When working from home feels like confinement
Its not an easy time – to say the least. People have been struggling with the uncertainty of when the virus will stop spreading and when life can go on to is regular routine. Some of us have also lost the stability of an employment and rest of us, who remain fortunate enough to have a job, are trying to figure out how to work from home in a balanced manner.
Even as an introvert, who enjoys comfy pants, a moderate amount of human interaction and who views their bed is my primary source of happiness, there is still some frustration in me that I feel is misplaced. I don’t know where its coming from, but I know its related to this new situation and don’t know what to do about it (but meditate!). I have notice quite a spike of anxiety rise in many people reaching out to me. Worry and panic are normal effects of uncertainty. How long will this last? What does it mean if this gets worse? Do I also have to fear unemployment? Its hard to handle these thoughts even in normal times, not when every communication channel is blasting news about a (in some cases) life threatening virus. Not to be anxious right now is really, really hard and takes some proactive work. Here are some tips that might help:
- Distract distract distract!
The worst thing about anxiety is that it tends to start a spiral. One anxious thought usually awakens another. “What if this gets worse?” – “What if people I know get sick?” – “What if I get sick?”
Anxious thoughts bread one another. It often helps just to force yourself to have another thought. For example, ask yourself a math question. Not a difficult one but one you could solve – yet not an easy one. Something like 23 x 50. It will help you snap out of it. If numbers cause you more anxiety, start thinking about what you had for lunch each day in the previous week.
- Reach out
Call a friend. Friends are a great distraction. It will remind you that you are not alone, that people are out there that are here for you. If you can’t reach your friend, just leave them a message or a video. Sometimes people are busy, so they can’t be reached. It doesn’t mean they are not here for you and that they do not care. People have different levels need for connection and each one is ok. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out. If you fear of becoming too much for your friends – you can also reach out by commenting on people’s instagram posts. There are many public accounts, many that focus on mental health (like mine! @nikafiguringitout – feel free to reach out anytime!) – comment, share, like. Social media is not all evil, it can help you realize a lot of people are going through the same thing as you.
It really sucks not being able to go out – but that doesn’t mean you have to stop moving! There are so many great Yoga lessons that are for free online, or gym sessions. Even just 15min of moderate movement and just doing what you can will make you feel better (its all in the hormones baby). All you need is yourself and your phone. Its the best time to get fit and make you feel like you are in control. You can limit how long, how often and what activities. Its all up to you and not to the virus. Own it.
- Control it
Do what you need to feel you are in control. Control your schedule – write it out. Be as specific as you want to. It can be by hour, by half hour, or just in morning and afternoon slot. Write it down and try sticking to it. If that causes more anxiety, adjust it. Its your schedule you make it work for you.
Control your emotions – label your emotion with one word and write it down. This creates some distance between you and the emotion. Its a trick we use in meditation to realize you are not your emotions. They are something that happens to you and not who you are.
- Flip it!
This is an easy trick. Each thought you have, rephrase it. Pick one of the techniques below that work for you. They create some distance between you and the feeling and help you perceive it from a objective stand point. Situations are easier to deal with when you are dealing with them from a distance than when you are in them. Here are some tricks:
Every time you generalize, be a devils advocate. This will make you bring logic into the situation and force another perspective in your mind.
“The world will end” – “Will it really end? Are you sure?”.
“I will get the virus” – “Why you specifically?”
Rephrase any sentence that starts with I into a way that I no longer exists! This will automatically move your focus on yourself and help you take a step back.
“I feel so anxious about this virus” – “The virus causes anxiety”
“I can’t handle this anymore” – “Its hard to handle”
It will not be easy in the next couple of weeks. Knowing that and accepting that is the first step. Then dealing with it is another beast to tackle. Give yourself time to adjust and have some compassion with yourself. There are many ways to stay safe and to take care of yourself, give yourself time to find out which one works for you.
Note: Please note I am not a mental health specialist. This is not for people diagnosed with clinical anxiety, please seek professional help if you feel anxiety is getting too overwhelming.