How To Stay Sane: A Loose Guide

photo cred: Katzie & Ben Photography

As we approach the end of week two of quarantine, in Minnesota at least, we have had a fair amount of time to try and find a new "normal." When we started I was seeing a lot of other influencers talk about their stay at home strategies, which was definitely helpful at the start. Some are still beneficial, but others need some adjustment for the times we're in. Initially I was was managing, but I have to be honest that it's getting harder. The prospect of at least another few weeks is starting to sink in and we have to hold on a little longer. 

I may be starting to lose my marbles, but I have built a tool box of strategies to keep me from going completely bonkers. In some ways, knowing we have a longer time indoors will be helpful and I'll tell you why. For those of you that don't know, my day job is a mental health therapist. Specifically, I work with adolescents so being aware of brain development and what brains need are the name of the game for me. Some of my tips will be neurologically based. Although, disclaimer this list is not therapeutic advice, some of it is rooted in my knowledge base. Others are just good tips I have tried or picked up along the way.



1. STRUCTURE
So we all need a little structure in our life. Our brains crave it actually and some people need it more than others, but that has more to do with personality type than brain processes. Our brain does best and understands best with predictability and routine. Even if you aren't working a 9 to 5, there is some routine and structure to your life. You wake up, eat breakfast, work out, go to work , spend time with family/friends, watch your favorite show on Tuesdays etc. Even though we are all stuck at home, creating some new structure for yourself is going to be best for your brain and ultimately for you. I know it's tempting to treat this like an extended vacation. Each night for me feels like a Friday night and I have to remind myself that it's only Monday. This "what day is it?" feeling is discomforting and makes it hard to feel centered and organized. Find a new routine! Even if it's trying to get up around the same time each day, or that you are going to walk every day at lunchtime. 



2. WORK SPACE
For those of us lucky enough to still be able to work, albeit from home, this one is for you. Prior to all the closures part of my work was from home. I transitioned into a supervisory position and don't have a formal office space in our building. I move around a lot during the day typically, so I wasn't at home all the time. Thankfully, this allowed me to set up an office space at home. I am lucky enough to have a desk and everything I need. If you don't have that luxury, find a way to establish a separate workspace. It's tempting to hang out in your bed all day because it's comfy. But your brain does better when it knows what to expect from different spaces. You are more productive in your work because your brain understands that is what is expected there. Your bed is expected to be a sleep space. If you mix the two you won't be productive. Find a spot in the house you can set up separately and you can leave when work is over for the day. That way you can "walk away" from work and get some relax time.




3. DON'T SLEEP ALL DAY/ GET READY
I know this may seem silly but this, again, speaks to not treating this like an extended vacation. On a weekend or vacation if you sleep late, lay around, and take naps it's restful and rejuvenating. If it's your every day than you're the kid who lives in your parents' basement ;) Set your alarm and get up. Even if you aren't working, get up anyway. Most people need 8 hours of sleep, more than that is actually not good for you. If you sleep too long it's hard to shake off the drowsiness. Getting dressed for the day, even if it's only the top half, is good too. It speaks to keeping that routine and feeling that separation from day and night. Slap some concealer and mascara on, do your hair, put on an actual shirt. It helps. I promise.

4. SET GOALS
I have seen a lot going around about not having to be productive every day, and that's very true. But it's important to have something you are working on or working towards. You need a reason not to sleep all day. Whether that's something small like grocery shopping, cleaning your living room, or big like a major home renovation. Some reason to get up and something to look forward to. Our brains aren't meant to do nothing seven days a week. Humans need purpose and it doesn't have to be deep, but it has to be something. Identify a task you would like to work on during this time and set small goals to help build towards it. 



5. GET MOVING
Bodies in motion stay in motion, bodies at rest stay at rest. Or something like that ;) One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from Legally Blonde where the infamous Elle Woods says "Working out gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't kill their husbands, they just don't." This may be helpful on many levels for most of you ;) Our bodies aren't meant to be sedentary, we have to move around. My husband and I have been working out at home since Reese was born. We use Beachbody programs and I love it. Some of their workouts like Core De Force don't need any weights. There are also lots of other online programs like Yoga with Adriene or people like Classy Clean Chic mentioned a program she uses. Also, simply going for walks or runs outside work too. Walk your dog, walk around your apartment. Get those steps in, it's good for your body and brain.


6. VIRTUAL REALITY
Embrace the video call. Look, this isn't ideal. We'd all much prefer to be in person with each other, but we can't. Talking on the phone just isn't the same. You can't get a group on a phone call and so much of communication is visual. Last weekend my friends and I did a zoom call and played games. We did Cards Against Humanity online and it worked really well actually. I've heard the House Party App is good too. We ran out of time but thought we could find a way to make scattergories work. Zoom, I find, is the best. You can see everyone at once and the sound doesn't cut out when others talk. There is a type chat option as well. I also find that using headphones is easier. The sound of it feels more as if I were in the room with someone. If I am talking to a group online it's definitely my preferred method. You don't get that weird tech echo. I have found lots of people are afraid of experimenting and they shouldn’t be. We're all new at this and it isn't hard. Learning together is a great bonding experience. My sister and I Facetimed my mom last week, and roasted her for the funny way she holds the camera. We had the biggest laugh that I have had in a while. Thankfully, my mom is a good sport. It was hilarious and healing. 



7. POWER OF POSITIVITY
Look, this whole situation sucks. There is no way around that. I don't want to take away from that.   There is a time and place to talk through that. But let's not dwell, that's not helpful either. I have found a lot of solace in the positives right now. People coming together in a crisis is kind of beautiful. All the BS gets put aside to help your neighbor. It takes a village for all of us to stay home, to save our neighbor, to have those birthday parades, to clap at the same time each night for healthcare professionals. Even the silly stuff on tik tok with kids and their parents doing the dances are fun in ways. They are keeping people busy. You guys, when was the last time people had to act this unilaterally? I can't think of a time in my life where the country had to work together so much, that literally every life was effected directly in some way. It's beautiful. Also, I firmly believe that quarantine is making people do their best comedy work. If you aren't on tik tok seeing this, it's time to join! 


8. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Here's the thing, this crisis is unlike any other. In most crises, it's a call to action. Donate money, volunteer your time, go out and do something. This crisis is different. The call is to stay home and stay away. Until recently when we could pay to buy masks, the best thing you could do is inaction. It's a sense of helplessness. It doesn't feel comfortable for most of us to do nothing. When things are out of control, it's easier to focus on what we can control versus what we can't. What is something you can actively do in your day to day life? Cooking dinner? Your work? Whatever that may be for you, I encourage you to do this. You'll drive yourself mad focusing on anything else. That said, TURN OFF THE NEWS! Watch a trusted source or two once a day and then turn it off. It's not changing that much and it's filled with dread. Get what you need to be informed and move on.

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So those are my tips for how I am staying sane. I'm not perfect at it every day, but whatever I am not good at I try again the next day. We will get through this! This isn't forever, and we're in it together. Our communities are still here, they just look a little different right. Reach out and stay connected. We'll all be back together soon. 





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