At first, the work-from-home, self-quarantine was fine. I’m an introvert that enjoys her alone time. It almost felt like a mini vacation from the hustle and bustle, but as the weeks went on, anxiety started to kick in. My usual anxiety management techniques (walking, cooking, meditating) worked for a little while, but soon, I was anxious all day, every day. It’s been affecting my concentration and my sleep. I’m having terrible, vivid dreams that wake me up and keep me up for hours. It started to feel like a little bit of a spiral and after having an emotional breakdown on Easter Sunday, I knew I needed a little bit of guidance.
I’m not one to reach for a prescription, especially when it comes to my mental health. I’ve battled depression and anxiety — and I won. I have control over my emotions and even when I let emotions get the best of me, I can pretty quickly come back into logic and turn it around. When I woke up on Monday morning wanting a Xanax, I decided to schedule a video visit with my primary care physician.
Here’s what I explained:
I’m an introvert, so I don’t know why all of a sudden I feel lonely and can’t deal with it. My anxiety keeps me up at night and even when I do fall asleep, terrible nightmares wake me up. My normal anxiety management techniques are not working and I can’t concentrate on the things I want to work on. (Even sitting down to write this is a struggle). I don’t feel depressed, but I have a tightness in my chest and a racing heart ALL DAY and it’s really starting to get to me.
My doctor said that he’s taken many of these calls and assured me that I’m not alone. Humans are pack animals and have a need for interaction, even the introverted ones. We don’t know when we’re going to see our loved ones and friends and lovers, so the fear of the unknown triggers anxiety. He explained that because I live alone, I’m under-stimulated and on the opposite side of that are his patients that are quarantined with family that are completely overstimulated. Like everything in life, balance is key. Not enough interaction is bad. Too much is bad. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done for that right now, so we need some coping mechanisms.
His suggestions for me:
Get outside twice a day
High intensity cardio for 30 minutes, daily (cardio decreases stress hormones, so make sure you get your heart rate up and sweat
Schedule video calls so that you have something to look forward to
Do things that make you concentrate on the task at hand (puzzles, coloring, word finds)
Keep a clean diet and drink more water than you think you need
Come up with a daily routine (some structure helps)
High dose CBD oil under the tongue before bed to relax the body and mind
He said to give this two weeks and if it doesn’t help, he’ll write me a prescription.
I had initially shared some of this on my personal facebook page to help family and friends that I know have been feeling the same. At first, I was embarrassed that I felt so out of sorts, but the world collectively feels the same. And if you’re like me and live alone, the silence can be deafening sometimes. We’re all wanting to know when we get back to our normal. Will there be jobs for us? Will the economy recover? When will I be able to hike my favorite trails? When am I going to get a hug from that special someone? And so on and so forth. Hopefully, by May 15th, we’ll be able to get back into some of our “normal” routines and activities — and it’s possible in this time we’ve realized that we took some of those things for granted and will appreciate the little things so much more when we get them back.
The world, and our “normal”, may never be the same again. The only thing in life that is constant is change. Most of us adapt really well, but this virus and the quarantine came in like Miley Cyrus on her wrecking ball and we didn’t have time to make a plan or adjustments. One day we were doing our thing and the next we’re locked up at home not knowing which end is up and the news media and our nation’s leader doesn’t seem to ease our fears but feed them instead.
So, how do we deal with this new normal while keeping our minds healthy and happy? Maybe it’s the suggestions of my doctor. Maybe it’s sitting down to work on creative projects that you’ve pushed aside. Maybe it’s limiting how much news you’re taking in. But, I think a huge help is knowing that you’re not alone in your feelings. We’re all scared and confused and dare I say it, going a little stir crazy. FaceTime and zoom calls do not fill our cups the way in person interaction does, however, that’s all we get right now. So maybe this is the time to learn how to let go of expectation and lean into acceptance. The more resistance we have toward changes, the more taxing it is on our mental health. Adaptation is the key to survival.
Think of one of the hardest situations you’ve been through and came out the other side a survivor. It will happen again with this. It’s just hard sometimes to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re going through it. But, like every time before, you’ve reached the light and you healed. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, know that it is situational and it will pass and it will pass quicker if we all heed the guidelines of social-distancing.
Take it one day at a time. Do things that make you happy. And if you’re struggling, reach out. There are so many wonderful people and organizations that are helping with mental health, financial crisis, and food sourcing. We’re in it together. You’re not alone.