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by Aarti Gupta, PsyD
Aarti Gupta COVID-19 Lockdown

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 isolation. 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 individuals 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 example, 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 4 pm, 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 am alone - I work constantly - it does become lonely - isolated from loved ones and sports I used to enjoy - I try and make a list and do certain chores - call family - skype and reach out to others - like myself living alone. All the best to every one and stay safe. Remember "this too shall pass"

My heart goes out to you. Life isn’t always what we dreamed it to be, but your alive and not 6 feet and under. Everyone is like a walking book with a story to tell. Yes, some of us has had life experiences that are too painful to talk about. There’s women right now behind bars in other countries for protecting themselves against crimes committed towards women. Imaging living behind walls forever. Or what about the wife and mother that’s forced to live in the cycle of domestic violence in her own home. Then there’s the person paralyzed from the neck down and has no choice but to live isolated. The list is countless and some more horrifying than others. Please count your blessings and have faith in God. You’ll be surprised how many people wish that they could walk in your shoes. However, your pain inside is real and you need comfort by someone who cares. Find out what kind of resources are available in your community. Most of us are working (telework at home and someone maybe able to talk with you about future alternatives. There’s people out there that care. I too am indoors since February and really miss my grandchildren who live 4 hours away. All we can do not is be patient, until further notice. It’s a very difficult time for all of us. Pray with all your heart and never give up. Meanwhile I will pray for you.

You are a brave, patient, caring person. Yoy have developed the skills needed to survive this. I am getting my mom books, tea, and jokes. To the young person who cannot get out and perform, other performers here are volunteering to entertain outside care facilities etc. This will maintain skills and build connections. Others are writing material and rehearsing. This is time to get develope that personal talent that will make you stand out when you get out.

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 ...

Of course your points were very good. I am WFH, but in another corner of the world. I have ADHD and generalized anxiety. I slipped very slowly into an 'episode'. I realized only yesterday that its happening. This period might give new insights into mental health during such times. Its not all bad. In fact, it can be a good time, but we desperately need to hear positive things. Here in India, the news is all negative, as if its slow death. I want to shout out loud, 'Let's be very cautious but optimistic too'. Cautious Learned Optimism :), if you will?

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

If you are old, sick, and frail, no one is stopping you from staying home, as you might want to do every flu season. When my son was an infant, I did not take him into crowded areas to reduce his risk of contracting contagion. This situation is Grace indeed. The world (except sweden) is locking up the healthy and the innocent. I am depressed (while under lockdown) because I am pretty sure they are going to pull this again in the fall, then again and again in the future. Poverty and lack will be so widespread. The old folks won't be around to watch their grands try to dig themselves out.

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!

Where have you traveled to and how did you get into the tourism industry? Do you have a blog or have you ever written about your journey? Sounds really interesting! I am sorry that right now you are unemployed but it doesn't mean that you don't have anything that can be of use to others! I am putting together a website (or trying to at least - never done it before, haha!) but I am using this time to go after a passion project of mine in the meantime and build a supportive online community where we can support one another during this time. Of course, not all ideas or solutions we can think of is going to apply to everyone but I know we all have experiences and stories of wisdom that we can all share with each other and learn from so it's what I am working on! I can also recommend that you might be able to volunteer online as well there are a few things you can do, if you go onto volunteermatch.org or perhaps foster an animal it may bring some sense of normalcy or passion to you during this time.

The moment I heard our governor extending the lockdown again, I cried. I cannot take it any longer. They don't care that this is resulting in a major surge in depression and lonlieness, what are they doing for these people?

Please find a job that pays cash - get out of the house and away from your computer. Keep taking those 4:00 walks. Find someone you can help (a neighbor, family member). Wear a mask. Take lots of naps. Listen to white noise. Watch t.v. - watch movies. Organize your home. This too shall pass - the world (and our lives) will resume soon enough.

I think we all need to understand that sometimes there is not much advice to give ppl other than To simply listen to them and their situation. Yes it’s temporary but it also extremely sucks for a lot of us..ppl are suffering as a result of this in different ways. Instead of always giving a solution “do this, do that..” I think we all need to just read the words this sucks. It’s a shitty situation and I’m sorry you’re going through this.” so, I agree..some ppl dont have the luxury of a quarantine gig. You need to get back to work and I hope it happen soon for you. Blessings.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do to alleviate feeling depressed, scared, bored, just simply totally frustrated and tired of the whole thing. Most days I cope, but then I will have a day that I am just so sick of everything I am in despair and just want to cry and be in a bad mood. It goes away after a while. I think that is normal. Cleaning a closet or cooking or calling someone doesn't always make it better. So if you are feeling horrible, you have plenty of company and go ahead and feel horrible because it will pass.

Thank you Maureen for that perfectly described way of controlling our automatic negative thoughts. I am planning to share your post along with this article with others that are struggling right now. I speak from a position of a professional in the mental health field, a mother and someone who has successfully learned to manage anxiety and panic disorder. I am also dealing with a financial instability and loss at this time due to the pandemic. That said, here’s how I see it.

Our brains are wired for worry to protect us even if we have no control over the situation itself. We can only control our own thoughts and behaviors. To begin with, we must control our stress levels or we will tax our immune systems and compromise ourselves. Granted, some are more impacted than others there is no sugar coating it. However, I think the point of this article is to make the most of this time even if we struggle.

If we can reframe our perceptions of this temporary new normal we have a shot at coming out of this intact. To do this it is imperative that we be open to actively seeking alternative thoughts or actions than we are used to. That means going out of our comfort zone at times to entertain possibilities that we would have likely dismissed or failed to see before. It’s ok to be uncomfortable sometimes. Personal growth stems from actions outside of our comfort zones most of the time.

We also need to actively employ balance. Balance is not something we find it’s something we do. If we can balance our thoughts we can in turn balance our emotions so we can think clearly and make better choices.

I. My experience, we always have a choice no matter how bad our circumstances are to make a conscious decision as to how we want to handle ourselves. Do we want to be victims of our circumstances or empower ourselves to make changes? My advice is for all of us to focus on the aspects of this that we can change-our own perspectives and behaviors.

We might fear, fall, falter or fail, but as long as we are still in the drivers seat we will flourish!! Make something good happen today and build your resiliency daily by reminding yourselves of your individual strengths. Each of us has been tough times before and we will get through this as well. What can you do to make today better?

Hi Judith, I understand you’re dealing with a lot of stress being unemployed but I feel like instead of wasting your time on the internet and complaining about how life isn’t going your way, you should be finding ways to keep busy and improve your life because you’re just going to be a sad person staying home and complaining to the world about your problems when many many others are dealing with the same problem and actually putting themselves out there and doing their best considering the situation. Also I do find your comment “ This is madness to put American people through this because of the mistake of China in bringing it over here” very racist as the increase of numbers for people being infected has to do with everyone in the United States from them not following the rules of social distancing and idiot people thinking this is just a joke and continue to go about with their social gatherings or stupid kids going to party during spring break.
Those are my 2 cents, get your life together Judith.

Judith, I understand your anxiety and anger but you were being dangerous to all those around you if you follow through with your ideas. You also sound very self-centered and shortsighted and you need to really work on that during this dangerous time. You cannot go outside to stores or see your friends or work. And those people in the entertainment industry know they are downtimes and they save money for those times. If you did not choose correctly and spent your Money without saving any of it then you will have a very difficult time and do not blame china or anyone else for your poor decision making. I truly hope that you’re going to be OK. There a food banks that could help you And landlords are suspending rent and Unemployment is available. Check with your union and get some facts. But don’t you dare spread this virus to other people by being careless!

Hi from otherS in the artS.....well, ha I’ll g endured SARS 2004 and massive loss of income because we worked in the arts.....about all you CAN do is choose to
Learn new pieces/brush up on technique.....meditate, not eat much (money issues), and be ready to IMMEDIATELY launch projects—employment the mi Ute lock down ends. It took us one year to REPLACE lost income due to shutdowns from SARS. At the time we felt like losers for being vulnerable and in the arts. Now, many years later we see that...no it was NOT our fault....AND many jobs are iffy in that you can PREPARE aspects of work at home BUT the performing part requires freedom and crowds to attend presentations. the arts GO ONthough, in the end.

Wrong message to the public my friend. It's not just about you, this is a global pandemic, I live in a small town I to had to quarantined my self in behalf of not getting the coronavirus from an outsider who has chosen not to stay home and then bring it home, passed it on to my father whose almost 80 with lung issues who will then passed it on to his girlfriend, etc. Get the mental puncture and so on. I don't have the greatest job, as a matter of fact, I live on a paycheck by paycheck basis. But I had to sacrifice the little I make.My friend who ever you are and however much you make, you to have to make a sacrifice to make it count, so you see LIVES DO MATTER! we need to send a strong massage to the public, and for all those who have not been as fortunate as we have. With all due respect, especially for those who have lost a love one from covid-19. I would like to thank every single person who's out there risking their LIVES, for those of us who are on lockdown,including my brother who's trying to find a cure for it. we need to work together and make it count, because this is what this pandemic is all about,numbers, numbers my friend. Forget China, We need to make this a better and stronger country again by having a strong mentality and blogging the right messages to the public.

Practicing gratitude everyday can really help. I've been through chemo twice so I get isolation. But, we all need to do our part right now. I get that you're an extrovert, so am I, but I'm also a writer. And I know there are ways to stay connected creactively. Being mindful during this time and setting a goal toward accomplishing something helps. For example, I'm learning Spanish. Just a thought...

hi judith. we don’t know each other so there is no reason that u should take my advice however, I hope I can help you with something in your future. Constructive criticism is about helping someone achieve their own goal by giving good tips and encouraging them in new ways. Maybe on your next comment you can ask, “what are some helpful things to do if we are unable to work from home?”. Also, freedom of speech is very important so I am glad you felt like you could say it but even if China stopped letting people out, there still could have been people before closure who still would have spread the disease (since some people can actually be asymptomatic) because they don’t know they have it. Trust me when I say that I do not want to be stuck in my home any longer but for the sake of your friends and family the country has decided to put us on lockdown. To protect us.

You are so right, l work in the nightlife industry and being home for the last 4 weeks is stressing me to the maximum, lm suffering of anxiety and tension due to lack of assets to help make payments and buy things.
This needs to get back to normal ASAP

Stating that "this is madness to put American people through this because of the mistake of China bringing it over here" leads me to believe that you have larger issues than those brought about by the stay at home orders. You have an ignorance problem and an ethnocentricity problem. Maybe spend this time fixing your mind up a little... Personally I don't want anyone who talks or thinks like that working on any movies or being "creative" with our TV and movies. I think this doctor is trying to offer us some positive options while stuck at home. For you that might mean reading some books that educate you on how illnesses spread among human beings, how viruses don't see borders, and maybe some books about fighting racism and appreciating cultural diversity. Also, just to let you know, this is not only "happening" to Americans... the whole world is going through this together - as a human race. Gah.

I can’t believe you think it’s “madness to put American people through this because of the mistake China made”!
Irrespective of where the virus first spread to humans, the point is that it HAS and now is not the time to be playing the blame game. You sound like a spoilt child. Grow up and start thinking about other people. They’re dying out there! Instead of blaming China, why don’t you ask yourself what your government is doing! Who did you vote for? If it was Trump, then you’re getting exactly what you asked for, and by the way, the so-called ‘Spanish flu’ in 1918, which killed over 17 million people worldwide, actually started with one bird farmer in KANSAS!!! Should the world blame him?
Sorry, love but I think you should spend your lockdown getting educated and stop acting like a petulant child who can’t get their own way.
Stay in and save lives. We’re all going through this and it’s much much harder for an awful lot of people. Think about them.

You as an American are not being punished because of the actions of the Chinese, you are being isolated to try to save your life and the lives of thousands of other people. Your social life is not more important than the lives of others. If tou are so creative, find a way to stay busy - paint a wall, do an online dance class, make a sculpture...

This is absolute torture for those of us who do not work from home. Myself included. To make matters worse, another message being forced is to spend time with your family. Not all families get along & are abusive. Being alone & not working is not sustainable. Being compliant to the lockdown is to save lives but Its also ruining lives.

Victoria, Exactly this is my view point too, not all of us have loving families to spend time with.
Each day not being able to use public spaces is making my home life worse and worse, some of use live in small homes with not alot of space and waaay too much conflict. And how is any of this temporary, if people are not making enough to spend on things like art, eating out or night life, how will these jobs rebound after quarentine exactly ....

Judith-- I think being stuck in quarantine has affected your ability to think clearly! Do you believe we are undergoing social distancing for fun? We are doing it out of necessity. You seem to be in such a rush to open up businesses, so why don't you go out and put yourself at risk of infection? Staying inside and focusing on oneself is not "madness," especially if it's because we don't want to die from infection. And for your information, many of the coronavirus cases brought to the US were from Europe, so keep that in mind. Best wishes, and a safe quarantine to you!

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