How to Stay Happy and Sane in the Time of the Coronavirus

How are you feeling at the moment? Anxious? Scared? Angry? If you answered one or all of the above, I want you to know that you’re not alone. A lot of us are definitely feeling distressed about the whole coronavirus situation. After all, it has really affected EVERYTHING – our lives, our livelihood, our health, our connections with other people, our minds, and our freedom!

Everyday, my heart breaks for people who have to go out there and bravely expose themselves to the virus as they do their jobs. These frontliners are the real heroes of our generation! They have families to worry about too, but they choose to fulfill their duties. Meanwhile, many of us are asked to do one thing: STAY HOME! That is our job, and it’s a very important job. A lot of us (myself included), especially those of us who are so used to being out and about all the time, might find it more challenging to stay indoors 24/7, but it’s such a small sacrifice to make to help flatten the curve. If you’re “stuck at home,” reframe your mindset and say “I’m blessed to be at home.”

In the face of this unsettling pandemic, I try to spread positivity through my social media posts. I hope this blog can also be a space where you can find some light and cheer as we all go through this very difficult time together. With that, I am sharing with you some suggestions on how to stay happy and sane in the time of COVID-19.

Now, I’m NOT saying you should be happy about COVID-19. All I’m saying is that in the midst of all this madness, you can still try to find the light in this dark situation, and that you can choose to look for the good in the bad.

Most of the activities I’ve listed here are things that I have been doing while I’m on community quarantine and things that have been working for ME so far. If they’re not your cup of tea, it’s totally fine. I don’t expect you to do all of them and I don’t expect you to agree with all of them. We are all different. We cope in different ways. We have different lifestyles, so what suits my lifestyle might not suit yours. So feel free to just pick whatever you like and discard whatever you feel isn’t for you.

1. Work on a passion project
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do that you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have time? Now, you can finally get it done! Throw yourself into a hobby that you love, an activity that you’ve been meaning to try, or a goal that you want to accomplish.

2. Catch up with loved ones
Who says you can’t socialize when you’re practicing social distancing? You can always find ways to stay connected to your loved ones, thanks to technology. “Hang out” with family and friends via video call. Cheer someone up by sharing uplifting messages, photos, or videos. In times like these, don’t underestimate the power of a simple “how are you?” When you check up on someone, it makes people feel that they’re remembered.

3. Write down your feelings
It is important to remember that all your feelings are valid. Do not apologize for feeling vulnerable. Whenever you feel upset, write it down. It may not solve your problems, but at least you get to release your thoughts and feelings, which makes you feel light and free.

4. Make a gratitude list
Everything seems to be going wrong right now, but how about counting your blessings instead? Keep an inventory of all the things that you are thankful for each day. Were you able to spend more time with your family? Great! Some people can’t even be in the same room as their family members and they can’t even hug their children! Do you have enough food on your table? Do you have Wi-Fi at home so you can at least kill the boredom and stay in touch with your loved ones? Most importantly, ARE YOU ALIVE AND WELL? There are SO MANY things to be grateful for, if you just look hard enough.

5. Breathe
One night, I found myself having a mini panic attack. I could feel my heart pounding through my chest and I couldn’t sleep so I paused and took long, deep breaths to relax. Inhaling and exhaling won’t solve your problems but it will at least distract you and calm you down.

Don’t forget to take deep breaths. 🙂

6. Meditate
We’re all aware that stress is bad for our health. It elevates our blood pressure, affects our sleep, increases the chances of heart attack, and weakens our immune system. It is important now more than ever to be healthy – both physically and mentally. Meditation allows you to slow down, quiet your mind, and palliate your stress by helping you manage your thoughts. Set aside as little as 3-5 minutes a day to practice mindfulness and give yourself some moments of peace. I personally recommend the Headspace app. It’s free to use but you do need to pay to unlock extra courses. To support its users through this crisis, they are offering a series of special meditations for free in their ‘Weathering The Storm’ collection. They are also offering free access to Headspace Plus for all US healthcare professionals, as well as free resources for work and for educators.

7. Work out
Exercising helps you release endorphins (happy hormones) so go ahead and get moving! You can work out in the comfort of your own home FOR FREE!

You can download the Nike Training Club app, go on Fitness Blender, or check out PopSugar Fitness and Yoga with Adriene. You can also see which local yoga studios offer free online classes. In the Philippines, there’s YogaPlus, OneLife Studio, and I Go Beyond Yoga.

If you have kids, involve them in your workout! There are lots of fun exercises you can do with your children, and the best part is, they’re all free on Youtube! If you have toddlers, they might enjoy Cosmic Kids Yoga because it’s a mix of yoga, storytelling, cartoons, costumes, and lots of fun elements. Based on experience though, my 2-year old might be too young for this. She gets distracted by the cartoons and ends up just wanting to watch instead of exercising! She does love workouts with a lot of upbeat music and fast movements though.

8. Get some sun and fresh air
Sunshine is actually good for the immune system, so try to get your daily dose of Vitamin D if you can. This can be a little challenging for condo-dwellers who don’t have access to a park or a garden, or those living in places without access to a nice pathway or neighborhood to stroll around in. What I do is to just open our windows and soak in the sun from there and let the breeze come in. It’s not much but it can really work wonders on your sanity and well-being if you’re having cabin fever. Also, with the earth healing from pollution, the air is so much fresher and the skies are so much clearer. If you haven’t noticed that, it’s time to look outside and appreciate nature.

9. Watch movies and TV series
This is really one of the best ways to amuse AND distract yourself. Now is the time to bust out the popcorn or chips and ‘Netflix and chill.’ Feel-good movies or shows might be more suitable for you if you’re more prone to having anxiety attacks. I don’t watch K-dramas, but a lot of my friends say that watching K-dramas are a sure-fire way to make you feel happy. (Am I the only person in the world who’s not watching Crash Landing On You yet? I’m so uncool!)

10. Read
Instead of wasting time on social media, why not read something that will add value to your life instead? This is a good time to catch up on all the books you’ve been meaning to read. Scribd makes staying at home more fun by giving readers FREE access to their digital library of books and articles for one whole month, while Audible offers free audio books for kids who are stuck at home during this self-isolation period. Take advantage of this because an Audible subscription normally costs $14.95/month!

11. Experiment in the kitchen
Is it just me or has this home quarantine suddenly turned everyone into an instant chef?! All of a sudden, I see everyone posting their home cooking recipes online. Cooking, baking, or preparing food is definitely a fantastic way to fight off boredom. Even if you don’t have a pantry stocked full with ingredients, and most of your main dishes are made with canned goods and instant noodles, you can still get creative and challenge yourself to whip up interesting dishes. Share your recipes with friends and family. They’ll surely appreciate your meal ideas!

12. Tidy up and organize your home
Keeping your home clean is not only essential in ensuring your place is germ-free (which is very important these days!), but it’s also therapeutic. Having a neat home instantly makes you feel light and peaceful. Organize your wardrobe or sift through your stuff to see which ones spark joy and which ones you can live without. If cleaning your home seems overwhelming, the trick is to break it down. Do one part of the house first, then do the rest some other day. (Example: Clean the bedroom on Monday, then the bathroom on Wednesday, then the living room on Friday).

A clean home is therapeutic!

13. Stay close to God
Being in a situation that we cannot control makes us feel helpless and restless. But knowing that we have a God who IS in control can somehow assuage our fears and give us a feeling of hope and some reassurance that everything will be okay. Spend a few minutes each day talking to God and cast your worries on Him. I found that listening to worship songs on Spotify puts me at ease. I also read devotionals online, such as my Our Daily Bread and Proverbs 31 (which is written by women for women).

Since we are unable to physically go to church, I ‘attend’ online worship services instead. My church, Victory Christian Fellowship, as well as other Christian churches like Christ Commission Fellowship and Favor Church, also hold live online worship services on their Facebook accounts. If you can’t commit to the live session, the live streams are uploaded so you can watch the replay.

14. Help out
The world needs a little extra kindness right now. People need food, water, and supplies. Healthcare workers have a scarcity of medical gear needed to carry out their job. And not everyone has the means to support themselves financially during these trying times. YOU can do something! Look for a charitable institution that accepts donations, or why not organize a fund-raiser yourself? If money is a little tight right now, you can share your talents instead. What are you good at? Use your gifts to give back to the world. Some of my contacts who are fashion designers or owners of clothing brands made some washable and reusable face masks. Artists like Chris Martin of Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, John Legend, and many others staged free virtual concerts to inspire people through their music. All sorts of people – whether they’re celebrities, influencers, or just regular people – are using their social media platform to spread relevant information that could be beneficial to others. There are many ways to contribute, and it’s not how much or what you give that matters, but your sincerity in giving.

15. Support local businesses
The coronavirus pandemic has truly taken a toll on almost all industries, but it’s the small businesses that are really suffering. We can help them stay afloat by supporting them in our own little ways. If you need to stock up on your fresh produce, you can try ordering from companies that support local farmers or wet market stall owners. You can purchase gift certificates from some local businesses and use them or give them as a gift whenever possible. Once in a while, you may also have food delivered from local restaurants. This way, you can help the restaurant staff keep their jobs. We still order from McDonald’s and Foodpanda when I don’t feel like cooking.

16. Practice self-care
Pampering yourself at a time when there are more pressing issues to worry about sounds like such a luxury, and a trivial one at that. But pampering yourself can be something as simple as having a nice bath! Yes, people, you SHOULD still take a bath even if you’re not going anywhere! If scented candles are your thing and you have them in your home, light them up. Have a DIY facial and put on a face mask (not the kind you use to shield yourself from the virus!). Ditch the ratty shirt for something that makes you look and feel a little more ‘human.’ Bottom line is to do something that will make you feel good (or at least a little better) about yourself.

17. Work (or do something work-related)
If you still have your job and are being compensated justly for it, consider yourself very, very blessed. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job right now.

However, if you lost your job, or if your business has been badly hit, there are still ways to be productive. You can try looking for remote work or a side hustle you can do from home while waiting for things to go back to normal. You can also use this time to beef up your resume, online professional profile (such as LinkdIn), or your Facebook business page.

18. Learn a new skill or hobby
You can also develop yourself professionally by improving on your craft and learning new skills that are helpful in your career or business. You can take an online course or learn how to use technology to market your skills (such as by creating a blog or vlog).

You can also dabble into a new hobby just for fun. Whether it’s learning how to cook or trying your hand at playing a musical instrument, just do something for the sheer enjoyment of it.

19. Play
Don’t be too serious! Make time for being silly too! Play board games if you have them, or have a tickle-fest with your kids. No matter how bad things might seem, don’t forget to inject a bit of fun and laughter in this tough situation.

20. Organize your photos
If you take a million photos, it’s time to start organizing those snapshots! Back up those precious digital keepsakes – something we should all be doing anyway in case your memory cards or phones do get busted because of a virus (and I’m not talking about the coronavirus). If you have lots of hard copies of your photos, collate them in an album. Looking at old photos (or just any photos in general) makes us nostalgic and brings us back to those happy memories, so we start feeling happy too!

21. Plan your (future) vacation
Traveling is probably the last thing you should be doing right now – and you probably can’t anyway – but who’s stopping you from daydreaming about your future holiday? Think about where you want to go when this is all over, look for beautiful photos of your chosen destination, create an itinerary, and visualize your dream vacation. Having something to look forward to makes us optimistic and excited about our future.

Who else is dreaming of going on a holiday right now?

22. Stop watching the news (or limit your exposure to the news)
It’s important to always stay informed but if all that bad news is consuming you and affecting your mood and mental health adversely, it’s time to STOP (or at least watch less of it). Sometimes, what we see, hear, or read about is sensationalized, and these things just become noise – something that we do not need more of now. If you’re afraid that you’ll be missing out on important information, you can join groups of credible information sources, such as the DOH PH COVID-19 group on Viber, PH Coronavirus Updates group on Telegram, or The World Health Organization (WHO).

23. Go on a social media detox
Social media can be a great source of information and entertainment, but it can also be a source of stress, what with all the fake news, fear-mongering, and general negativity. Ask yourself: “How is social media making me feel right now?” And if you can honestly say that it’s not making you feel good, it’s time to take a little break from it. Life is already hard as it is, and you don’t need more drama or cynicism in your life. If you absolutely cannot go cold turkey, no problem. You can still go on it but just enforce some rules (e.g. “I will only check Facebook and Instagram for 30 minutes everyday” or “No more scrolling after 10:00 PM”). You may also want to follow Instagram accounts that spread positivity and cheer, such as @upworthy, @humansofnewyork, @positivelypresent, @thehappynewspaper, @tanksgoodnews, @theoatmeal, and @notsalmon, or watch videos of babies and cute animals.

24. Take it one day at a time
A friend once told me: “The secret to a happy life is to take it one day at a time.” Let’s just try to get through the day! Of course, we should plan our next steps and think of contingency plans for the future, but we shouldn’t overthink to the point wherein we fail to enjoy the present anymore. Just take each day as it comes, live it, and before going to bed, you can give yourself a pat on the back because you survived the day.

25. Cut yourself some slack
If you weren’t able to do anything in this list, or if you feel like you’ve been failing at something, just relax and don’t be too hard on yourself. Now is not the time to beat yourself up over productivity or perfection. It’s fine to feel guilt or disappointment, but once you’re done feeling them, let those feelings go and move on. I did say that the world needs kindness right now, but you should be kind to yourself too!

Looking forward to better days.

Just keep in mind that you are most definitely allowed to have your moments of panic, worry, and sadness. You are entitled to have your moments of weakness. But you also have the right to be happy, and happiness is something you CAN create. We may be in a situation that we cannot control, but you CAN control your response to it. While you are looking after your physical health right now, please don’t neglect your mental health too!

Hang in there! We’ll get through this.

 

Was this list helpful to you? Or do you have any more ideas on how to stay happy and sane during this time? How are you coping everyday? Comment below! 🙂

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