Advertisement

by Aarti Gupta, PsyD

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, will choose to quarantine in our homes for the upcoming weeks. Capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isola-tion. Here are a few pointers that could help you survive spiraling negative thoughts about this uncertain time.

1.) Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself”

As dismal as the world may feel right now, think of the mandated work-from-home policy as an opportunity to refocus your attention from the external to the internal. Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, reorganize, or create something you’ve always wanted to. Approaching this time with a mindset of feeling trapped or stuck will only stress you out more. This is your chance to slow down and focus on yourself.

2.) Stay close to your normal routine

Try and maintain some semblance of structure from the pre-quarantine days. For those individu-als with children, sticking to a routine might be easier; however as you work from home, it could be tempting to fall into a more lethargic lifestyle, which could lead to negative thinking. Wake up and go to bed around the same time, eat meals, shower, adapt your exercise regimen, and get out of your PJ’s. Do laundry on Sundays as usual. Not only will sticking to your normal routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.

3.) Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage

Freeing up your day from work or social obligations gives you plenty of time to obsess, and if you have a tendency to consult Google for every itch and sneeze, you may be over-researching the pandemic as well. Choosing only certain credible websites (who.int or cdc.gov is a good start) for a limited amount of time each day (perhaps two chunks of 30 minutes each) will be in your best interest during this time.

4.) A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind

With all the uncertainly happening outside your home, keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. Setting up mental zones for daily activities can be helpful to organize your day. For exam-ple, try not to eat in bed or work on the sofa- just as before, eat at the kitchen table and work at your desk. Loosening these boundaries just muddles your routine and can make the day feel very long. Additionally, a cluttered home can cause you to become uneasy and claustrophobic of your environment- so keep it tidy.

5.) Start a new quarantine ritual

With this newfound time, why not do something special during these quarantined days? For ex-ample, perhaps you can start a daily journal to jot down thoughts and feelings to reflect on later. Or take a walk every day at 4pm, connect with your sister over FaceTime every morning, or start a watercolor painting which you can add to everyday. Having something special during this time will help you look forward to each new day.

6.) Use telehealth as an option to talk to a professional if your anxiety becomes unmanageable

Many licensed psychologists are offering telehealth options over HIPAA-compliant video chat platforms. Remember to reach out for help if your anxiety is reaching proportions that is unmanageable without professional help.

Letting go of illusions of control and finding peace in the fact that you are doing your part to “flatten the curve” will certainly build mental strength to combat the stressful situation the whole globe is experiencing.
 


About the Author

Dr. Aarti Gupta, PsyD is Founder and Clinical Director at TherapyNest, A Center for Anxiety and Family Therapy in Palo Alto, California. She specializes in evidence-based treatment for a wide spectrum of anxiety disorders, including OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety, trichotillomania, and generalized anxiety disorder. Dr. Gupta serves on ADAA's public education committee.

What about those of us who can't work at home? You make it sound like everyone has that option. Some of us have jobs in the entertainment business and we are completely unemployed without any income! How do we handle that? We don't need to focus on ourselves. We need to work and be creative again which requires working at events, in films, commercials and doing all that we do and making money most of all. We need to go to our dance classes, get out at night and live our lives again. Being stuck at home and not making a living is never ago. This is madness to put American people through this because of the mistake of China in bringing it over here. Businesses should open again so people can work again.

I'm sorry to hear you do not have the option to work at home. This particular article indeed was geared toward people under quarantine and working. I hope there are resources and articles for individuals like you who are stuck being unproductive and without an income for a prolonged period of time. I can only imagine how stressful that is. I hope that there are other pointers that you may be able to take away from the article, besides the sentence about work-from-home.

I'm living through my 61st summer-done plenty of waiting[the worst] and spent enough time alone. Time rushes by faster and faster the older one gets. Believe me what seemed forever when I was 6,isn't long enough now. Time would drag when I wasn't having fun,now it rushes by anyway,whether I'm doing an unpleasant task or something much more fun,so it is harder on young people. Us older people are generally more reflective and hopefully have more interests than our younger selves. Technology helps: whip out smartphone to access internet or documents already downloaded as soon as I have to pass time with nothing else to do. I'm also known for having earbuds plugged in wherever I go,whatever I do,listening to radio or my own music[isn't modern technology great?] like never before,even when under a vehicle replacing the clutch. Certainly makes my work and leisure experience more pleasurable! Same with lockdown. Older people need less socialising also: most of us have found a long term partner to share our lives with and have extended families,which makes being cooped up easier. Most of my family life is on FaceBook and email as I'm separated & don't see much of my now 26 year old son,my 3 siblings left town for other pastures years ago. Unfortunately many of my friends and 2 siblings aren't on FB!

I too cannot work and no income. Since you are a mental professional, can you write an article / resources for people like me? I did read this article and it is helpful if you are working from home. I and many others like me have a ton of weight on our minds because of no income . That makes a huge difference! Please give “us” some insight about how to handle this in our situation . It’s impossible to see the “work from home sentence” when it’s the first thing you see and realize that “you don’t have that”... it’s much, much, worse to be isolated and wonder if you’re going to even have a place to be isolated “in”.... we need advice and help from someone like you very bad ...

I can imagine it is really hard to have your financial world jeopardized, but please remember that the American people are being "put through this" to keep the virus from spreading and making more of us sick, or killing us. It isn't punishment for something China did

Why on earth do you want businesses to re-open? So this can go from bad to worse? Get creative.. get a side-gig driving Uber-eats or GrubHub.. something. There's plenty out there to do if you can't WFH. Be happy that your loved ones stre safe & healthy because we are all basically stuck home.

It's not just American people being "lo led down". It's a global pandemic. Also, there's no benefit to blaming China or blaming at all. It does nothing constructive, especially not for the person thinking such negative thoughts. And the effort to separate people and flatten the curve is the opposite of "madness." It's wisdom.

A person could, however, decide that it's madness. It's possible to look at things from different perspectives. If a person chooses the "madness" perspective, what's the result? Happiness? Or misery.

I've worked in entertainment. It was my job to contribute creatively to entertaining people. If I'm genuinely creative, I should be able to entertain myself, not just others.

I was a graphic designer, set designer, then concert promoter. Also a photographer, writer, and editor. All those jobs draw from the same basic creative skills. One of those skills is being able to look at things im new ways--to start without preconceived ideas to creatively find the innovative solutions.

So now, it's a challenge of refocusing those creative skills. I can't go out and produce a concert, but I can stay home and draw a picture or write a play or draft a pattern and design some new clothing. If I were an actor or dancer, I could, as just one sample, produce a new exercise video. If I didn't know how to do the video part, I could research it. If I did, I could learn that, wow, with just my cell phone, I can not only shoot an exercise video, but I can even live-stream it! And maybe monetize it!

If you are truly creative--or even if you've never thought of being creative-- be curious. What interests you? Google it. Learn things about it. Try them out.

You can decide to dwell on negative, unconstructive things, or you can decide to focus on creative, productive things. You can do them for other people or for yourself or both or just for the experience of learning, or as adventure.

You have worries and problems? We all do. Allow yourself a certain amount of time to try to think of solutions then put the problems aside and be creative. If they're urgent, contact someone for advice or help. If you can't do anything about them right now, or they're upsetting because the solution can't be known yet, then decide to be patient--decide that, since nothing constructive can be done, you'll put the worry away until you can do something or until the solution can be known. Stewing and spinning wheels when you can't get anywhere is not a wise use of valuable time. Even if you can only wait until something happens or something is done to you, make a conscious decision about how best to spend that waiting time. Don't allow worry to misspend your most valuable commodity, time. Let it know who's running the show.

We're all master of our ship. Or our plane. For most of my life, in my "day job," I was one of the first women airline pilots. There were a lot of times when I could've tossed in the proverbial towel. This little lockdown--even if it lasts a year--doesn't come close, because I choose not to let it. Time is the most valuable thing each of us has. This is free time! It's a great adventure, if I choose to make it so. I so choose.

What do you tell ppl who are not creative types, have no talents, and even if we did there's no money for hobbies anyway? Day in, day out, on unemployment (can't work from home), long hours of nothingness, it's killing me. My job in the tourism industry is my dream job and I'm separated from it until whenever. No light at the end of the tunnel. Everything feels pointless. If it weren't for that 4pm walk I don't know where I'd be. I have no control and it sucks. At least I still have my health. But I need to get back to work.

If you don’t already - write a travel blog, sponsored posts, share tips... look at how others pivot or better yet - see if you have other skills and ideas (inside and outside your box).
Can you contribute to disaster relief?

Also, remember - this won’t last forever and length of these limitations can be affected by all of us doing our part...

You stated that you are in the tourism industry. I’m sure before Covid-19 there were things you noticed that could have been changed or improved upon. Sit down and create new strategies and systems for your industry. Being creative is not just about the arts.
This will not last forever and when it’s over you will be of greater value to a new employer or even become an entrepreneur yourself. Redirect your focus and keep you head up. You’ve got this!

Do you live in an area that says you can't go outside? Haven't heard about that on the news. Even NYC allows folks into the parks, right? Taking a walk is what will save my mental health during this time. I am not one who does well isolated.

I live in Seattle, which is an area hit hardest. I am fortunate enough to be able to telework, but my husband is a school bus Driver, and the Governor mandated all schools close for 6 weeks. Yesterday The Governor ordered a 2 week Stay Home Mandate for the entire state. People are not to go to parks or beaches. The only businesses that remain open are "Essential" Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, etc. Restaurants have all been closed to eat in business, only take-out and Delivery. So on top of the stress of confinement, there is the added stress of losing 60% of your household income. Police are starting to forcibly break up groups of people in local outdoor areas, and all state parks are closed.

Our parks are also closed and we've been told to stay home and in our homes unless our job is an essential service. I'm a home-body who works 50 hours a week, so I thought at first I'd love this, but the lack of control got the best of me today. I had my first-ever panic attack and have been crying randomly for some reason since last night. My parents aren't taking the measures to protect themselves and I'm terrified for them. I appreciate the very good advice in this article, thank you so much for reaching out. I will adjust my perceptions and I'll be ok. ♡

Yes your right.. I live in halifax nova scotia in Canada and everything is locked down just as bad way over here to. I feel your pain..I usually workout at the gym everyday and walk and is very social with my friends. I also have anxiety issues be cooped up. Luckily I work alone doing a renovation, so I'm pretty lucky to be able to work and still make money. When I walk to the job site because I'm afraid of buses it's like a ghost town around every corner.

We're all in this together. .from where ur at in Seattle to way over in halifax here on the east coast of Canada.
God bless u all and I pray u will all make it one way or another.

Blessings

Hi! It's the author here. I'm writing to you from California, where we have a shelter-in-place order. That means stopping all non-essential travel, but it EXCLUDES going out for fresh air, which is permitted so long as you keep a safe distance from others (I believe 3-6 feet). You should try going for a walk! I go twice a day and it really helps.

I have been inside for days. All I want to do is eat and sleep. I’ve even taken sleeping meds during the day. Knowing I need to go outside and doing it are polar opposites.

Not polar opposites - opposite would be knowing your need, staying in, and telling yourself you NEED to stay inside.

No, opposites would be knowing, and then telling yourself you're imagining things.. what you really need to do is stay indoors and veg out.

I'm not a doctor but they say it's the most dangerous for the elderly. And especially elders with breathing problems. I'm only 34yrs old but I have asthma and I'm scared to death just of that, because everytime for the past 3 or so yrs when I get really sick it really effects my lungs. Just please be careful.
God bless

That's right.. if everyone with for a walk at 4pm tge virus would just spread even more.

It's impossible. ..but if the world would stay home all for 2 weeks the virus wouldn't have anything to cling to and would most likely die. So it's tge people killing the people. .not the virus

All, I know this sounds very cliche and some of you may not appreciate it, but I have had a lifetime (or so it seems) of challenging circumstances and find myself at home with a less-than-ideal situation. Go outside if you can!! Go outside! It resets everything for me when I just go outside for a few minutes. Walk around your neighborhood and feel the breeze! I haven't read of anyone who isn't allowed to go outside-- if that's the case, then try to open a window and get some fresh air. Stay positive! Love to all! May you find some joy in a good book, something creative, letter writing, deep cleaning, purging your clutter, all things I would love to have time for normally and now, I do....

I appreciate the tips to reframe the situation and come up with new routines.

Thank you Dr Gupta for this impelling article. I experienced a panic attack early last week and was discombobulated for several days. I quickly discovered that by limiting my media intake my anxiety and fears became more manageable. I decided to self-quarantine and while this whole thing is un-normal I’ve employed some of the steps you’ve mentioned in your article and am using my creativity to change the course of my worry into encouraging others dealing with ptsd, depression and anxiety. We’re going to overcome this! I plan to share information from your article on my social media. Stay safe everyone! Look out for yourselves and each other.

I like some of the things you said in here, but what about those of us that are(were) in college? I feel like my whole world is falling down around me. I had to move back home, and I have no routine. Everything is out of control and I feel lost.

I've been working from home for a week now, which is fine. I'm an introvert with Complex PTSD and find being around people to be exhausting at times. At some point the work at home mandate will be over, and I will be able (required) to go back to work on site. What if I can't do it? I can literally see myself never leaving my home again with no issue, but that's not realistic. I know I am going to have to leave at some point. It's only been a week, how am I going to force myself to leave 4 weeks, or 8 weeks from now?

I work as the Head Server in a restaurant (45 plus hours for 12 years). I am out of work indefinitely. I am fortunate enough to be married to a husband that is successful in his job and he can work from home. I however already manage insomnia and you'd think with no alarm clock id be able to sleep just fine, but I have gone off the deep end. I can't sleep, even with my 10mg of Ambien. I'm up in the middle of the night. I lay in bed in a state of panic, haunted by nightmares of when ill be able to go back to work, I have to "fake" being strong for my 13 and 9-year-old but I can feel myself coming apart at the seams. My husband is supportive but could never understand how I feel. I don't know what to do,

Sorry to hear about your difficulties. The frustration looks familiar, I've had a 'challenging' relationship with sleep most of my life, due to medications that prevent it as a side effect.
The work you describe is very physical, and missing that will add to insomnia. A restaurant server is constantly moving, at a good pace, and often carrying fairly heavy things at the same time. That's a lot of exercise. Can you think of a way to get some exercise at home to try to make up for that loss of physical activity? Doing it at the same time as you would at work might help, too. And if the kids are stuck at home, too, roping them in would help them cope - and blow off some energy so they won't drive the adults nuts!

It's okay not to be okay. Rethinkmytherapy is a site you may find helpful there's a 14 day free trial which you can use to talk to a therapist at least. They offer other services as well all through a video chat or phone call. There's a lot of guided meditations for PTSD and Anxiety on youtube along with videos that give tips and tricks for helping yourself during this very uncertain time. I'm so sorry you're having such a hard time.

Thought I could get thru this. I cannot. Im in my 40s. Have immune problems, now copd. Cant even visit my mom in the nursing home, she may die before I ever see her again. I live in NY state and now terrified. I dont even want to get up. If I get this I probably wont make it. My son works at walmart, lives with me so hes in the public. Im on disability so work wasnt even an option for me. Ive hit duch a low depression.. I feel I wont get out of this. How am I supposed to feel happy. I was already depressed because my husband died.. just how.

Hang in there friend. I have depression too and I know it can be so overwhelming. Have you thought about calling or texting a crisis hotline? Just talking to someone helps me to unload my fears a bit. Sending you some sunshine from California~

This is all very good advice and I'll give it a try. The problem is that I've been working from home so other than two quick trips to CVS I've been trapped in my house for eight days and not only is it raising my anxiety level but I can already feel myself sinking into a severe depression for the first time in two years. It's not the virus that's doing it but just the idea of being trapped with no end in sight. What if Fauci gets his way and we're on lockdown for months? I may not make it that long. I'm worrying about my family getting sick, I'm worried about seeing my retirement investments evaporate, I'm worried that there won't be any jobs when (if) this finally ends and for all these reasons I seriously have no hope for the future. I've tried to create a routine, I've tried to distract myself as best I can and I'm avoiding as much coronavirus coverage as I possibly can but it's not working. Obviously, I support trying to contain the spread of the virus but no one seems to be concerned that for some of us, a prolonged lockdown could prove more deadly than coronavirus.

Briefly:
- we can't leave the property, so walking is out
- my girlfriend and I had to cut our overseas trip short to come home, we lost thousands of dollars.
- we are arguing a lot
- my retirement fund is collapsing
- all the things I used to do are either (a) unavailable, or (b) I don't feel like them anymore

Much better advice than some other "professionals" ate putting out. I've watched videos that only made my anxiety & depression worse. You have actual, honest, down to earth, EASY suggestions that ate doable & will actually work for anyone!!! Thank you!!! 💖😻💖🌹

I can’t reach any of my doctors to fill my psych meds. What so I do!?

I realize this is minor, and as an educator and a therapist, I fight an ongoing battle against battle against abysmal English education. Among rampant abuses is the overuse of quotation marks, exclamation points!!!, and Capitals for "Almost" Every Word. Please don't perpetuate these habits. They show no understanding of words' definitions. When "you" understand a word, "you" won't need to "emphasize" each one by placing it in Quotes!!!

Advertisement