More than ever, this is when you have to place the care of your mental health as your first priority.
Here is a plan to help you cope with Isolation: Daily practice of what I am about to write for you produces significant changes in the lives of many people who have worked with me. The timing feels right to share it with you, especially since most of us are sheltering-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get out of bed. Open the curtains and let the light come in. If you can, open the windows to allow some airflow, so your room, apartment, your home doesn’t feel like a dark cave. Resist the subtle seduction of your bed, blankets, and pillow, telling you that things are just too heavy to face right now, that you should sleep the day away. Ignore the lies. You can find a purpose for your day today and there is plenty that you can do with the time that you have available today. Feed your mind. Grow your spirituality. Help others wherever and whenever you can. There’s plenty to be thankful for…you woke up didn’t you? Take a little time to nurture your spiritual connection so that you’re not relying solely on your own power today. YOUR SHOULDERS ALONE ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH. Meditate. Pray. Send healing “vibes” to your loved ones, your community, Mother Earth, the Universe. You can choose your own path for your spiritual expression. Take a moment to hold a vision of all of this passing by…because it always has..and always will. Oh, and stop using the words locked down.
I’m not suggesting that you can hide from reality and attempting to run from our inner experiences only makes it worse. However, there are things you can do to minimize your habit of destructive meditation (i.e., rumination). You can practice catching fearful and anxious thoughts as they come in by acknowledging that they are there and then saying (out loud!) “But right now, I am safe”.
Become aware of what you are allowing yourself to focus on. What you let in through your ears, through your eyes, and out of your mouth influences your thought processes. Your thinking influences how you feel. If you feel like crap, take a minute to notice your thoughts. I don’t subscribe to escapism or “pollyanna” type methods of awareness, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that the way you feel (e.g., your mood, your energy, your level of motivation) has a lot to do with what you are thinking about. A good friend of mine says, “It’s okay to drive-through, just don’t park there.”
So, for God’s sake, turn the damn COVID-19 news off. You don’t need the death-toll ticker running all day long. How is that helping you? All of the updates will still be there for you to catch up on later, maybe after dinner. Be careful not to sponge up Facebook or news first thing when you wake up or right before bed, unless you want to set yourself up to increase feelings of anxiety and depression, or anger and hopelessness. Don’t listen to the whispers of your comfy chair or your favorite spot in the couch, it will only suck you down into fear, self-loathing, and then self-pity. It’s a set-up to give up!
You can sit down later this afternoon but for now, get moving! Go for a walk…take the dog. Don’t avoid going outside, get into nature. Wear a mask if you think you should. Notice the trees filling in and the flowers blooming. Look at the older couple holding hands as they stroll down the sidewalk. Take a minute to love their LOVE. Feel the sun on your face, on your skin. Connect with other walkers by saying “good morning” and waving from the safer distance.
If the weather is inclement, turn on some upbeat music. Dance with your children in the living room. Do body weight exercises. Check out yoga. Clean the house. Organize the garage, the closets, the Tupperware cabinet. Start a project or a craft. Read a book. Better yet, write that book! Resist the overconsumption of alcohol, sugar, and drama; all of them are high-powered depressants. Watch an inspiring movie, not one that increases your fear and anxiety, unless you’re into self-inflicting an increase in your mental health symptoms. Which in that case, reach out for mental health help right away by calling a hotline. RemedyLIVE is one of my favorites. They can help you 24/7 via text message. Stay connected with people who are coping better than you are, so you can be encouraged and empowered. Only then can you pass strength on to someone who needs it.
If you are in recovery for mental illness and/or substance use, connect with resources online that hold regular meetings or groups, and read about how to reinforce coping skills that will help you with a more productive outlook. When things ramp up, it’s tempting to think that your medication isn’t working. Stay with your medication. Don’t stop abruptly without talking to your doctor first, unless you want to risk the deterioration of your mental stability, psychosis, or a full-on 5150 trip. Please call your provider first and discuss what you’re experiencing. Request your refills long before you run out to allow time for mail delivery.
Remember that thoughts, emotions, behaviors, including anger, crying, seething resentment, and constant worry, all take up energy. Reduce your engagement in conflict. Reduce your exposure to conflict. Your mental and emotional resources (energy) are already being siphoned by just trying to cope day-to-day. I’m not talking “ju-ju” energy stuff here, although I do believe there is much to be said of matters that are phenomenal in nature, such as meta and quantum physics. I mean energy as in just basic physics, including biochemical reactions in the brain and body. So don’t risk wasting precious energy by jumping in the ring at every invitation. You can sit this one out. This means avoiding petty arguments with your spouse or partner, be mindful that your children are going through their own painful process – get off their backs. And your parents have their own ways of dealing with things, stop trying to force them to think and feel like you do. Love your siblings and be considerate of the cashier at the grocery store.
Be aware that mental and emotional stress, as well as physical pain, often come out sideways. You may not even be aware of this, but your feelings of not being able to control what is happening can be expressed as fighting for control with other people, because something in you just needs to remember what it feels like to have control, to win. This serves no one, especially YOU. Conflict just increase the likelihood of a three-day emotional hangover and possibly a bout of deep depression afterwards. Why choose to go down there? The risk isn’t worth it. Fight to keep yourself from opening your mouth. Fight to walk away. Whatever you have to do to maintain a sense of calm in your mind and prevent yourself from causing harm to someone else. Let it go.
Create a routine at night that sends signals to your mind and body that it is time to slow down, shut down and recharge. Be careful not to impede your process of rejuvenation by eating a big meal right before bed or sleeping with the television on. Get comfortable. Read a book before bed. Binaural beats are a wonderful way to take advantage of the always-awake parts of your mind (best to use headphones) and I’ve known it to help even self-proclaimed ‘hopeless’ insomniacs. Review the last 24 hours like you are watching a movie on the screen of your mind. Avoid re-feeling it; just watch it. Gently note areas of your thinking, feeling, and behavior that need improvement, without casting callous judgment on yourself and others. Let the swirling criticisms of others float away from your mind. Release all of your concerns by imagining them floating up and out of your mind, and up into the night sky, where something bigger than you can tend to them, for now. Set a mental goal (an intention) to wake up to a new day with the simple gratitude of being given Life. Before you fall sleep, say out loud: “In the morning, I will know just what to do.”
With each sunrise, you have a new beginning.
When you wake up, go to the beginning of this page and repeat.
Share with those who might need the help.
Comment about your experiences below. I’d love to hear from you.– Mia