5 Tips for Managing Anxiety During Quarantine
Anxiety is one of the most common, difficult things we deal with as humans today.
Throw a pandemic and quarantine on top of it? It feels like throwing water into an already-swirling sea we can’t get out of.
The unfortunate reality is uncertainty. We don’t know how long this will last. When it does end, we know things will never be the same.
That doesn’t mean uncertainty over whether or not we’ll be OK. We are in this together, and we will be OK!
But we know things must change for the betterment and health of our planet & its beings.
Still, it isn’t easy. Anxiety can be relentless. Hopefully these trauma-informed suggestions can provide some relief.
1. Consistency with needs and health
Even though daily routines likely have changed drastically, stay consistent with your needs. This is especially true for health-related needs (although all of our needs contribute to overall health).
If dealing with chronic illness, depression, anxiety, or other medical issues, keep the same routine for your medications, supplements, herbs, and other things that manage your condition.
If struggling with access to these resources, reach out to someone for help.
When using cannabis and CBD, remember that consistency is key with the endocannabinoid system. Don’t feel ashamed if you need extra cannabis at this time! Our adrenaline is pumping. Our nervous systems are regularly in “fight or flight”.
Extra herbs, extra soothing, extra ANYthing you need is completely understandable. Do it.
2. Nervous system regulation
Our nervous system informs our body how to act. It decides what to do and not to do. It controls how we connect to ourselves and other people. In other words, a regulated nervous system is VITAL for our health.
Currently, we are collectively experiencing trauma. Trauma can put our nervous system (and thus, body) into a fight, flight, or freeze response. This happens when we don’t feel safe. This time can be particularly triggering for those with past trauma.
When we go into these responses, our body partially shuts down important processes like immunity and digestion. This is the sympathetic nervous system: we’re alert, tense, and ready for danger.
Our ventral vagal nerve is our body’s safe and social state, where we properly digest food, relax, and healthily interact. This state is activated through regulation, which includes self-regulation and co-regulation.
Regulation is activated through connection: with yourself, nature, animals, people, or anything that brings presence to the body and moves away from old patterns.
Self-regulation can include spending time barefoot in the grass (earthing), sleep, meditation, journaling, music, creative activities, and more we explore below.
The sun and nature are strong self-regulation tools. If possible, try to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day. Our skin produces vitamin D in response, well-known for helping inflammation, anxiety, depression, nutrient absorption, & blood pressure.
Coregulation is the practice of communicating safety between nervous systems. This includes fur babies, but we can still co-regulate with each other while social distancing. Kindness, patience, small thoughtful acts, eye contact, smiles, words of love, reassurance, hygienic physical touch, intimacy, pleasure, video chats, emails or letters, audios - get creative!
We are wired for connection.
Research shows CBD can also help drop into the ventral vagal nerve!
It’s common for us to check social media first thing in the morning, often before we get out of bed.
Think of it like this: social media is like a party.
Before you go to a party, you take care of your needs first. You’re properly nourished and rested. When you get to the party, you meet many people who feel many things. You’re able to interact healthily because you took care of yourself first.
Our nervous systems are wired to sync with each other. When we start the day browsing Instagram in bed, it’s the equivalent of immediately rolling out of bed and going to a party. You see everyone in your feed, who all feel various things. You take this all in. Your nervous system starts trying to sync with theirs.
This all happens before you get up. Before you see how YOU and YOUR body feels. Start the day by checking in with yourself first.
3. Physical connection
Connect with your body.
A huge way we regulate and manage anxiety is through physical connection. Getting out of the head and in the body. This means SO many things! What matters taking time to be present with your body. Engage in activities that help you better listen to its needs.
Again if possible, try to exercise outside. If you don’t have access or it isn’t what your body wants, consciously exercising daily still gets us physically present. It also has a wide-range of researched, positive health effects, like improved mood, stress, metabolism, sleep, brain function, pain, & muscle/bone strength.
“Exercise” is different for each body. What works best for one may not for another, especially if dealing with chronic illness.
If able, spend at least 30 minutes every day doing something physical. If 30 minutes feels overwhelming, start with 5 minutes. You can work your way up to longer or not!
What gets your heart racing and adrenaline pumping in a healthy way? What brings joy and deepens your breathing? What builds strength and endurance safely for your specific body?
Various examples include but aren’t limited to:
- Jumping jacks
- Singing or creating music
- Tai chi
- Krav maga
- Gentle, mindful movement
- Deep breathing
Other ways to physically connect in moments of anxiety are cleaning, organizing, baking, and cooking.
Movement and exercise build strength through stress. However, that stress doesn’t need to be harmful. The endorphins and cannabinoids our body creates during exercise are intentionally healing.
Whatever movement is best for you right now is right. Listen to your body and let it tell you.
Loving self-touch is an incredible way to connect. The way we touch lovers is almost sacred. The sweetness & intimacy cultivates closeness. When we touch ourselves in a trusted way, it cultivates the same closeness with our body.
Yes, this can mean masturbation! Orgasms boost feel-good neurochemicals in the brain, like dopamine & oxytocin, which means it’s a great stress-reliever. It’s also been shown to help sleep, libido, brain health, and blood flow.
But self-touch doesn’t just mean masturbation. It can simply mean touching your cheek or grazing your arm the way you would a lover. Taking a sensual photo of yourself. Slowly moving to music while your hands roam your body. Giving yourself hugs.
This grateful mindfulness helps cultivate pleasure, which is vital for our health.
Engage the senses
Do something that activates any or all of the 5 senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight.
Take a hot shower and let the water beat over your head as you deep breath.
Put an ice pack on the back of your neck or forehead.
Make and savor a delicious meal, noticing each specific flavor.
Spritz your favorite perfume or diffuse your preferred essential oil.
Listen to/play music that soothes or uplifts you.
Draw, color, or paint.
Drink a glass of water.
Run your hands under cold water.
Do deep breathing exercises.
Notice what you find beautiful. Enjoy looking at it!
4. Mental distractions
Distractions get a bad rap because, well, they’re distractions! But distractions can healthily self-regulate and release anxiety, especially when stuck in a spiral or panic attack.
When able, we revisit what we needed to avoid. Sometimes that isn’t necessary because we recognize our fear wasn’t based in reality.
In heightened, inescapable moments of stress, distractions can bring our bodies out of “fight or flight” by no longer putting gas on the flames. The gas is our attention. The flames are our anxiety.
Some distraction methods include:
- Television & movies
- Video games & other games
- Arts & crafts
- Reaching out to safe loved ones
Some mindful games when anxious/in a panic attack include:
- ABC game: name everything in a category starting with the first letter of the alphabet (ie. cities, names, colors, food. “Apple, bread, carrots, etc”)
- Describe everything in detail about a nearby object
- 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique: List 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, & 1 thing you can taste
- Mantras (ie. “I am safe, I am loved, I am allowed to feel joy)
5. Gut health
Research discovered our guts create 90% of our serotonin! Over 70% of our immune system is located here too.
Stress directly impacts our guts, and vice versa. The gut and microbiome communicate with the brain constantly. Our gut lining is very thin, easily compromised and inflamed by stress, poor nutrition, & excess antibiotics. Gut inflammation spreads quickly to our brain, which can irritate a host of problems - anxiety and depression included.
So what we put into our stomachs helps determine our stress levels, even if we don’t realize it. To maintain optimal mental health and immunity, we need to eat gut-healthy foods.
This includes fresh, whole foods, vegetables, and fruits. If you eat meat or eggs, sustainably-produced and organic is ideal.
Some shelf-stable gut-healthy food options are:
- Sweet potatoes
- Nut butter
- Coconut milk
- Plant-based protein powders
- Grass-fed collagen/gelatin
- Nutritional yeast
- Spaghetti squash
- Sweet peas
Everyone’s body and needs vary. Don’t feel shame for what you need or feeling “different”.
Do what you can, when you can, with what you have. We will get through this. As individuals and a community.Written by Erica DeLoach for Cannapride