These are difficult times. These are anxious times. And these times might be the new normal for a very long time. That's the not-so-good news. The better news is there are ways to deal with your coronavirus anxiety while you're working from home. Here are five.
1. Take media breaks
It's important to stay informed about the latest COVID-19 news. And it's important to know about the proper social distancing, stockpiling, and disinfecting measures to take. But you don't need to refresh your news feed every five minutes. Doing that will only boost your anxiety, and you'll be unable to work.
Instead, give this some thought: Only check the news for outbreak updates a few times a day. Maybe every three hours. That should be plenty. And try giving yourself a set amount of time to read the news, say, for 10 minutes. Then get back to work. There's nothing like working intently on something to reduce your anxiety. So get in there and hunker down—on your work.
2. Jazz it up
Music can do wonders for your anxiety level. In fact, one recent study found that certain songs reduced listeners' anxiety by 65 percent. Apparently, certain melodies and beats can significantly calm your nervous system, quickly decreasing your stress and anxiety levels. Since music taste varies, as does the type of work we all do, try out various types of music to see what works best for you—which type calms you, relaxes you, makes you more productive.
For me, I've found that instrumental music works best. And I've found this jazz station out of Newark, New Jersey, to be incredibly calming during these trying times (as a bonus, the station's DJs give periodic updates on only the most important COVID-19 news and aren't too alarmist). Of course, find a station that works best for you, or create your own playlist, or search the internet for great, calming, coronavirus-anxiety-reducing playlists like this one created by NPR's music staff.
3. Follow your breath
If you still haven't jumped on the mindfulness app bandwagon, now's the perfect time to get on it. Apps like Headspace and Calm are perfect companions to have during these anxious times. Headspace, for example, has several excellent guided meditations for all experience levels, and for all types of issues.
If you're new to Headspace, a great place to start is its "Basics" guided meditation course. From there, you might want to jump to the guided meditation course on dealing with anxiety. The great part about Headspace and other apps like it is you can use them for just 10 minutes at a time (there are longer mediations, too). Just a short break of following your breath, sensing yourself, and trying to lessen the anxious chatter in your mind can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels.
Just because you're stuck inside or can't venture too far away from your laptop doesn't mean you have to stay still. Perhaps now more than ever it's important to move, stretch, exercise, walk—even if it's only around your 400-square-foot apartment. It's important because movement reduces stress and anxiety, not to mention back, shoulder, and neck pain.
So, just like you'd do if you were working in the office, make sure to stand up (if you're sitting down) and take a short walk and stretch every once in a while. If it's advisable (make sure to check what's going on in your local community), try getting outside every now and then to move around, as fresh(ish) air will help further reduce your stress levels.
You might also, during your self-imposed lunch break (yes, you need to do that!), take a virtual yoga class. These online (sometimes Instagram Live) classes are popping up everywhere, as group classes nationwide have been canceled (check your local studio for virtual class schedules). Or you might take a run around your neighborhood—while keeping the appropriate social-distancing distance from your neighbors, of course. Or you might just do a few sets of push-ups and sit-ups and jump rope for a bit, all of which will help lessen your anxiety.
It's times like these that we can be thankful for social media sites, apps like WhatsApp and Slack, and old fashioned texting. During this worldwide shutdown and period of self isolation, it's going to be very important that we don't feel too isolated. The truth is we're not alone. We—the entire planet—are in this together.
So, if you need to, or even if you don't feel like you need to but feel like someone else might be in need, take a work break and reach out to someone. A colleague, neighbor, friend, family member. Send a message asking how they're doing, how they're dealing, what they're going through. Connecting, even for a minute or two, can help lessen our anxiety—and the anxiety of others.
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