With so much to worry about during the COVID-19 surge, it’s no wonder that stress and anxiety levels are on the rise. Normal routines and work lives have been uprooted by necessary stay-at-home orders, while the level of uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus itself is quite alarming.

You might not be able to blow off stress in the ways you usually do, but you don’t have to suffer through the pandemic in misery. By learning new ways to practice self-care and manage emotions, you can still find positivity and joy during this difficult time.

Adjust to Working at Home

Co-working with others is becoming more and more common. In fact, by 2022, it’s estimated that there will be over 6,200 co-working spaces in the United States. But even if you’re used to working around others, adapting to work at home surrounded by children and family members can be a stressful change.

Create a work schedule that realistically fits within your home life. Give yourself time for breaks and set a hard end-time each day so you can focus on self-care. Adjust expectations for yourself; you simply may not have the same productivity output as you would at the office. Rather than fight it or beat yourself up about it, accept that this is only temporary and that adjusting your expectations will be necessary.

Accept and Sort Your Emotions

To feel more at peace, you’ll need to identify and adjust your emotions to deal with them head-on. If you’re feeling more anxious than usual, don’t judge yourself. Recognize that anxiety and fear are normal emotional responses during a time like this. You might consider making an appointment via video conference with a therapist if you’re struggling with your mental health. The following techniques can also help.

  • Journal
    If you don’t journal already, start now. Whenever you feel anxious, fearful, sad, or otherwise upset, write down what you’re feeling. This simple act helps you expel the emotions and identify what’s going on in your brain. Then, you can begin tackling them.
  • Be Real About Control
    Using your list of worries, identify which things you can control and which ones you can’t. You can’t control the pandemic or quarantine orders. But you can control your own actions during this time. Choose to let go of worry about what you can’t control and focus on how you can help yourself succeed.

Learn New Coping Skills

Basic psychological tools can do wonders in helping you deal with negative emotions. If you have a therapist, ask them for some suggestions. Otherwise, there’s a wealth of information online. Try downloading a few mindfulness and meditation apps to help you learn these skills.

Grounding and Mindfulness

When anxious thoughts swirl in your head, your heart is pounding, and you feel out of control, grounding is a practice that brings you back down to reality. The idea is to distract yourself from disproportionate thoughts by focusing on the current moment.

Use your senses: Focus on five objects in the room, touch four textured items and notice how they feel, and close your eyes and identify three different background noises.

You could also refocus internally: Count backward from 100 in increments of seven or imagine funny images that make you laugh.

Distract Yourself With Activities

While grounding and mindfulness can help in the midst of anxious moments, you can prevent those moments in the first place with distractions. Consider limiting your consumption of news and the time you spend on social media to keep your mind away from the negative.

  • Simple Pleasures: Now is not the time to deprive yourself of small things that bring you joy. It could be as simple as savoring that first cup of coffee in the morning. For a bonus, enjoy the best-tasting coffee three to five days after roasting. Watch a favorite show you’ve been eyeing or take indulgent bubble baths. Pamper yourself.
  • Hobbies: If you don’t have a go-to distraction, now may be the perfect time for a new hobby. You could also restart an old one you haven’t had time for. Learn an instrument, crack open a book, or dig up that vegetable garden you’ve always dreamt of.
  • Nature: The only good thing about the timing of this virus is that outdoor weather is becoming beautiful. Get yourself outside for fresh air and sunshine, which will boost your physical and mental health. Go on daily walks (alone or with your kids), start a small garden plot, or simply sit in the sunshine while reading.

Get Moving

Clear anxious energy from your body by exercising regularly, which is proven to relieve anxiety. Consider taking up yoga, which teaches mindfulness and self-awareness, or do vigorous exercise in your living room with the help of online workout videos. A simple goal would be to move your body at least 20 minutes per day to release your body’s natural anti-anxiety chemicals.

Stay Socially Connected

With social distancing in place, you’re probably not seeing as much of your friends and coworkers, which can make life lonely. Make an extra effort to connect with people in creative ways. Reach out to friends online, text and speak on the phone more, or have virtual “hangouts.” You could even have a girls night by arranging a group video chat one night.

Avoid Unhealthy Habits

Alcohol sales have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how many people are turning to substances for relief. Approximately 11% of all alcohol consumption in the U.S. comes from people under the age of 20. Younger people often haven’t yet developed healthy coping mechanisms, but alcohol isn’t the answer for anxiety and stress — even if you’re over 21.

Disrupted from normal routines, people may pick up other unhealthy comforts like overeating, smoking, or substance abuse. Unlike healthy coping habits, these behaviors lower your immune system and cause further mental health issues. Stay mindful of your substance use by setting daily limits and be sure to check in with yourself to determine whether your coping mechanisms are healthy. While it’s fine to give yourself a break, it’s a bit of a slippery slope for many.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Self-care should be everyone’s top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety and stress are normal human responses to a crisis. If your problems become severe, please seek help from a therapist or mental health professional, many of whom are offering telephone and video conferences. With these tips in mind, you might come out of this stronger and better able to handle whatever stressors life throws your way.