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How to Deal with Isolation Anxiety

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On a good day, when the sun is shining and everyone is healthy, my baseline mental state can be described as “barely hanging on.”  Anxiety and depression are constant companions and I fight like a beast to keep them at a safe social distance (too soon?) Now with all the uncertainty surrounding us, my more stable friends are telling me about how they are struggling with anxiety for the very first time. I say to you, WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. 

I want to share with you how I’ve been hacking my way through these days in hopes it helps bring you some relief. That being said, if you find comfort going face first into frozen pizza, I celebrate you. Seriously, no judgement. But here’s what works for me:

1. Keep on schedule

You don’t have to maintain your “pre-Covid-19” schedule but maintain a schedule. Having structure in these uncertain times helps me stay focused. I also give myself some grace. I used to be up at 5:30am so I could be at the gym by 6. Now? I’m up at 7 doing a workout in my living room.

2. Exercise

It’s so important that I move every single day. It doesn’t have to be a gut-busting “I’m dripping with sweat” workout but I have to find a way to get my heart rate up. It’s medicine for me, honestly.

3. Sunshine (even the fake kind)

Even if it’s cloudy and cold, I’ve been trying to get outside every day. A sweet dog that needs a walk makes sure that I do. If I can’t get “real sunshine” I use my light therapy lamp. (Here’s a great one from Amazon!) Make sure you’re keeping it at face-level so you may need to stack it on some books. 

4. Up the veggies

You crave what you eat so if you’re eating junk, that’s what you’ll crave. It’s easy to fall face-first into a bowl of mac and cheese. If I indulge in every junk food craving, soon that’s all I crave. I know, for me, if I load up on fruits and veggies I will start craving healthier options. If I’m eating better, I’m more motivated to exercise. If I exercise, my brain functions better. It’s a cycle that starts in the kitchen. 

5. Make something 

With my anxiety, I get anxious about not being productive then, in a cruel twist, the anxiety makes it impossible to be productive. While our goal in life is to make you laugh — Writing here on this blog, creating videos for Facebook and posts for Instagram is really a self-serving mission. Creating something out of nothing pulls me out of my funk. I’ve loved seeing friends wipe the dust off old sewing machines and knitting needles. Make something! You’ll feel better, I promise. 

6. Set screen time limits

For the first few days of social distancing I had my computer open all day reading updates from across the globe. I found that I couldn’t sleep. I was restless with worry for my community (will my friend lose her store? Will my server friend be able to pay his mortgage?). I’ve now instituted screen time limits for myself: No cell phones TWO HOURS before bed. I leave my phone plugged in downstairs so I’m not tempted to peak if I happen to wake up at 3am. It’s crazy how much this has helped me.

7. Comedy only

My husband thought it would be fun to watch “Outbreak” the other night. Yeah, no. My brain can’t handle that. I’ve learned I need to seek out the funny stuff, even if it’s a show I’ve watched a thousand times. 

8. Lay off the booze

This may be unpopular, but stay with me. On the days I find myself drinking — the next day, I am in full anxiety-mode. I’ve eased off the booze over the last six months. This has been a hard, but huge adjustment. If stress has you indulging more than you’re used to, check-in with how you’re feeling the next day? More anxious than normal? It may be the booze. 

How has your anxiety been in our new normal? How do you deal with isolation anxiety? Share in the comments!

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