deep breaths & center your attention on the present moment
- Close your eyes and gently massage your forehead with your fingertips in long, soft strokes (adjust firmness as desired)
- After a few moments, move your fingers down your face, repeating the same stroke pattern there, on your cheeks, your jawline & so forth. Note: be extra careful not to tug on the skin around your eyes, as this area is thinner/more sensitive!
- Relax your jaw while massaging over the entirety of your face from forehead to chin, going over any parts that need some more love
- If you have a chilled jade roller handy, you can finish with that, otherwise take another deep breath and open your eyes
- *Bonus*: If you have time to spare, feel free to take it a step further: firmly grip and rub each arm, slowly working from your shoulders down to your fingertips and back for an ultra soothing boost.
Not only is this practice a great excuse to pause for some TLC, but facial massages are known to help promote healthy skin circulation, as well as being an all around mood booster! (5).
TUESDAY: Toe Touches
Target activity time: First thing in the morning
It’s bound to happen - when given the opportunity to stay home, we tend to picture ourselves nestled into the comfiest chair we own, tv remote placed firmly in hand, ready browse to chill.
Yes, everyone deserves to rest during this especially hectic period. However, prolonged sitting or laying down also contributes to serious long term health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and - in the more extreme cases - early death (6).
To help offset the extra tushy time (or to stretch sore, overworked muscles), try dedicating at least a few minutes once a week to stretching.
Right after you wake up is preferred, when your body is just getting going but you’re still relaxed.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started:
- Plant your feet directly under you, together
- Take a deep breath in through your nose while raising your arms above your head
- Slowly fold your body forward while softly releasing the breath out of your mouth
- Let your head hang comfortably and reach your fingers towards your toes; if you need to, you can bend your knees slightly for relief and to prevent overextension (handy if you’re especially tight)
- Reach until you feel a tolerable amount of pull in your quads and calves, then hold
- Stretch for a minute OR for at least 30 seconds - basically, as long as you can tolerate it without injuring yourself
Note: DO NOT overdo it! Flexibility takes time to build, so be gentle. The main point is to stretch your muscles and promote healthy circulation, not to fold into a pretzel on your first go.
Also, if you find this more useful for everyday use, you can dedicate more time on Tuesday to different parts of the body as well.
WEDNESDAY: Work It
Target activity time: Morning/Mid-morning
Well, it’s midweek.
You’ve exhausted your entertainment options.
The dog has somehow reached their walk limit for the day.
Still, you’re in need of some stress-free movement that doesn’t include running around at work or chasing after your newly homeschooled kids.
And no, this is not the same routine that your early riser, workout-obsessed friend has sprinkled throughout their Instagram stories. No shame in their game; we’re just aware that there are realistic limits to everyone’s time/energy/motivation.
If you don’t believe you can workout sufficiently from home, guess again: consistent exercise for just 15 minutes a day is enough to make a difference in your overall health. No need to spend an hour getting a complex circuit workout in if that’s not your thing (6). Instead, begin with something lighter and work your way up.
Here’s an example of what you’ll need to get started:
AT HOME CARDIO WORKOUT
- 15 push ups (or 5x5x5 with breaks in between)
- 45 crunches (or 15x15x15 with breaks in between)
- 30 squats (or 10x10x10 with breaks in between)
If you have the time, you can also try searching Youtube for “yoga classes”, “boxing lessons” (punching the air, that is), and any other fitness routines available for you to watch for free.
The name of the game here is movement, so even a small window of time once a week can be a game changer for your physical and mental health!
THURSDAY: Jot Your Thoughts
Target activity time: any
Have you ever written down a problem, just to get it out of your head and make sense of it on paper? If so, you’re already familiar with Thursday’s technique.
Journaling is a fantastic way to clear your mind of the additional clutter - some studies have even concluded that your brain simply runs better when you’ve offloaded excess thoughts into a notebook (7). Sometimes writing about significant life experiences (like COVID-19) can help us cope, or capture insight into what this time period feels like for us to share later on in life.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started:
- Set aside at least 5 minutes of uninterrupted journaling time (or, pick the most mellow time of day where you can sit quietly - even if it’s first thing in the morning or late at night before bed)
- Transcribe your thoughts as they come; try not to control/self edit. Write as much or as little as you need, whether it’s about your week or what you dreamt about - let it flow!
- When time is up, sign and date the entry
- Review what you wrote for clarity, elaborate on it more, or save it for your next entry
Even if you’re not an avid writer, if nothing else, journals are a great excuse to slow down and take in your surroundings while keeping your cortisol level at bay.
FRIDAY: Feelin’ Frugal
Besides the alarmingly rapid outbreak of deadly flu cases, the other biggest change to our livelihood is still TBD:
What will our economy look like post-COVID-19?
With steady droves of people losing jobs, small and large businesses shutting down operations, and the stock market plummeting big time, you’re lucky if you still have a steady income through it all. Whatever the case may be for you, the state of the economy tells us that it’s time to buckle down and start getting serious about budgeting.
It’s no fun task to do, but getting a grip on your finances is the first step towards not only financial, but physical health as well.
In fact, physical and financial health are so interconnected, a study from 2012 suggests that high blood pressure and blood glucose levels were the most affected by money-related stress, with the study taking place before and after a financial crisis (8). To the unfamiliar, both of those symptoms are contributing factors to major heart problems down the road.
Besides saving your wallet, you may also be saving your own life by tackling money problems head on and avoiding unnecessary hardship.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to get started:
- Collect all bills and record total amounts due in one place for easy reference, along with due dates*
- Schedule payment reminders on your calendar two weeks out from the due dates so you don’t forget/can budget ahead of time
- Review past and current bank statements each month and highlight any extra and/or unnecessary spending
- Plan what amount of money is going where, then allocate an allowance for extracurriculars; adjust as often as needed
*Many banks are offering zero interest and late fees on deferred payments due to Coronavirus - contact your local institution to learn more if this applies to you.
Again, even if you feel comfortable with your current wealth, you never know when that could change. It’s always better to make at least a few small preparations to ensure financial wellness in your future.
SATURDAY: Set the Pace
Whew! We made it! It’s officially the end of the week, or as it’s now referred to in my house as, “Is Today Actually Saturday???”.
In a perfect world, we’d complete every task, every day, exactly the way we envisioned it without any flaws or resistance.
In reality, of course, this is rarely the case, which is why giving yourself an extra day to go over your routine is critical to progress!
Did you notice that you felt an extra boost of energy at the top of the week, but sluggish for your midweek work out? Switch it up! There’s no point in upholding a schedule that does nothing for you, or causes you more distress, so take Saturday to review the previous week and plan ahead for the next.
Once your week is set, you can paste sticky notes on your mirror, tape a note listing each day’s activities on the fridge, or document your plan digitally - do whatever it takes to keep yourself motivated and focused on preserving your health for when you need it most.
Trying to find a balance
Who’s to say what tomorrow will bring us in this invisible battle? It was only just a few short weeks ago that we were going about our lives, acting perfectly normal, as if nothing would ever change. But it all did anyway.
We know that a routine isn’t going to prevent people from getting sick, or bored, or scared, and it certainly can’t help anyone control what’s unfolding around us. What it can do, though, is help us gain our footing during this unprecedented moment in our lifetime; shifting your focus to more positive pursuits is never a bad thing. So, hey, here’s to trying.
Above all else, we’re in this fight together. Everyone stay safe & healthy out there. <3
Written by Adrianne Neal