I started binge watching the news during the first few days of my self-quarantine amid the coronavirus outbreak, and my anxiety went through the roof. For a few nights, I was up until 2 a.m. feverishly reading about outbreaks, symptoms and what serious self-quarantining looks like. Then came the nightmares, and I knew how I was reacting to this pandemic wasn’t sustainable in any way.
In that moment, I made the decision to try to live my life in a calmer, more mindful way. I thought, I am not sick, therefore I can be grateful for my health. Physically, I am prepared and have hand sanitizer and toilet paper on hand. I can take precaution by washing my hands a lot, and I can stop doing things that put me at risk, like touching my face, and start doing things like practicing social distancing. Emotionally, I can change my mind and behaviors, and stop obsessively reading the news. I can be more aware of my thoughts and when fearful ones come up, I can actively redirect.
I started seeing opportunities to apply some of my favorite self-care tools to lower fear and anxiety. Here are 5 ways to ease your anxiety and help you focus on the good things amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Self-sooth with a mantra.
There are things you can do to self-sooth when you feel nervous, overwhelmed or triggered, especially if you still need to show up at work or go to the grocery store. Have a mantra on hand. A mantra is a saying you repeat either in your mind or out loud over and over again to ground you and to keep you in the present moment. It can also work when you are speaking with someone else who in that shared moment is freaking out. Some mantras that are on repeat in my mind include, “I am safe,” “All is well” and “I’m OK in this moment.” The idea is to keep calm no matter what rather than projecting or obsessing over things you can’t control. I told my husband to use the mantra “All is well,” and he was like, “All isn’t well, Doug.” I advised, “It is in this moment.”
Move your body.
Physical activity is key right now, because moving your body releases built-up energy, sloughs off stress and produces endorphins. I think binge watching television is totally fine (especially the new Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington Hulu series, Little Fires Everywhere) but also have a game plan to move your body every day. Maybe it’s just turning up some good music and dancing; for ideas, check out Donte Colley’s Instagram for a choreographed dance challenge.
My friend Bryan Piatt is conducting Instagram-live yoga classes with his family at the cabin where they are hunkered down. I started watching these classes with no intention of participating. Five minutes in, I actually felt compelled to join. I rolled out my mat in my tiny office and followed along. It felt so good to stretch and move, and I felt part of something bigger than myself. I can’t remember that last time I’ve felt that connected in a yoga studio, yet I was in my office alone. As the world shifts and adapts, the things I never would have done have become my high for the day. I’ve started trying other workouts online. Some of my favorites are Alchemy, Basecamp and Skybox; they make it seem like you are right there. Beyond just walking or running outside, gardening is also great exercise.
Mindfully wash your hands.
Now I know this sounds like a broken record at this point, but the CDC and Department of Health recommend regular hand washing for 20 seconds. Some people suggest washing as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” Instead, turn washing your hands into a meditative or contemplative moment. Perhaps say 10 things that you are grateful for while washing your hands. Or repeat your mantra or phrases like, “I am in good health.” Or visualize your hands clean and your body healthy while counting your breaths; I’d say 10 slow breaths are equivalent to 20 seconds.
Feel empowered to keep the narrative positive.
I usually hate picking up the phone to make a call; I’m strictly a texting guy. These days, I’ve been making phone calls and even going a step further doing Zoom chats with family and friends. At first, the conversations with my family centered on fear and sharing what we’d read in different forms of media. The conversations were draining me. Now, I’m trying to make keeping in touch a more positive outlet. My favorite question to ask is, What are three highs of your day and what’s one low? The gift is in sharing the highs and acknowledging that there are lows. But the majority of the tone lies in the good stuff. You learn a lot about each other by asking a question that everyone answers. It gives a conversation communal structure and keeps it moving.
Tap into resources that make you feel good.
Many of the life coaches and self-help authors I follow are offering free online resources or taking to Instagram to spread hope and positive energy. My mentor, Gabby Bernstein, goes on her social channels daily to provide tips for lowering anxiety, being present and accepting life as it is in this moment. I felt very reassured a week ago when she came on and said that it’s OK to do nothing right now rather than packing in a day of household chores like reorganizing the sock drawer. It’s OK to slow down and feel the feelings that you are experiencing. None of us have a playbook for this. On March 29, she is conducting a free workshop on how to reduce anxiety. Give it a try!
I teach workshops on mindfulness and how to cultivate good energy at Lululemon and other places. For now, my upcoming in-person events have been postponed. Yet, more than ever, tools for lowering anxiety and raising energy are so important. I still want to be able to connect with my community to share tools to feel good in uncertain times and also amp up our energy. For my birthday on March 26, I decided to host a virtual birthday party over Zoom and everyone is invited. It’s going to be a workshop where I will provide some tools, but it’s also going to be a giant dance party — since dance is such a big part of my social identity and the quickest way to tap into feeling good. It’s free and guaranteed to be fun.