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How to Manage Your Stress and Anxiety While Coping With the “New Normal”  

We’re all feeling it after over a month of being cooped up inside our houses (working or not) – the stress of cabin fever, a lack of socialization, grief over the loss of the “normal” we all knew and loved 

Now we are facing a brand new normal, a normal in which walking outside might require wearing a mask, where planning a grocery trip might either be online or in the store wearing gloves and following the rules of social distancing.   

The stress and anxiety accompanying this virus is starting to overwhelm us all. We are starting to feel alone and isolated and depressed. If you are living with family (as I am), you are probably becoming irritable and almost anything can set you off.  

Seeing as this is all new and there are no official steps we can take to overcome this, we are forced to adapt in any way we can.  

Managing stress effectively right now is essential to our health and well-being. Without ways to manage our stress, it can take over and cause serious damage, not just mentally but physically. We need to keep in mind that we are not alone and that even though it feels never-ending, the worst of this will pass and we will all find our way back to a regular routine.  

In the meantime, we are all suffering from the stress of staying in, of not being able to socialize outside our homes (unless by video chat), and at the same time mourning what we used to have. So how do we deal?  

Everyone is different and that means everyone deals with stress in their own way, so even though I want to help in any way I can, I understand that not everyone in this situation will manage their stress the same. These are just some suggestions as to how we can overcome some of the worst parts of this together.  

Cabin fever 

We have all been in our houses much too long. We can’t go out to the store without worrying about long lines and following the stickers on the floor so we don’t come too close to someone else and ensuring all the items we touch don’t contaminate us or our loved onesWe can’t go see our friends because the risk is still too high of contracting the virus or passing it on to others. We can’t go for a walk in the park or go see a movie because parks and theatres are now closed to the public. Our working lives aren’t even the same. 

What can we do? 

How to combat cabin fever?  

The stress of staying in can produce feelings of isolation, of boredom, of restlessness. Stress is stress no matter the cause, and even though the situation is different and very new to everyone, it is still important to keep your mind and body healthy. These are just some of the things I’ve been doing to manage my own stress.  

Keep the mind occupied 

As our time inside drags on, it gets harder and harder not to feel the tug of boredom. Best thing for you to do is keep your mind occupied. I turn to writing to help me escape my situation. Find a hobby that you can do inside. Read, catch up on shows, catch up on work or chores. Try something brand new.  

My brother was laid off and now has much too much time on his hands, so he is currently working on a construction project of building a shelf for my sister. Other friends of mine have gravitated to gardening or teaching themselves to play guitar. Find something that will entertain your mind and give your brain the boost it needs while you stay in. 

Don’t dwell 

Dwelling is absolutely the worst thing you can do. The best way to avoid this is to unplug. Unplug from the internet, your phone, anything that might be reminding you of the situation you’re currently in.  

This is not to say eliminate the news completely, but it is a good idea to give yourself a breather, especially from the bad news we are bombarded with every day.  

Get enough sleep 

Stress gets exponentially worse with lack of sleep (something I can attest to). The right amount of sleep is essential to recharge your mind and your body for the next day. Getting a good sleep requires relaxing your mind and body beforehand.  

Try to avoid playing on your phone or watching something that will keep your attention.  

Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Once you get into that routine, your body and mind will start to adjust, and you will start feeling tired as you get closer to your scheduled bedtime 

Stay active (without going to the gym) 

It is important to stay active without going to the gym. Many friends of mine exercise in their homes by following routines they find on YouTube.  

Or do what I do, just play some music, and dance like the floor’s on fire; not only does it make me sweat, it’s fun!  

Relax 

I have learned from this experience that I need to relax a lot more than I do. If you’re working from home, you might find it more difficult to relax because you’re working and relaxing in the same place 

In this situation, it is even more important to find time for relaxation. We are always thinking, worrying, stressing, dwelling, this on top of focusing on work or lack thereof.  

Turn it all off and breathe. Many people I know turn to meditation to relax their mind and their body and it helps. If you are anxious like I am, a good reset is what you need. Put away the phone, shut out the news, sit or lie down in a comfortable spot, remove all the roadblocks in your way, and prepare yourself to face another day 

Take a breath of fresh air 

Staying away from other people is what will keep us all safe, but we all need a little fresh air in our lungs and sun on our faces. Step outside your house and breathe. If it’s not so busy where you are and you can keep to the social distancing guidelines (6 feet apart), go for a short walk around the block. Find some normalcy in your life wherever and whenever you can. 

Laugh 

Take it from me, taking time out of your day to laugh really is the best medicine and absolutely one of the most effective ways to feel normal. Binge some of your favourite sitcoms, watch some of the hilarious late shows, and let yourself laugh. 

Many people out there are making light of the situation. Here are a few videos that made me laugh and will hopefully put a smile on your face as well: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV5HY8pLZ34 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7iNEyoNBzE 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnCQ3QntY0Y 

Social Isolation 

Enduring this experience is made that much harder when you’re isolated from your friends and coworkers. Being unable to socialize makes us irritable, stir crazy, and desperate for a friendly face that isn’t someone you are currently isolated with.  

I miss my friends and my coworkers, and I feel the absence with every day that passes.  

How to combat social isolation 

The answer to this particular challenge isn’t simple. We can’t just go out and see our friends and coworkers anymore. Our only alternative is audio or video chat through Skype or Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Don’t just stick to texting and email. Dial those friends of yours, have a FaceTime conversation, Skype, or use Microsoft Teams to have a group conversation with coworkers or friends.  

Because I’m so used to being surrounded by coworkers, I prefer using Microsoft Teams video chat throughout the day so I don’t feel so alone while working.  

Find a way, whether by one of these methods or something else, to video chat at least once or twice a day. We are social creatures and we need that kind of interaction in our lives; without it, our stress level rises as well as our anxiety level. It is so important to be able to not just hear a friend’s voice but see their face. 

 Not only will this type of interaction reduce your stress and anxiety during this time, but it will also remind you and those you’re chatting with that you’re not alone.  

Grieving the loss of “normal” is normal 

Let’s be honest, we are all feeling the loss of what normal used to be. And according to our Prime Minister and our mayors, that normal might be gone for good.  

But It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be angry and want that normal back. It’s normal to grieve “normal”.  

At the end of the day, it comes down to this: The normal we used to know is gone and we must face that. But not alone. Remember that we are all in this together and if we and our loved ones are still safe and still healthy then we have a lot to be grateful for.  

Resources to help manage stress and anxiety 

https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health-safety/covid19_stressmanagement_5_accessible.pdf 

https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/infosheet/covid-19-and-anxiety