Leadership / 06.23.20
5 Ways to Help Ease Coronavirus-Era Anxiety
We all felt stress and fear at the beginning of the coronavirus spread, global lockdowns and social distancing. The changes happened fast and furious — in many cases, overnight. But as the weeks and now months have dragged on, I’ve discovered a whole new set of anxieties that I’d never dealt with before the world changed, anxieties that have led to patterns of bad behavior that have affected my work, my relationships and my life. Perhaps you have felt some of these, too — maybe for the first time, or maybe they were things you were already doing that have been amplified.
Here are five changes I have made lately that are helping me get through this topsy-turvy time:
1. Limit Cable News Watching
Whatever your politics, watching cable TV news is NOT happy viewing. You will not go to bed each night feeling even remotely good about yourself, your fellow citizens or the world in general if the last words you hear are from Don Lemon, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, et. al. Before the pandemic hit, my wife Bonnie and I rarely watched any of those channels or cast of characters. Oh, we would tune into our local news for weather and basic information on what’s going on close to us. But our time together in front of the tube was mostly spent watching DVR’d recordings of our favorite programs like “Survivor” or “Modern Family” or binging our favorite shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, etc.
But when the COVID-19 crisis hit and the world started shutting down, we channel-surfed back and forth among the various cable “news” networks because we ourselves were suddenly in a 24/7 news cycle. Then, the police-involved killing of George Floyd happened on May 25, and weeks of protests followed. Bonnie and I could follow all the demonstrations in all the cities, both U.S. and abroad, by flipping through the various channels.
It became hard to get to sleep at night. We were staying up later and later, and it was affecting our work, our concentration and our productivity the next day. We’ve since limited our cable TV news consumption to no more than 15 or 20 minutes a day, and we do not watch such programming after 8 p.m. Are we any less “aware” or “informed?” We don’t think so. But, for sure, we are feeling better.
2. Don’t Sleep With Your Smartphone in the Room
When we cut back on watching cable news at night, another bad habit quickly formed. My wife and I started going on social media more. We found ourselves scrolling through Facebook and Instagram much more than before prior to bedtime. To keep our iPhones close to us, we also set their alarms to wake us up in the morning. There were several times where we would wake up in the night to go to the bathroom, and we couldn’t help but check our social media feeds.
We found that such activity was also fueling anxiety. There needed to be an extended time where we were truly disconnected each day/night. So, we put our phones on overnight charge in the kitchen and started again using our old-school clock radio alarm clock to wake us up. We were sleeping better almost immediately.
3. Retail Therapy Is Not Therapy at All
Idle hands really are the devil’s workshop. And when that workshop is Amazon, Etsy, Walmart.com and so forth, the credit card charges can add up fast. Whether employed or unemployed, now is not the best time to be buying things with the goal of making yourself “feel better.” You will likely only feel good until the bill comes due!
Online shopping makes it easier than ever to buy things. I admit it. A couple of weeks after everything shut down, I bought a couple of things online I regret now. I’m not sending them back, of course. Just try and take my comfy slippers off my feet! But three-plus months into the pandemic, I will not be purchasing that signed, limited-edition, 40th anniversary “The Empire Strikes Back” poster that would look SO awesome on the wall of my home office. Nope, not gonna do it.
For more on what you can do to manage your mental and physical health, read a recent Access article by Bruce Mayhew titled “Self-Care for Everyone at Home.”
4. It’s Time to Start Eating Better
When this pandemic era hit, I immediately stocked up on comfort foods. Fritos, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Keebler Soft-Batch chocolate chip cookies. Don’t judge me! Don’t you dare Reinhold me! It got me through the early going. But I quickly realized my wife, daughter and I needed to eat better.
So, we all resumed eating more fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken and so forth. We have rediscovered bananas, apples and strawberries, along with salmon, eggs and leafy greens. Cooking at home more has been a great stress reliever, too. It’s stoked our creativity — even something as simple as a spaghetti dinner, we try to add a little flair to — and provided us a much needed diversion to look forward to each evening.
For another perspective on healthy eating, check out the recent Access article “Bye-Bye Quarantine 15: Tips to Living Healthy on Your Terms.”
5. Try to Start Thinking Positive Again
Back in March and April, most of us still had a “we will survive” attitude. There were virtual happy hours and casual business meetings via Zoom. It was a bigger thrill than ever to get a pizza delivered. Hot baths felt more soothing. But the weeks have dragged on. The job losses have been staggering. The stimulus checks are long spent. Young people didn’t get their high school or college graduation ceremonies. Weddings and summer vacations were postponed. There has been no baseball, no NBA, no big summer movies, no live theatre.
It is easy to give in to pessimism. But if you look for the positives, you will still find them. It could be Josh Gad’s wonderful “Reunited Apart” series of YouTube videos in which he has brought back together the casts of “Lords of the Rings,” “Back to the Future,” “The Goonies” and the original “Ghostbusters” via video conferencing. It could be you volunteering to deliver groceries to senior citizens, working a food bank or sewing face masks for those who need them. Or, it could be you just used this time to get back into shape.
The point is, we are living in an epic, historic time that will be talked about, written about and referenced for decades to come. I want to look back at this time and know that I handled myself well, did my best by my family and I was productive. And I did NOT buy that 40th anniversary “Empire” poster, even though I could have in three “easy” monthly installments!
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Tags: Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus