It’s March 2020, and life as we know it has been canceled. With COVID-19 sweeping the world and forcing millions to work from home and home school their children, feeling overwhelmed, physically and mentally drained while wondering how much more you can endure is commonplace.
Equanimity means having mental calmness and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult or stressful situation. Keeping your “cool” in moments of crisis – or in this case, a global pandemic – is not easy by any means. However (and thankfully), there are tried and true practices and skills that one can harness during these uncertain times to alleviate some stress that is at least self-induced. Below, we’ve compiled a list of scientifically proven methods to help you maintain your mental equilibrium in the days, weeks, months (!?) ahead.
Tips to regulate your internal environment
- Be sure to get ample sleep. One of the biggest impediments to decent sleep is excessive time glued to our devices. Turn off all screens after a certain time, which is more important now than ever as so much of life is now tied to our screens. We’re on our computers all day, helping our kids with their remote learning during our lunch hours, watching the news in the mornings and evenings, getting our exercise through live-streamed classes, and even having happy hour Zoom calls with family and friends with an almost obnoxious frequency. All that blue light exposure disrupts our natural melatonin production (which is typically high in the mornings and lower in the evenings). If we trick our bodies into thinking it’s daylight all the time, falling asleep at night will be even more challenging. Do yourself a favor, and nix the screens at least one hour before bed.
- Exercise. No need to beat a dead horse, but in case you needed another reminder about the mental and physical health benefits of exercise, here it is.
- Meditation – Research abound highlights the positive correlation between meditation and mental well being. Just 20 minutes of stillness and deep breathing each day can greatly shift your internal equilibrium.
- Nutrition – Many of us tend to blame a fast-paced lifestyle and having “no time” to cook a quality meal as reasons why we slip on our nutritional health. One positive consequence of being under quarantine is that we are more or less forced to cook our meals at home. Research shows that cooking at home increases proper nutrition compliance (and is also a money saver), so take this time to get to know your way around your kitchen a little better. Your health (and wallet) with thank you in the long run.
- Drink. More. Water. It is essential and this cannot be stressed enough.
Methods to help focus your attention on what you actually have power and control over.
- Maintain a morning routine. Research has found that how you begin your morning can really set the tone for the rest of your day. Keeping a regular schedule helps us to feel grounded, and – especially during these times – even the facade of normalcy can help to alleviate the anxiety many of us are experiencing while facing the uncharted territory of working from home.
- Define and hold strong to boundaries. A 2019 State of Remote Work report by Buffer found that nearly a quarter of work from homers found it difficult to disconnect from their jobs at the end of the work day. The slippery slope mentality of “it will take two second to reply to this one last email” after hours can send the message to the receiver that you’re available off the clock – and this is especially easy to do when the boundary between work and home is so blurred. Set your work hours (however creative and flexible you want them to be) and stick to them.
- Try something new to make this forced time stuck in your home feel more novel than just an impediment to normal life. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who researches the concept of flow and productivity argues that creativity is the key to happiness. Local libraries are incredible resources for educational classes, schools are offering free online courses, and even popular vacation house rental sites are promoting an impressive array of virtual experiences. Might as well try and make the best out of the cards we’ve been dealt, right?
These are odd times, no doubt, and maintaining equanimity is more important now than ever as keeping our composure will extend our ability to isolate, saving literal lives in the long run. Adopt it as your COVID-19 mantra as the health of our entire world depends on each one of us individually to keep our cool during quarantine, and something we here at Sherry Blair Institute wholeheartedly believe is possible in all of us.
Together, we’ve got this comrades.
If you or a loved on is in need of mental health assistance, below are links to professional services:
Call 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor
Call 1-888-333-2377 for referrals to support groups, mental health professionals, resources on loss, and suicide prevention information.
Call 1-800-799-7233 for 24/7 crisis intervention and safety planning.
Call the NAMI hotline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741
Call SAMHSA’s free hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
*Featured image artist unknown.*