Just weeks ago, many of us were living and working in a fast-paced world characterised by endless opportunities for consuming, traveling, and escaping. Now, everything has come to a standstill — again. Some restlessly await the moment they can return to the status quo — a capitalist-driven lifestyle that contributed to a subtle, perpetual crisis; one which remained under the surface until the pandemic.
This crisis is affecting our emotional well-being. During the few next months, we can expect to feel anxieties over our financial security, our health and the health of our loved ones.
We might be feeling lonely and isolated. And as time progresses, we’re likely to be confronted with anxieties specific to our own mind and personal background, which in the context of our busy lives, may not have emerged yet.
Some of us might face unpleasant feelings that are surrounded by an unvoiced stigma in our culture — to admit that we feel cut off, left out, lonesome, overwhelmed, vulnerable, that we lack purpose and meaning.
Human connections are why we are in this world. They give purpose and meaning to our lives. Isolation can be a big challenge. At the same time, isolation gives us the chance to embrace our anxieties, reflect on our life and on what truly matters. It does not mean simply living with anxiety — rather, it means acknowledging who you are, and that you are not able to control or predict the future.
The pandemic may serve as a well-needed wake up call. Instead of seeking constant distraction from the outside to maintain a sense of normality and to numb negative emotions, we have the chance to look within ourselves.
Here are 10 suggestions you can use to improve your life in isolation. Pick what resonates with you.
Be mindful of social media
Be aware about your intentions while using social media. Relaxed entertainment? Boredom? Information consumption? Keeping in touch? Voicing an opinion? Seeking attention? According to research, passive social media is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms. Instead of consuming social media as “empty calories,” be clear about your intentions. Why not call a friend or listen to inspiring podcasts instead.
Create daily rituals
One of the most effective ways of changing our belief patterns is through practising daily rituals. Your usual routine might have completely changed. But this can be a good opportunity to implement new rituals in your new routine. Routines can be an anchor, helping us manage uncertainty. Slow down, engage in healthy practices and try to sustain regular routines that bring a sense of comfort, achievement and stability. Yoga, journaling, breathing exercises, going out for a walk and spiritual practices are good starting points. Everything that goes under the umbrella of “self-care.” Action is powerful, even if we start with just one thing. It’s about quality, not quantity.
Since you may have loads of free time now, channeling your emotions in a healthy and positive way is vital. Creating new sounds can be a powerful tool in processing your feelings. In that sense music can be cathartic and can be a calming balm for anxiety. On the other hand, listening to music has a big impact on your mood. Music can promote a sense of tranquility — or it can rev you up. Associated with feelings of euphoria, motivation, bliss, and concentration, music boosts your levels of the “feel-good hormone” dopamine. It’s a good opportunity to discover new music, create new playlists and inspire each other through sharing them.
Turn your attention to the anxiety you might be feeling with gentle curiosity about what the triggers may be. The practice of observing our reactions allows us to bring the information to our conscious mind. In order to challenge your thoughts compassionately, you can note them on a sheet with four columns: Situation: Who were you with? What were you doing? When did it happen? Emotions and body sensations: What did you feel? Automatic thought: what went through your mind (thoughts, images, memories) Compassionate response: What would a truly self-compassionate response be to your negative thought?
Journal your heart out
Use paper and pen for inner cleansing and managing your overactive mind. Making time to write every day, no matter how much or how little, can help you feel more emotionally stable. There is no “right” or “wrong,” don’t worry about style and grammar. Writing removes mental blocks and allows you to better understand yourself and others. Experiences can be objectified and separated from your inner you.
Ask for professional help
Self-help is great, though may not always be enough. If you feel overwhelmed and find it challenging to get through the day, or your symptoms of anxiety, sadness, guilt, worry, irritability, sleeplessness, hopelessness or overthinking are getting worse, don‘t hesitate to contact a therapist (online) or a help line.
At times of uncertainty and anxiety, developing a gratitude practice can help you to connect with moments of joy, aliveness, and pleasure. At the end of each day, take time to reflect on what you are thankful for today and write it down. What is a blessing to arise from this situation that didn’t exist before? What did I most take for granted before this time? Be specific and notice new things each day, even tiny things such as having lunch on your balcony.
Connect and help each other
Due to the ongoing lockdown you may be lacking contact with people of your community. We are confronted with an unknown state of isolation, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Loneliness is the subjective feeling that you’re lacking the social connections you need — the feeling of closeness, trust and affection of genuine friends and loved ones. You need meaningful, real connections when you feel lonely. A five-minute conversation when you have someone’s full attention can make a big difference to how a person feels. Having eye contact is even better, so hanging out with friends virtually on Google hangouts, Skype, or sharing virtual dinner parties are beneficial for your well-being.
Furthermore, helping another person can be an incredibly powerful experience that not only forms a connection between people, but reaffirms that we’re bringing value to the world. Research has shown a simple act of kindness directed towards another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness, and the person extending the kindness.
They create your reality. The mind controls much of the body, and that’s certainly true with anxiety. When you’re upset or frustrated, the words you say to yourself can trigger greater feelings of anxiety. If you tend to use a lot of negative words when thinking about yourself, practice kindness and speak gentle to yourself. Or when practicing self-talk, don’t refer to yourself in the first person, such as “I” or “me.” Instead, refer to yourself in the third person, using “he” or “she,” or refer to yourself by name. Using the third person can help you step back and think more objectively about your response and emotions.
Create a vision for Post COVID-19
Ambitions are the reason why you get out of bed every morning. They stem from core values like love, belongingness, self-esteem, safety and self-actualization. New ideas and creative insights don’t really come from you, they come through you, they are floating around you. It’s a constant stream of images, accidents and gut decisions that all require a quiet mind and trust. This pause offers an opportunity to go within and create a vision that is aligned with values that truly matter to you.
But bear in mind that COVID does not need to be your most productive time. For some people, the space that’s opened up has already provoked internal pressure around self-improvement and “making the most” out of it. But the pandemic also offers time for slowing down, reflecting and treating yourself gently.