Life in the times of lockdown: Is your new routine hurting you?
Is the anxiety getting to you? Limit the time you spend worrying and scrolling through social media feeds. Make healthy meals and time with loved ones the focus of your day. Spend less time alone.
Amid extended uncertainty and schedules and workflows gone awry, you can’t be blamed for thinking this just doesn’t feel like real life. Here are some simple steps you can take to ease the strain of life amid the pandemic.
Limit your scrolling: To judge by Twitter, all signs point to the end of the world. Your rational mind knows this isn’t true; there have been other pandemics. Use your screens to spend time with family and friends; set up play dates or chat sessions. But log out of the minute-by-minute reactions and over-reactions from those not qualified to be projecting.
Pay close attention to what is causing you to feel anxious or distressed, the World Health Organization has advised, and log out or move on when you encounter such opinions. Seek information only from trusted sources, a fixed number of times a day, and then move on to work, family, taking care of loved ones.
Build a routine: Your usual work schedule can’t ground you. Stepping out feels stranger than staying indoors, with streets empty and shops closed. So make healthy meals and exercise focal points in your day; as also quality time with loved ones spent talking about anything but the pandemic. Incorporate at least a few breathing exercises and a little meditation too.
Routine itself is important because it reassures the human brain, which is programmed to view regular patterns in its environment as a sort of all-clear; and irregular or erratic patterns as a prompt to keep scanning the horizon for more stimuli that it can interpret as threats or opportunities. Scrolling, for instance, in addition to the nature of the content itself, creates cognitive dissonance by exposing you to a constant stream of new stimuli, putting your brain on high alert — which is why it’s harder to go to sleep right after you’ve read through Twitter for a bit.
Play your favourite music: There is a reason your favourite music is so calming. The regular rhythms of your favourite sounds create what is called cognitive ease. It tells your brain that things are, for the moment, as they should be, and that it can turn off its threat-vs-opportunity, fight-vs-flight scanner for the moment.
Stay connected: It’s important in times of unease or anxiety to tap into your sense of belonging in ways that are positive and productive. Being connected reminds you that there are other people invested in your well-being, and that you are not alone in this situation.
“My hunch is that teenagers will find ways to connect with one another online that are different from how they’ve been doing it before. But it’s not going to be a good idea to have unfettered access either. That may amplify your anxiety,” adolescent psychologist Dr Lisa Damour told UNICEF while spelling out strategies for teens facing a new normal. So aim for balance, take it one day at a time, and take care of yourself and others.