Lifestyle

Feeling Anxious? Give Your Brain a Routine

Plus 12 other easy mental health tricks to help you stay happier during quarantine

Looking for ways to boost your mental health during quarantine? The new normal is starting to weigh on many of us. We turned to nutrition psychologist Dr. Nicole Lippman-Barile and Natalie Levy, founder of ShesIndependent.com, and they did not disappoint. Their recent event in our online community — “Invest in your Mental Health, Especially in Quarantine. Perspective, Nourishment & More” — was an amazing deep dive, complete with a group breathing exercise. (Want to try it yourself? Join our online community to watch the video!) Here are their top 13 tricks to help you cope with quarantine.

1. Recognize grief. “A lot of this pandemic and a lot of what we’re going through in this isolation, it really does parallel grief in many ways. There was initially denial; hopefully you get to acceptance, and then there’s a power in acceptance, right? There’s a power in that control.” — Natalie

2. Don’t be a perfectionist. “This is not necessarily a time for optimization or perfectionism. This is more of a time of let’s try to do the best that we can in the circumstances that we can. Just try to do your best in terms of the choices that you’re actually making for yourself. A little bit does actually go a long way.” — Nicole

3. Eat well. “It’s the building blocks to everything, and it significantly affects our mental health and our mental wellbeing.” — Nicole

4. Prioritize sleep. “Trying to focus on sleep as much as you can. Sleep is hugely impactful when it comes to our mental health. And when it comes to being able to manage stress, we are much more emotionally vulnerable when we are lacking sleep and quality sleep.” — Nicole

5. Meditate. “I’m encouraging all of my patients at this time to really have some sort of meditation practice. It really teaches us how to be observant of our thoughts and not necessarily stuck to them or participating in them. We’re going to have difficult thoughts and emotions at this time, but if we are aware of why they are happening and when they are happening, we are much more apt to make a good choice about what we want to do about it.” — Nicole

We’re going to have difficult thoughts and emotions at this time, but if we are aware of why and when they are happening, we are much more apt to make a good choice about what we want to do about it.”

— Dr. Nicole Lippman-Barile

6. Identify your support system.She’s Independent and The Riveter are two great support systems, but it’s even just connecting with your close family and friends. I know we can’t see people right now, but connecting with some level of consistency with them virtually is really important right now as well.” — Nicole

7. Establish a routine. “Think about it from this perspective. We don’t like uncertainty; we don’t like not feeling grounded or not feeling rooted, and part of that has to do with unpredictability … when you create a routine, you’re setting up a behavioral habit that tells your mind what to expect when. So if you wake up around the same time every day, and if you have your breakfast around the same time every day or you do some physical movement or exercise around the same time every day, that really helps your brain get centered. It garners a sense of self mastery, and also helps reduce our levels of anxiety sort of in a general sense.” — Nicole

[Establishing a routine] really helps your brain get centered. It garners a sense of self mastery, and also helps reduce our levels of anxiety in a more general sense.”

— DR. NICOLE LIPPMAN-BARILE

8. Make an impact. “I know [living a meaningful and purposeful life] can be tricky at this time, because we’re technically limited by what we’re potentially able to do. But if you do something that creates a sense of purpose or meaning, that gives you something in that moment that other things don’t necessarily give you.” — Nicole

9. Boost your immune system. “I think that our society here really relies on Western medicine a lot. But there’s also Eastern medicine and an integrative approach to healthcare [to explore], as well as immune-boosting supplements or vitamins.” — Natalie

10. Try to live in the present. “If you’re worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what’s going to happen in a month, or Oh my gosh, look what I didn’t do a month ago, it’s just not healthy for your mind. You can think about how to do better or how you might learn from things, but if you’re not focused on the present, you are going to get lost in thought and not be able to change anything. It’s really important to connect with what you can do today and what state your mind is in.” — Natalie

11. Work on your breathing. “There are lots of different kinds of breathing exercises out there, but a really super simple one is just to breathe in for a certain count and breathe out for a certain count. That helps create some regulated, controlled breathing and that automatically triggers our physiological response to start relaxing. That’s our parasympathetic response.” — Nicole

12. Be mindful. “This is using rational coping statements to challenge some of your irrational thinking. Right now, you could be catastrophizing — thinking about the worst thing that could happen. This is one of the cognitive techniques that we use in cognitive behavioral therapy, [to think through] the questions you can ask yourself, like What’s the probability that that’s what’s going to happen to me? Or What are the chances that this is going to happen? Have I gone through something like this before where I felt really uncertain, really scared? How did I cope with this and did I get through it?

13. Create calming sensory experiences. “This can be extremely helpful in the moment when we’re feeling an acute sense of stress. Whether it’s a hot cup of tea that you like, or a nice fuzzy blanket that you like to wrap yourself up in, a scented candle that you like, something that really connects you. It will help calm the system and snap you back into the present, which is a huge thing that we really need right now.” — Nicole

The pair also answered member questions, such as:

  • Is there any research around the cognitive drain experience because of Zoom? Why are all of these Zoom meetings so exhausting?
  • In times of stress, I’m consciously aware of an increase in my subconscious apathy toward my situation. Is this something I should be concerned about as a defense mechanism? Should I be more intentional about connecting with my feelings?
  •  Is it possible for this pandemic to tip someone into OCD?

Watch the whole presentation — and try the guided breathing exercise yourself! — by joining our online community today.