I think it’s safe to say that very few of us have ever experienced this level of disruption to our lives before. It’s stressful — there’s no denying it. The COVID-19 pandemic is completely new territory and we’re all trying to find our new normal amidst the rapid changes we are facing.
For me, these last few weeks have been disastrous to my routine, and as a result, my mental health has taken a dive. To put it plainly, I’ve been depressed, anxious, bored, lonely, and apathetic towards my health goals. Yikes — but I don’t think that’s uncommon, given our circumstances. At first, throwing out all routine and wallowing in misery was about the only thing I could accomplish. If that’s also your starting point, know that it’s okay. Grieving our loss of social freedom and routine is a necessary precursor to acceptance, so don’t beat yourself up over it.
Disruption to our routines can cause us to stop or limit the activities we normally enjoy and use to fuel our wellbeing (eating properly and exercising) and exchange them for activities that can make us feel even worse (stress eating, consuming more alcohol). If you were like me, and all routine and normal life went straight out the window, don’t worry. With a little creativity and structure, we can get back to a healthy state of being!
Try to get some clarity about what you’re feeling and why
This is really important. For me, negative thoughts and emotions were whizzing around and it was completely overwhelming. I became paralyzed into inaction. I wasn’t doing anything except worrying and going through countless rounds of “what ifs.”
The problem was I knew I was feeling “things” but my thoughts were murky and unclear. Please excuse the dramatics, but I felt like I was facing an unnameable cloud of impending doom and that made it really difficult to come up with a solution and a plan of action. To help, I went back to an old writing technique I learned in my postsecondary drama class (I’m dramatic for a reason) called stream of consciousness journaling.
Stream of consciousness journaling is a fancy way of saying — write down everything you’re thinking, feeling, and what comes to mind as it comes. No filter. It’s a messy brain dump of everything, and there’s no structure or right way to do it, so just let your raw internal dialogue spill onto the page. You might be surprised at how much better you’ll feel just by letting it out safely and constructively.
Once I had my own personal list down, I was able to sort it into what I had control over and what I didn’t have control over. This helped me decide what to spend my precious energy on — and guess what? My energy wasn’t going to be spent on aimless worrying anymore.
Give yourself some sort of schedule to follow — even if it’s more relaxed than you’re used to
Routines make us feel safe. They give us structure and predictability, making life simpler and more comfortable. As you may have noticed, life without routine is a lot more uncertain — especially if kids that were in school two weeks ago are now at home.
Creating some daily structure can reduce stress and increase our ability to cope. If you feel like your life has completely spiralled, here are some tips to creating your new routine.
- Make a list of all the things you have to do in a day. Don’t focus on the order yet — simply jot them down. No task is too small, so feel free to add things like brushing your teeth or showering. If you need a little help getting started, try asking yourself the following questions.
- What do I have to do to get ready for the day?
- What are the things I must complete each day? Is there a time they must be done by?
- What do I have to do to get the kids ready?
- What needs to be done to eat a healthy meal?
- What can I do to stay connected?
- What can I do that’s enjoyable?
- What can I do to get my body moving?
- What should I do to keep the house running smoothly?
- Assess your energy levels. What time of day do I perform tasks the best?
- Based on your energy level assessment, place tasks in an order you want to complete them.
Eating properly — even when it’s tempting not to
Most of us can identify with stress eating on some level. As an emotional eater, I turn to food for comfort when things get heavy. I’m not proud to admit it, but I can get trapped by a “why bother?” mindset, and I struggle with my inner saboteur who tempts me with permission to eat poorly when things get ugly. Breakup pints of ice cream sound familiar?
While going off the rails and eating all the carby junk food in the world (guilty!) will give you a temporary dopamine rush, the crash afterwards makes you feel even worse. Who wants to double down on stress while adding guilt, shame, and bloating to the mix? Not me — at least not anymore.
Although somewhat loosening your strict regimen might be necessary, given the availability of items in our stores, there’s no need to derail completely. There are many shelf-stable, Keto-friendly foods available online. We talk to our amazing Keto product companies daily, and they’re ready and waiting to help you keep your blood sugar balanced and avoid crashes and mood swings. This might be the perfect time to try new healthy comfort foods while treating yourself with something to look forward to. Keeping your morale up is critical when faced with so much uncertainty. To help you get started (or back on track) here are some of our favorite shelf-stable, low-carb foods.
Find new ways to get your body moving
Social distancing has dramatically reduced our levels of daily activity and it’s not just because the traditional places of exercise are closed. We’re no longer browsing the malls, shopping for groceries as often as we used to, or even walking to and from the car for work. I don’t know about you, but it seems like my main source of activity these days is taking extra trips to the fridge!
One trend we’re starting to see on social media is using FaceTime (or even Facebook live) to engage in physical activities with friends — everything from dance offs to doing Richard Simmons’ workout videos for a laugh. I’m not sure if I’m quite brave enough to Sweat to the Oldies in front of my Friends List, but there are other options to get your activity in using social media. There are tons of free YouTube workout videos for people of all fitness levels. If guided workouts aren’t your thing, you can throw on your favourite playlist and host a solo dance party in your living room or get extra vigorous sweeping and mopping the floor.
Get proper rest and sleep
Not only does getting the right amount of sleep reduce the amount of stress we experience, a solid snooze also prepares us to better manage stress. Here are some quick tips to getting a better night’s sleep.
- Avoid napping and caffeine in the evenings
- Keep your sleep/wake cycle consistent.
- Keep your bedroom slightly cool
- Avoid any light in your room
- Use your bed for sleeping (not reading, watching TV or using your phone, etc.)
If you’re having trouble unwinding before bed here’s a link to The 10 Best Sleep Apps you can download. Many of them are available for free.
Give yourself something to look forward to
One of my favorite quotations is “always believe something wonderful is about to happen” by Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon. It’s pretty easy to buy into that belief when things are going well. It’s not so easy when you feel like your world is crashing down around you. Anticipation is often a springboard to hope. When we find ourselves in less-than-ideal life situations, having something reliable and certain to look forward to can boost our morale and keep us optimistic. Studies show that having something to look forward to combats depression and gives us increased resilience to tolerate pain and frustration.
Here are a few ideas you can use to create a healthy sense of anticipation and boost that morale:
- Plan a special meal
- Plan a regular group chat with friends or family
- Plan your first outing after the outbreak
- Set a movie date with friends and watch together using FaceTime
- Host a virtual party using Zoom (they have an excellent free option that can host up to 100 people for 40 minutes)
- Leverage online learning tools to learn a new skill you’re interested in and set a day of the week to focus on it. Here are some of our favorite online learning tools.
Forbes just released a list of companies offering free services to help individuals cope during the coronavirus pandemic. Check it out — it’s got everything from health and fitness to entertainment and education.
Prepare without panic
By now, we’ve all seen the footage of empty store shelves and shopping carts loaded with toilet paper, sanitizer, and bottled water. While preparation is important and having a two-week supply of food and goods is recommended, panic purchasing isn’t doing anyone any favors. To prepare without panic, take inventory of what you currently have and estimate how long these supplies will reasonably last you. Once you have that as a starting point, you can make calm purchasing decisions based on your family’s needs.
Find balance between unplugging and staying connected
For obvious reasons, COVID-19 is the trending topic on social media and on your news apps right now. You can’t login without being bombarded with a million posts about it. While staying informed is helpful, consuming too much information isn’t good for your mental health. Try to limit the amount of time you spend consuming COVID-19 news to 20-30 minutes per day. Use the rest of your time interacting digitally with friends.
If you’re finding that all your conversations are pandemic related, tell your loved ones that you’re feeling burnt out from the topic and only have the bandwidth to chat about COVID-19 for 5-10 minutes today. After that 5-10 minutes is up, plan for a lighter topic, such as what you’re both reading or watching on Netflix. If your boundary isn’t being respected, take the time to unplug completely and do something else you enjoy.
Watch your substance use
Earlier in this post, I mentioned that disruption to our routines can cause us to increase our engagement in activities that aren’t good for us. Substances are used to varying degrees by people to celebrate, cope with boredom, manage stress, or even combat anxiety and depression. While partaking in the use of substances can appear to help initially, in the long run, they can make things worse. Monitor your substance use and if you’re finding that you’re consuming more often than usual, reach out and find other ways to manage your stress. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and is free, confidential, and available 24/7 365 days a year.
Be kind to yourself
The strategies listed here can take some time to implement. I encourage you to be gentle with yourself, and remember that this is your starting point. There will be moments where you may feel down or a bit out of control, and those are the moments to take a deep breath and give yourself some grace. We’re adjusting to a new temporary way of life, and even though we’re socially distanced, we’re all in this together!
P. S. Here’s a helpful article on how you can successfully implement changes to your lifestyle without getting overwhelmed: “How to Change a Habit and Optimize your Life”
If you’d like to receive a new selection of Keto friendly snacks to your doorstep each month, sign up for KetoKrate today!