Quarantine Rx: Self-care for the self-quarantined
The novel coronavirus has upended life for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Many of us are choosing, and sometimes being forced, to stay in our homes for weeks at a time.
While sheltering in place, I decided to create a resource to help people stave off cabin fever and anxiety during this difficult time. I hope you find these science-backed ideas helpful! You can also view this experience I built that randomly generates these ideas for you.
1. Try Resonant Breathing. Lie down and close your eyes. Gently breathe in through your nose, mouth closed, for a count of 6 seconds. Don’t fill your lungs too full of air. Exhale for 6 seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently. Don’t force it. Do this for 10 minutes.
2. Move your shoulders. Lift your shoulders towards your ears, hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower them. Repeat 5 times. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down. Repeat 10 times, then reverse direction.
3. Do a neck stretch. Tilt your neck to your right side over your shoulder, take your right hand and place a light pressure on your head, increasing the stretch towards your shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
4. Voice your emotions. State the emotions you’re feeling right now aloud but to yourself. “I feel worried that my parents will get sick.”
5. Self-Massage. Give yourself a hand (or foot) massage to release oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone. Read more about the research here.
6. Declutter your desk. Research shows that our brains are primed for order and since we’re all working from home these days, this study indicates that clutter makes us more likely to procrastinate.
7. Take a walk. Go for a stroll if you aren’t self-isolating because you’ve tested positive for Covid-19 or are not waiting on test results. Make sure to practice social distancing and stay away from others.
8. What’s the worst case scenario? Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then, ask yourself, “How would I cope if that happened?” Write your answers down.
9. Do a digital detox. Get off Twitter. Stop checking the news. Take a 2-hour break from it all.
10. Call a friend. Hearing a familiar voice has positive effects on the brain. This study showed that in isolated critical patients, a familiar voice was impactful on recovery.
11. Plan out tomorrow. Don’t just schedule the obvious, like meetings. Fill in blocks of free time with the little items that have been taking up brain space.
12. Eat your frogs. Do the annoying thing you’ve been putting off. A global pandemic is a lot for anyone and you’ll feel better when you’ve got those little tasks off your plate.
13. Inventory the fridge. Toss anything that’s gone bad, and try to salve the rest. Make sure you’re ok for the next week.
14. Learn from a mistake. Instead of ruminating on something you messed up, write down what you learned from the mistake and 3 bullet points on how you’ll avoid it next time.
15. Capture the good stuff. Write down three positive things that happened today on a sticky note. Even tiny little things count. Put them up in a highly visible place.
16. See your friends (virtually). Facetime, Google Hangouts, Zoom or Houseparty some familiar faces. Look for free games you can play online. We’re all in this together.
17. Make a doodle. Set aside 5 minutes to draw the first thing that comes to mind on a sticky note. The sillier the better.
18. Check on someone. Offer your help to a friend or family member. Shifting our focus to others produces physiological effects that calm us and strengthen our resilience. You can also feel better knowing you helped someone else in need. Read one of the studies here.
19. Find the silver lining. Think about what’s going right in your life. Even in difficult times, there’s always things we can be grateful for and proud of.
20. Feel accomplished. Set a timer and see how many things you can scratch off today’s to-do list in an hour or even just 20 minutes. It’s also ok to push non-urgent things for tomorrow.
21. Savor the process. Do a task 25 percent more slowing than usual. Allow yourself to really notice what it is you’re doing, whether it’s preparing a meal or brushing your teeth. Try to enjoy doing whatever it is that you’re doing.
22. Rest and digest. We all know the “fight or flight” feeling, triggered by your sympathetic nervous system. But what about its twin sibling, the parasympathetic nervous system? It’s all about producing calm and relaxation. Engage this underactive system by visualizing yourself in a peaceful place, like a mountain stream, a forest, a secluded beach. Engage all your senses in this imagery—sights, sounds, the feel of cool air on your face.
23. Find your inner yogi. Now’s the perfect time to try a little yoga. You don’t have to do a full session, even 15 minutes with a few simple poses can be rejuvenating. Here’s a beginner’s guide.
24. Do what you love. We’re all trying to be productive and work from home but allow yourself to do things you enjoy or that don’t stress you out. Take 30 minutes to do you.
25. Laugh. Find something on YouTube or Reddit that makes you laugh out loud. Send it to 3 friends.
26. Do a 2 minute task. Do any small jobs that have been hanging around on your to-do list. It’ll help clear some mental space and distract you.
27. Be a Master Chef. Make a creative meal with whatever is in the fridge in 30 mins or less. You’ll be busy and flexing those creative muscles because there will be ingredient constraints! By the end of the process, you’ll feel the dopamine rush of accomplishment. Here’s a bunch of ways you can make eggs.
28. Thank Lady Luck. Whether or not we want to admit it, luck plays a pretty big role in our lives. Jot down three things you worried about in the past that didn't come to pass.
29. Count your blessings. Even when bad things happen, they’re usually not as bad as we think and it could always have been worse. Write down three things you once worried about that weren’t so awful once they happened.
30. Do the 7-minute workout. Most gyms, even in-building gyms are closed, so here’s a solution to keep your body moving. Here’s an app that can help for Apple and Android.
31. Focus on right now. Most of our worries are about the future. And right now, uncertainty about the next month, let alone the next year is at an all time high. So pause, breathe and pay attention to what’s happening right now, directly in front of you. Take it in.
32. Positive self-talk. Say an encouraging statement out loud. Some examples are: “This scary time will pass.” “You are an adaptable being.” “Whatever happens our family can navigate it together.”
33. Play a game. Finding a bit of fun, through games, can help take your mind off of the news or worrying about finances. Do it for a scheduled 30 minutes. Some recommendations here and here.
34. Pick up a book. A great way to escape tough times is through the pages of a book. Here are some light-hearted recommendations.
35. Accept the situation. Sometimes the best thing to do is not to fight anxiety, but embrace it. This is a global pandemic. Everything and everyone will be impacted. But remember that humanity perseveres, as it will this time.
36. Wash your hands, mindfully. We all should be doing it anyways, but pairing handwashing with mindfulness can provide a sense of calm. Listen to the sound of the water. How does it sound right now? What other noises are around you? Notice the feeling of the warm water and soap on your hands. How does the water feel? Is it cold or warm? What are the textures of the water and soap like?
37. Take a hot shower. Wash those worries away. Clear your mind for the duration of the shower and focus on the sound of the water, the feel of it on your skin. The smells and sensations of your soap and shampoo.
38. Make a worry list. Take a sheet of paper and write down all the things you’re worried about. Seeing and naming your worries can provide relief and put them into perspective.
39. Light a candle. Dim the lights, light your favorite candle, and close your eyes. Take a few deep calming breaths. Lavender and citrus smells are especially helpful and are often given to patients pre-operation to calm them.
40. Keep a good news journal. Start recording the good things that happen every day, no matter how small. And dig it out when you feel a sense of doom.
41. Drink a glass of water. Anxiety can be exacerbated by dehydration. Dehydration really can make anything worse.
42. Listen to some jams. Research has shown that listening to music not only helped to reduce stress, it also improved immune system function and was more effective than prescription medications at reducing anxiety. Some mellow music here and some “can’t help but be happy” 90s’ jams here.
43. Get some release. If you’ve got a partner, now is a great time to savor some special play time. And if that’s not your current situation, you can always play solo.
44. Send a thank you note. To anyone, for something big or small. You’ll both be glad you reached out. Making someone else feel valued can be a powerful emotional boost.
45. List your gratitudes. Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. Be sure to note why you’re thankful for them.
46. Make a list. Sometime it’s helpful to make lists of things that have nothing to do with the anxiety you’re currently experiencing. These lists can be a place for your racing mind to chill out. They can be useful: All the things you need to do next week. Or nostalgic: Everything you learned in high school. Or hopeful: what you want to do most when you get out of quarantine.
47. Establish a routine. Most of us are adjusting to a lot of changes, working from home, applying for unemployment, closing shops and restaurants, having projects canceled or pushed back. Creating a new routine can be comforting because you know what comes next and it’s a way to regain control in the chaos. Maybe you do morning pages every day, or workout before you jump into meetings or start eating breakfast.
48. Chew gum. Studies have shown that people who chewed gum had a greater sense of wellbeing and lower stress. One possible explanation is that chewing gum causes brain waves similar to those of relaxed people. Another is that chewing gum promotes blood flow to your brain. Grab a bunch of different flavors the next time you make a food run.
49. Do acupressure. It’s like acupuncture but less intense and can promote relaxation and wellness as well treat disease. To get started: Sit comfortably. It can help to close your eyes. Touch the spot between your eyebrows with your index finger or thumb. Take slow, deep breaths and apply gentle, firm pressure in a circular motion for 5 to 10 minutes. More guidance here.
50. Get regular sleep. Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. It’s easy to stay up too late when you don’t have a morning commute but a consistent bedtime is key. Some tips on how to get a better night’s rest.
51. Keep a schedule. Make a plan for your day, including when you’ll eat meals and take breaks. Knowing what your day will look like helps you feel less uncertain. A more regular cadence of activities reduces the cognitive burden of trying to decide what to do.
52. Schedule chats with friends. Staying connected to loved ones can have a profound impact on well-being. Talking to friends gives us a boost of dopamine and oxytocin, and scheduling them gives us all something to look forward to.
53. Practice compassion. Remind yourself that we’re all trying our best to get through this difficult and disruptive time, even those aiming hurtful words at Asian Americans. Studies have shown that practicing compassion can relieve stress. Take a few breaths and send compassion someone else’s way through a kind meditation: “May you be filled with calm, may you be well, may you be free from suffering, may you be content.”
54. Get informed. Hearing from scientists and science writers can help sort through all the misinformation flying around and lessen the panic that comes with a lot of phony info. The situation is continually evolving, so here are a few knowledgeable people on twitter to follow: @NAChristakis, @EdYong209, @MicrobeExplorer.
55. Take an online course. There’s no time like the present to learn something new. This Yale course on the Science of Well-Being is perfect for these times. Take it for free on Coursera.
56. Repeat your affirmations. Daily affirmations can help keep you centered and grounded. Affirmation playlists from artists like Aaron Abernathy are free, wonderful and soothing in this tumultuous time. There’s also positive affirmation app ThinkUp, available for iOS and Android.
57. Free the masks. There is a shortage around the country of N95 masks and other protective gear for physicians, nurses and other hospital personnel on the front lines of the crisis. Take some time and see if there’s a spare N95 mask or a box of nitrile gloves that you can donate. Here’s a guide on how to donate for New Yorkers, the Seattle area and Bay Area.
58. Kindness is contagious. Share an act of kindness or generosity you’ve witnesses between strangers during this crisis. Inspire others with your story!
59. Just dance. There’s no time like the present to bust a move. Research has shown that dancing boosts your mood and decreases anxiety. Dance out the negative thoughts to your favorite jams, or take a class on instagram live with dance legend Debbie Allen or American Ballet Theater Principal Isabella Boylston.
60. Eat mindfully. Constantly opening the fridge? Using food to cope? It’s so easy to stress-eat during these tough times. Here’s a helpful app to help you eat more mindfully in social isolation.
61. Throw a party. A virtual one, of course. Pick something to celebrate, get the gang together on Zoom and have a quarantine party.
62. Engage with ideas. Hearing from experts whose ideas can help us reflect and work through this time with a sense of responsibility, compassion and wisdom can keep us hopeful. Watch a daily livestream of these conversations at TED Connects.
63. Move your body. Research has shown that exercise boosts your mood, immune system and memory. Do your body and brain a favor and get some physical activity. Here’s a great resource for body weight exercises you can do indoors.
** submitted by Florence from Tech Ladies®
64. Get poetic. Stimulate your intellect and foster emotional health and well-being by reading the Poem of the Day at the Poetry Foundation.
** submitted by Pat Richards, VMware Engineering Director & poetry lover