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.

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.

Hannah buie

October 4, 2020

In reply to by David

I was suffering from depression a few months before Covid an important person in my life rejected me right before this. I pray I have tried medication. Tried to get some things accomplished. Don’t feel relaxed ever even at my own home. Just can’t take it anymore not one more day!!! I have to take an overdose!!!

Don't do that. I was locked inside for 6 months all by myself. Start calling people and call help holines or get a Psychiatrist. I have Anxiety disorders and Mannix depression as well but after a breakdown im with my Mom. Call for help 911 if You want to hurt yourself.

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"

'Older' people vary in experience, background, and expectations and abilities. Just like 'younger' people. To make generalizations is ageist and can adversely impact how others view the 'older' experience.

Not all older adults have found - or retained-,a life partner. Extended family may live at a great distance from the older person. And certainly older people require social connections as much- or possibly more than younger adults. Older people may have limiting financial and mobiloty issues.

It seems really arrogant to make assumptions based on one’s own circumstances about or perceptions of older individuals in this way.

My anxiety is increasing daily because I do not have daily face-to-face contact with people. I am temporarily working from home and live in a small apartment with my dog. I don't need anymore extra time to reflect or work on things. I need some sort of human contact. Some of us do not currently have a significant other in their life. There is only so much social media can provide before it becomes boring.

That’s just how I feel. I had some counselling before covid struck and was all ready to go back into the world and then lockdown came to the uk. I’ve had one offer in 6 months from mental health of a once a week online art course but it’s not the same as meeting people face to face. I am going to do it as it’s better than nothing. I’m a single mum with a teenager who has just started college but only two hours of contact time three days a week. He doesn’t see his old friends from his old school as that’s miles away and he hasn’t made new ones yet and we are both bored and lonely and sick of each other’s company for the last 6 months, what 16 year old wants to spend 90% of their time with their mum? Longing for covid to be eradicated and normal life to resume.

Please hang on. I paint, play guitar, cook all meals from scratch, healthy homemade soups, walk every day, meditate, feed the chickadees, record music, keep a journal, dance. That being said I crave human touch, need to see a smiling face. Perhaps this pandemic will change our collective thinking. Be more loving and giving. Less materialism. I pray for the world. The days just fly so fast. Some days I feel as if I am hurling through a bad dream, on route to my death I'm so lonely. Don't give up. This will pass. I love you all so dearly.

Betty Chislett

November 25, 2020

In reply to by Leta Rosetree

Oh yes, age HAS got a LOT to do with it --- COVID 19 has taken away the last few things I held dear - my independence and my friends. My family can't visit - besides, some are on the other side of the country and the ones that are here are teachers and psychologists with teenage children, it's lonely and there is no way I can take buses and cabs now - go shopping or eat out. Being alone is not fun. I really don't care anymore - que sera sera. Of course I take precautions, self isolate etc. It;s not enough.

I feel the same way. Most of my close friends have passed away. My daughter and family while loving live far away. I am no longer physically active due to athritis. I can no longer play bridge or do volunteer work due to this horrendous lockdown. I love to read,listen to music and watch old movies but being alone should be my choice, not by mandate. I am 78 and always felt youthful but for the first time I feel like an old woman. I am grateful for my cat but I need some real social contact. Online bridge is no substitute!

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 ...

We have been groomed to rely on working for someone, that we forget how to rely on ourselves, our talents and other free resources we have within us. Now is the time for self-exploration. It's difficult I know, but when you realise the source of income is within you, you will feel better.

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 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?

What are you taking about? There’s a virus. There has to be some time before we can re open. Unless you want to be close and get infected. After time the virus will be under control and lessen. How else do you think it can be controlled. This is why.

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.

The uncertainty of knowing when this will pass is the hardest part for me. Every year lost with my kids and grandkids hurts deeply. FaceTime and Zoom have limits There is no guarantee of a vaccine and it will take 2 years After development to reach the average person. When I get most depressed is when I wonder if we’ll have to live likethis for many more years than predicted. Even those predictions are best guesses, not guarantees.

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.

I feel the same way....some days I feel ok...but there are others in which I feel anchious since I wake up. The news are the worst. I live in South America and the horror stories in hospitals have made my nervous system very weak. I had a telemedical appointment yesterday...the doctor has medicated me...never before non anxiety pills but today after the first dose I am much better....I just want to pass this time with peace in my soul. Dont ask for more.

You are lucky for that 4 pm walk! Good job and keep it up; many people can’t walk you know, don’t take your mobility for granted. Don’t stop walking:) it gives some routine to your day and boosts your serotonin naturally.

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?