5 Survival Tips for Maintaining Sanity in Quarantine: Adjusting to a New Normal

by Pamela Hadfield

OK, we have to agree that things have gone a little sideways. The world has been turned upside down by COVID-19, and many of us are having to adjust to a new normal. I live in CA, where Governor Newsom just announced a statewide shelter-in order for 8 weeks.

Being in a mandated quarantine, whether you're sick or not, is a new form of living. I'm working out of my tiny home, adjusting to 3 kids who are "online learning" and not seeing friends or extended family. When I go to sleep, I'm waking up wondering where things are going and how I'm going to keep a positive attitude. Some days, I just want to hide under the duvet cover, and that's OK; but life needs to carry on.

At least we're all in this boat together and I'm finding a lot of comfort and support from my network. After a lot of social memes, too much Facebook, and extended zoom chats, here are my survival tips for maintaining sanity during the quarantine:

Accept that You May Feel Overwhelmed by the Situation

Accept that this situation is outside of your control. You can raise your fist up at the sky and be angry that you've lost your job, you're fighting with your partner because you're locked up together in your house for days on end, or that the stock market has tanked. But, understand you're not in control of the situation, and that this situation is overwhelming.

It's OK be to overwhelmed, and you are not alone. For once, it seems like the world is experiencing everything together—we are ONE in this. This virus knows no barrier by race, religion, or creed. Psychology Today has some great tips on how to deal with the sense of being overwhelmed.

Stay Connected to Friends, Family, Society

I receive a newsletter from Dr. Steven Eisenberg, called the Daily Dose. He's full of great advice, grounded optimism, and welcomed wisdom. Today I read:

The most important thing is to connect.
Call. Write. FaceTime.
Have: Overwhelmingly positive 'socially distant' connectedness.
Make your words spread calmness.
Make them spread kindness.

Make them spread generous-heartedness.
Make them spread compassion.
The more loving-kindness-based connection you have, the less overwhelmed you'll be.

Get Outside or Do Online Exercise Classes

I'm fortunate to be surrounded by nature and a vast trail system, so I've been getting out and doing daily hikes with my dogs. I'm convinced that dogs are getting the best end of the stick when it comes to quarantine (pun intended). Getting outside in nature is a proven way to destress. Science Daily indicates within a new study that as little as 20 minutes in nature will reduce your hormone stress levels.

If you don't feel like going for a walk, we are now seeing the whole world shift to online, including exercise classes. I've been doing yoga online with two of my favorite teachers, Nat Kendall and Peter Walters. Yoga is a mind-body practice;  and has gotten me through the roughest patches of my life, so expect this period of time will be no different.

Take CBD Daily

Many years ago, I suffered from debilitating panic attacks. After starting a daily regime of CBD, they went away and I found myself feeling a sense of ease, for the first time in a long while. Every day, I take between 10-20 mg of CBD, and it really helps take away the edge when a situation arises, like an indefinite quarantine.

Some scientists believe that CBD works well at reducing anxiety, because of the way it interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain. The lack of serotonin may be a principle cause of anxiety and depression.

And CBD may act similarly to prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. This makes serotonin more available in the synaptic space (the space between neurons in the brain), increasing serotonin signaling.

Another way CBD helps some folks feel calm is because CBD blocks an enzyme called FAAH, or fatty acid amide hydrolase, which lowers the neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid called anandamide. Anandamide is also known as the bliss molecule because it imparts feelings of pleasure.

So, CBD helps boost levels of anandamide, because it blocks FAAH, an enzyme that breaks it down. This also means that besides lowering anxiety, CBD can help:

  • Relieve pain
  • Promote calm
  • Help induce sleep

Focus on the Small Things that Make You Smile

Right now, I'm doing my best to find things that will make me smile. Often this involves looking at silly videos on 9Gag or watching cat videos on YouTube. I particularly like the ones where cats see cucumbers. 

The interesting thing about smiling is that whether you feel happy or not, a smile can trick your brain into thinking you're happier. Michael Lewis, an expert on the subject says, 

"It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn't just restricted to our brain—there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we're having. It's like a feedback loop." 

So, for better or worse, in this moment, try to smile. 

Currently, I'm trying to stay off Facebook, as I am up on the news, and to be honest, my feed is a bit of a bummer. I'm finding that I need to better control what information is filtering into my brain, so I choose happy things: NOW.

My best well wishes and hugs to all of you out there during this difficult time. If there is one thing I know, things that go down, eventually go back up. Post COVID-19, I hope we've learned things about ourselves and that we'll choose to make a positive impact on the world around us, united as a global community.

Pamela Hadfield
Co-founder HelloMD/Daily Bonfire
Humanist, Friend, Advocate for Happiness