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Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us will be self-quarantined in our homes for the upcoming weeks. For many, travel plans have gone awry, and indefinite isolation and information overload may be causing some feelings of anxiety and isolation.
Here are a few ideas you can try to help you cool down and feel normal offered by Nadim M. Ilbawi, M.D., Family Medicine:
Try to keep a normal routine. Maintain some structure during the quarantine days. If you have children, sticking to a routine might be easier, but for those who have to work from home, it may tempt you into a more lethargic lifestyle. You might not even have the proper set-up for being at home which makes it harder to work. The key is to try your best. Make sure you wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat healthily, shower and get ready in the morning as usual.
Remember to breathe! Breathing exercises are helpful for anyone dealing with anxiety. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose while keeping your shoulders relaxed. Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow out, purse your lips slightly but keep your jaw relaxed. Repeat this exercise for several minutes.
Eat a healthy snack. When you’re feeling stressed, it can be hard to pass on sugary donuts or salty food that are not good for you and will ultimately make you feel worse. Eating a balanced diet that’s comprised largely of fresh, whole foods improves mental well-being and brain health. You’ll be happier that you reached for that apple rather than that chocolate bar at the end of the day.
Take a nap.If done correctly, there is great power in a well-timed nap. While you should not rely on naps to repair the damage done by inadequate sleep or chronic sleep deprivation, naps can invigorate your energy levels and improve your mood. Naps can recharge your personal energy battery, boosting alertness and increasing your midday focus. Keep your power naps to 10 to 20 minutes because you’ll stay in the lighter stages of sleep and not wake up feeling groggy.
Listen to music. Take a break and listen to calm music which has a positive effect on the brain and the body. It can lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Listening to nature soundtracks works too—turn on the sounds of a waterfall or rainforest. Focusing your mind only on serene sounds can help clear your thoughts.
Drink tea. Opt for a cup of green tea in the morning or midday. It has less caffeine than coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Exercise, even if it's a little bit. Running in place for 5 minutes or doing a couple of simple stretches can get the blood pumping and offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. When you move around, your body releases endorphins which can improve mood almost instantaneously.
Get some sunlight! Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight releases serotonin, which is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip. Being out in the sun is proven to make you healthier not just emotionally, but physically as well.
Take a bath or a shower. From Roman baths to mineral hot springs, cultures around the world have used water for centuries to treat a variety of health concerns. Also known as “water therapy,” hydrotherapy includes such treatments as saunas, steam baths, foot baths, contrast therapy, hot and cold showers, and whirlpools. Submerging into a pool of water can help you unwind after a stressful day. Proponents of hydrotherapy say that within the first five minutes of treatment your blood pressure will drop and you’ll feel calmer. Further exposure will increase circulation and make your muscles feel less tense.
Organize your belongings or clean. Yes, cleaning can make people feel less anxious. Cleaning provides relief from clutter. Getting into your car or walking into a messy home that has piles of clothes, unwashed dishes or things needing to be put away feels different than walking into a clean home. When you keep your things neat and organized it can also clear the mind as well. Remember the last time you couldn’t find an item you needed around the house? By keeping everything neat and in its place, it can help you feel more in control. If you incorporate mindfulness into your cleaning it can actually be a form of meditation!