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 ( or 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.

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!

I don't work from home either but I have many interests to fill up my day and I made a routine for myself. I am doing positive things I didn't do before that lockdown actually put me onto. If you are a creative person, why is it so hard for you to find other ways to fulfillment? Time for you to adapt and accept that you aren't in charge. Make a list of things you can do and start doing them.

We aren't in lockdown because China brought a virus here. We are in lockdown to prevent a virus from killing and harming people. To suggest that people should go to work which we know will increase the infection rate and kill more people is dangerously self-centered and lacking in compassion. Look inward and try to do something about that.

I totally agree with what you have said.I lost my mum a few weeks ago due to a heart attack and it was a shock to all the family. i am a person that needs to be around people not stuck at home i dont work i have looked but no one will employ me. so i know what you mean.i dont know what i will do as of tomorrow night being the 8.7 all of victoria australia will be in lockdown for 6 weeks at least.

I totally agree with what you have said.I lost my mum a few weeks ago due to a heart attack and it was a shock to all the family. i am a person that needs to be around people not stuck at home i dont work i have looked but no one will employ me. so i know what you mean.i dont know what i will do as of tomorrow night being the 8.7 all of victoria australia will be in lockdown for 6 weeks at least.



I have read your stuff . I’m feeling anxious plus crying on and off but will get over it I’ve found listening to news depressing so tending not to watch it. I have had on and of depression over many years due to lots of real things happening to my children we never seem to get a break .

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.

Amanda, it depends on your area. A lot of states have closed beaches, parks, waterways, trails, playgrounds, etc....regardless if you are alone or not. Closed means closed! I can’t even go in the ocean where I live. We were told to only walk in our own neighborhoods unless out on essential business.

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.


Here in Ecuador, curfew is at 2 - for everyone under 60. at a minimum it goes until 31 may. We've been in our homes since 12 mar. The rest of us will wind up with diabetes at the least and taking the whole bottle of pills at worse. These @sshats won't even let us walk our dog or get some exercise. We get to pay for delivery. they like us to spend money here.
Don't move to this banana republic. We will get out of dodge as soon as we can.

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!

As a recovered alcoholic of several years, the problem I'm having has everything to do with what I was taught not to do: isolate. While I don't have the desire to drink, I'm finding my depression creeping in again. I have attended online meetings but those aren't the same as my usual ones that I attend in person. How does one keep the depression at bay?