Keeping your sanity in isolation
I have had intermittent stages of depression, stress and anxiety throughout my life. I have had to put processes in place to be able to deal with these times (I do not like medication), and I am finding that these processes also work in our current times of social anxiety relating to the Coronavirus. All these activities lift the amount of “happiness hormones” in your body, helps to relax you and alleviate stress. I will go through my usual daily routines, sometimes I may do all of the activities, other times just a few of them. See what works for you.
When I get up in the morning, especially after a night of restless sleep due to too much brain activity, I try to meditate for 20 – 30 minutes. I usually put my headphones on and listen to meditation music (Soundcloud has some fantastic longer music lists eg. 3 hour meditation music, which means there are no ads and it is free to listen to). To start I take a deep slow breath over 4 counts, hold the breath for 16 counts then slowly blow all breath out over 8 counts. You can adjust the amount of counts to what suits you, just think of in-breath as y counts, hold breath at 4 times y, release breath at 2 times y. Do that 3 times. This will reset your nervous system from sympathetic (fight or flight mode) to parasympathetic (relax mode). A lot of times when I feel I am stressed, unable to sleep or want to reset myself, I do the breaths 3 times and feel better. Also works for when you are sleepy and want a wake up call…
When meditating, do not force anything, just sit and quietly listen to the meditation music. Let thoughts float by, try not to chase any particular thought. Listening to enjoyable relaxing music helps a lot in letting things float by. There are lots of guided meditations as well, just see what works for you.
After my breathing and/or meditating, I select one of my dancey playlists on Soundcloud and dance. No specific movements, just as if I was at a party, festival, club or listening to a great band. In isolation no-one is watching, so just let yourself go and get lost in the music. Get your housemates, partners and children involved, or just do it alone. If you want a bigger workout, do 10-15 minutes of bodyweight / light weight exercises after about 5 minutes of warm up dancing. I try and do weight exercises 3 times per week, but am gentle with myself if I feel really stressed or emotional. Bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push ups, bicep curls, tricep extensions, fake skate (skating in place), downhill ski sit and belly dancing are great exercise that you can do to improve muscle tone. Jumping jacks and running in place is good for aerobic exercise should you wish to. Younger people can do these exercises for a longer period, I do best with 10 – 15 minutes HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). After which I go back to another 30-40 minutes of dancing to get rid of any lactic acid build up (handy for people aged 40 and over, younger people can possibly go without that, but it still is a lot of fun to do!)
After my dancing and exercising, I do around 15 minutes of stretching. I alternate between standing stretches and working from the head down, to stretching on a mat and working from my toes up. I have routines which I have combined from years of doing top sport as well as learning ballet and yoga at different times in my life. The routines work for me and keep me limber.
After those routines I can start my day. During the day, try and get as much fresh air and sunshine as possible, and if you can, put your hands in the soil and plant some plants. Planting in the outdoors with the sun shining is a wonderfully calming and meditative experience.
Towards the end of the day (mid to late afternoon) I try and spend around 1 – 2 hours on playing / creating music. Making music is one of the most uplifting things you can do. You can channel your emotions through your instrument. If you have never played an instrument before and / or you do not have access to an instrument, you can do a number of things to play anyway: play on your pots and pans with cooking utensils, play on glasses partially filled with water (different amounts in each glass) with chop sticks, download any number of free apps onto your device to make music or learn to sing online (lots of free or cheap courses available), to just name a few. Channeling your emotions through making music is an incredibly healing experience.
Another way of channeling your emotions is by painting or drawing and writing. Keep a diary next to your bed, or a sketch book and pencils. You do not need to have any idea of what you would like to write or draw prior to starting, just put pen or pencil to paper. Thoughts and images will flow automatically, and releasing emotions in this way is extremely cathartic. It will pave the way for a good sleep. After you turn off the lights you can do the three breaths again, which will send you off into a deep, restful sleep.
I hope some of this will help you cope with today’s situation. If you would like more information or elaboration on any of this, please contact me by commenting below or on our forum here. Stay well and look after yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally!