It’s been about six months since the world went into lockdown, prompting global quarantine mandates and spurring an era of social distancing rules that changed our lives entirely.
This bizarre new world is what most experts agree is the “new normal,” and adapting to it as best we can is key to overcoming the challenges associated with it. However, accepting sudden and upsetting life changes is no small ask. Our futures have suddenly become nebulous. Scary, upsetting events occur every day, and it feels like we’re constantly being bombarded with bad news from every outlet we have access to.
So how do we stay positive despite it all?
To start, know that if you are experiencing overwhelmingly negative thoughts, you’re not alone. Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, research pointed to evidence that social isolation can take a serious toll on a person’s mental and physical health. It is completely normal to feel anxious, fearful, or negative about the situation. That said, if you feel that your thoughts are overwhelming or interfering with your daily life, seek help from trained health professionals.
Staying positive, no matter how dire straits may seem, will see us through any crisis. Here are a couple of strategies for maintaining a positive outlook in quarantine.
Stick To The Script
In a world that’s always in flux, building a routine and sticking with it is a common strategy for fighting off negative thoughts. Routines enable our brains to feel a sense of control. They add a predictable rhythm to our days, helping to ease stress and anxiety. Examples of a routine include creating a structured morning regimen (i.e. waking up at 8 and reading for 30 minutes before beginning the day), developing an exercise routine, and planning meals in advance.
Sticking to a solid sleep schedule is also important for keeping negativity at bay. As mysterious as sleep is, we do know that it has the ability to greatly impact our moods. Poor quality or too little sleep can stir up negative emotions like irritability and anger. It may also lessen your ability to cope with stress. Alternatively, getting enough rest can allow you to cultivate a more positive life outlook.
If you feel your negative thoughts are starting to take over, examine how you’ve been sleeping and try to adjust. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, create an evening routine that signals to your brain that it’s time to rest. This should include turning screens off at least an hour before bedtime; blue light from our screens can trigger your brain to stay alert long after it should be shutting down for sleep.
Easy Does It
Care and compassion are always welcome remedies to crises. Just be sure that you’re also directing that care and compassion inwards.
When faced with challenging circumstances, it can be easy to let automatic negative thinking take over. An example of automatic negative thinking is making “should statements” — I shouldn’t be so easily distracted, I should have exercised today, I shouldn’t have eaten that pint of ice cream.
Thinking in terms of “should statements” places emphasis on negative self-judgment versus positive self-compassion. We’ll bet that many of us have been making more “should statements” than usual, because we’re comparing how we used to function before quarantine with how we function during quarantine. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Sure, you might have been able to wake up at six, hit the gym, go to work, and eat three healthy meals every day pre-COVID. But because the circumstances have altered so greatly, you now may only be getting one workout in a week and ordering delivery every night. Recognize that you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with. Showing yourself compassion and kindness rather than negatively judging yourself can help you maintain a positive outlook in quarantine.
Self-care is also an important aspect of staying positive. Whether that means indulging in skincare, taking long baths, shutting your phone off, or eating Oreos for dinner, make sure to do what feels good to you. Allow yourself to truly enjoy it, guilt-free. (You’re living through a global pandemic, among other crazy life events. You deserve it!)
Humans are inherently social creatures. Unfortunately for us, social distancing mandates we keep our distance from people. But that doesn’t mean we can’t build and maintain the connections that keep us feeling safe and supported.
Check in regularly with friends and family via video chat or phone. If you’re able to meet them outside for a socially distanced picnic or hike, even better! You can also find resources for connecting with people via online happy hours and workout classes, to name a few. And if you’re looking for a bit of spice in your life, online dating is having its heyday — why not head over to Hinge or Bumble to see what all the buzz is about?
Staying positive in quarantine will ultimately require some grit and determination, but nothing is impossible. For more resources on staying positive in quarantine, check out the articles below.