Last month we were going on dates, dreaming about warmer weather and enjoying afternoons in cute little coffee shops. This month? We look forward to the living room. Or, the kitchen table. Oh, and the world is burning all around you and… is that tightness in my chest coronavirus or the fact that I forgot to breathe for an entire minute?
Stop looking up symptoms for a second.
Let’s acknowledge anxiety and panic as a part of life right now. Anxiety, Panic, and I have walked hand in hand ever since I was a child. They’re like my cat: demanding, wakes me up in the middle of the night, eats my food, and doesn’t pay rent. And boy, they’ve been sitting on my chest ever since I began self isolating.
To avoid spiraling into unyielding despair and endless stress poops, I’ve found routine. Planning out your day makes it feel tangible, secure, and less like a house of cards.
Here are some ways to reclaim control and finally whack that metaphorical mole.
When you wake up, get into the groove of feeling your feelings. Every morning. It’s important to understand your mental state first instead of rushing into your day. Being aware of where your brain is will allow you to make more mindful decisions to manage anxiety.
If you’re feeling particularly anxious, ask yourself if that coffee is necessary. Take extra precautions against physical anxiety.
Maybe opt for decaf or an herbal tea; eat breakfast in an outdoor space or with the window open; listen to some calming music, or meditate. A small indulgence in the morning can slow you down and set you up for success.
This habit helps center and prepare you for the day. For folks who are experiencing a lot of racing thoughts, this is your opportunity to put them to paper. Get all your ugly out. If you haven’t reserved your morning cry for the shower, now’s a good time.
What are you worried about? What is the worst case scenario here? What do you miss about normal life?
When you start to feel like you’re writing the same thing over and over again, it’s good to look at journaling prompts. Post-pandemic, journaling is a good practice to keep because it encourages consistent reflection and self-talk.
Journaling will teach you your habits, your prevailing thoughts, and whether or not you’re making progress on your journey for better health.
For some, it’s easy to cope by overeating. Others get overwhelmed and completely forget to eat. Anxiety can give you a lot of energy that feels unproductive, and constant snack runs are a given.
I personally write down breakfast and lunch times beside my to-do list, noting what I ate (because a banana is not equal to last night’s leftovers), and make adjustments throughout the day.
For real? For real. It sounds silly, but when you’re running on all cylinders, you’re going to get tired very quickly. The effects of panic and anxiety on your body can be exhausting. Snooze your notifications and relax.
Nap time usually hits me around 2 p.m. and, for me, 30 to 45 minutes is the sweet spot in order to feel rested, but not groggy. The suggested time for others is anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes.
Sometimes I’ll spice it up and take what I call a “fap nap.” Rubbing one out can lull you to sleep, and also eases irritability. It’s good to give yourself a break, and, if the negative feelings are building, can function as a reset for the rest of your day.
Here’s a fun one! Bitch and complain after work is done. That is the best time for long phone calls that help you get out of your head. Get a glass of wine or a cup of tea and just talk sh*t.
This is a good way to remind yourself that everyone is going through it. You’re not alone, even if anxiety makes you feel that way.
Even debilitating anxiety cannot distract me from the joy that is “90 Day Fiancé.” Every Sunday my roommate and I have made it an event: We cook dinner together, gather around the television with our drink of choice and laugh at other people’s terrible relationships. Unkind? Yes. Juvenile? Of course. Does it make me happy? Exactly.
Set alarms. Send out calendar invites. Act like you have somewhere to be like you did in times of yesteryear.
Here are other activities to splatter across you week: online video games played with friends; Houseparty is a great app to bring anyone with a digital device together; virtual book clubs are sprinkled all across the internet. Give yourself something to look forward to.
Make it a process. Indulge yourself. Write your to-do list for the next day. Yoga or meditation are activities encouraged to ward off insomnia.
Limiting screen time will put you in a better place to hopefully get restful sleep. Reading, drawing, or otherwise busying yourself with more natural materials helps you settle.
Insomnia is common when you’re anxious. This is usually when the thoughts you’ve been avoiding come out.
There’s lots of ways to ground yourself when you’re staring up at the ceiling in the middle of the night:
- Speak out loud what you know is in your control.
- Name the objects around you.
- Pick up your phone (or, even better, a journal) and write out all of your feelings.
- Put on white noise and focus on the static.
If you’re sharing a bed with another person or a pet, try to match their breathing. Sometimes these things work. Other times you might just have to tough it out.
Listen to your body. The stress in this situation is palpable. Understand when you need to take breaks. Understand why you’re snapping at your partner over little things. Understand that your sudden headache means you need to walk away and self-soothe.
This is not the time to just power through, to guilt yourself into self loathing. This is the time to survive. To take your time and simply get through this pandemic. Here, we indulge in little joys because right now that’s what we have. Soon, we’ll have the outside world again. In the meantime, enjoy “Tiger King” and take some Vitamin D supplements.
Gabrielle Smith is a Brooklyn based poet and writer. She writes about love/sex, mental illness, and intersectionality. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram.