The past few weeks, we’ve all been suffering from the psychological consequences of quarantine and uncertainty for the future.
Although the fears, doubts, and the anxiety we are facing may be similar, the ways in which we react physically and psychologically are different. The common reactions to stress not only reduce the quality of our life and the lives of our loved ones, but also affect our ability to recover physically, and even make us more vulnerable to illness.
We may not have control over the coronavirus outbreak and the stress it causes, but we can take control over how we react to that stress. Here are the seven best methods to control our reaction to stress during these times:
- First of all, you have to understand that what you’re feeling is normal. Part of being human is having a body that reacts to stress with hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. It’s not pleasant, but it’s normal. What you have to do is accept that this kind of reaction exists, and not try to hide or suppress it.
- Focus on self-care. Maintain a regular and healthy schedule. Sleep eight hours a night, bathe, brush your teeth and get dressed as if it were a normal day. Eat your meals at a determined time; work at a determined time; rest at a determined time. Exercise; use a face mask when you go out; wash your hands regularly; avoid touching your face. Keeping a schedule and taking care of yourself will help you get through quarantine and control your stress.
- Be positive. Do things that entertain you; speak with people that make you happy; take time to remember positive experiences. If you’re feeling alone and desperate, force yourself to smile widely for thirty seconds—even this small action can change your brain chemistry and lower corticosteroids.
- Rethink the trauma you’re going through. Instead of pondering on how terrible this crisis is, think about what good can come out of it. What is it teaching you? How is your worldview changing? How will you be different afterwards? The beauty of trauma is that it changes us, and the change can be for the better. As Mizuta Masahid, the seventeenth-century Japanese poet and samurai, said: ”My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.”
- Try to incorporate meditation and yoga into your day. If this is difficult for you, start by breathing. Inhale for five seconds. Hold for five seconds. Exhale for five seconds. Repeat. Do this regularly, or after a particularly stressful moment. The calming effect this simple exercise has will surprise you.
- Participate in gratitude exercises. When you wake up, or before you go to bed, think about or share things that you are grateful for. Don’t be vague; be specific. For example, I am grateful that my family is laughing down the hallway; I am grateful that I finished my school assignment. Daily reminders like this can make a great difference in your mental health.
- Lastly, participate in emotional writing. Take ten minutes a day to write down what you’re feeling. It doesn’t have to be poetry, it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, and it doesn’t have to be shared with anyone. Just write down what you’re feeling in the moment and why.
The coronavirus outbreak has proved to be a terrible event, and like many other terrible events in our lives, we can’t do much to control it. What we can control is how we react to it, and how we will come out at the other end of it.