Initially, I didn’t care about COVID-19. After all, there was only one confirmed case in Nigeria. “Besides, it’s like the flu and it doesn’t affect young people,” I remember telling a friend four weeks ago. But, so much has changed since then.
Right now, I’m in quarantine and it seems like the world is a horror movie.
On the first day of the quarantine, life seemed pretty much the same. I performed some of my “pre-quarantine” tasks. However, like a predator waiting patiently for its prey, the next days ambushed me. The constant consumption of information, panic in the media, and the indefinite pandemic left me in the blues.
After writing two COVID-19 related articles, I wanted nothing but to lay on my bed and wish this could end with a magic wand. I struggled to return to my normal state. Each day was hellish as I anticipated the worst news from the media. I wanted to get back to writing, but my mind was like a blank paper, I couldn’t come up with anything.
The camel’s back broke when the sad reality dawned on me – I can’t achieve most of my set goals until the pandemic is over. This new reality flooded me with emotions that I held back for months. Thoughts accelerated in my head. Consciously, I wanted to slow down the thoughts, but my subconscious had the upper edge. My thoughts rushed faster than I could control. I breathed in gasps while my heart hammered in my chest. For seconds, I felt I was passing out. But it stopped. The panic stopped, and I slept that night feeling emotionally numb. I could not tell my parents as they are the typical conservative Nigerian parents who would rather “pray” about a problem, than “talk” about it.
Waking up the next day, I decided it was time to deal with anxiety. After reading several guides and the personal experiences of others, the first step was to consume less information. Luckily, I discovered Refind (an app that brings you only relevant news). Also, I use my phone’s downtime feature to limit my social media consumption. Not only has this freed my time, but it has also given me the chance to focus on what matters. I use the free time to maintain my pre-quarantine routine except for the ones that require me to go outside. If there is anything my experience taught me, it’s that not only do we need social distancing in this period, we also need news/information distancing.
While it’s vital to stay updated, consuming every information only heightens panic and anxiety.
As someone who loves being a free bird, the lockdown seemed like a “trap.” This perception did more harm than good. Fortunately, I’ve reframed my initial perspective. Rather than perceiving the lockdown as a “trap”, I see it as a “chance for me to stay at home and focus on myself.” An opportunity I lacked until now.
Before the outbreak, I never had the chance to focus on myself. I had emotional baggage that I didn’t pay attention to. I pushed people away whenever they attempted to love me. Sometimes, I felt empty. Alas, I was too “busy” to heal. I was obsessed with checking off goals on my list. But in the face of the real enemy, Coronavirus, none of the glamorous positions, certifications, or metrics matter. The present goal is to survive. The beauty of wanting to survive is that it allows us to focus on the neglected aspects of our lives. For me, self-focus means emotional healing and building my self-awareness. This new perspective puts me at ease.
The beauty of wanting to survive is that it allows us to focus on the neglected aspects of our lives.
Sometimes, the best way to resist a problem is to embrace it. The same applies to anxiety. Rather than resisting negative thoughts, I write them down. When I’m not writing these thoughts, I create helpful resources to help people in this period. People need support. While I don’t have millions of dollars to donate, the best I can offer is positivity. By adding positivity to people’s lives, I feel better and more optimistic.
Sometimes, the best way to resist a problem is to embrace it. The same applies to anxiety.
Right now, the typical spa and idyllic getaways self-care are impossible. But who said self-care has to be fancy or time-consuming? So far, my quarantine self-care is adequate sleep, meditation (with the breathing app), reading, dancing, and a 2-hour daily unplug from technology. I also use the excuse to get foodstuff at the grocery to spend some time in nature.
In between these activities, I maintain communication with my friends and loved ones. I’m not one to keep in touch, but this quarantine has improved my communication skills faster than I thought. If permitted, loneliness can heighten anxiety. So, keeping up with my friends is my way of combating loneliness. I’ve facetimed more people this month than the last two months combined.
I don’t know how long this lockdown will last. But while staying safe, I hope to maintain my sanity.
Likewise, you have a role in contributing to “flattening the curve”. While contributing your quota, ensure you don’t lose your mental health to the claws of isolation. I hope some of these shared tips help you in dealing with anxiety as the world battles the pandemic. I implore that we pay more attention to our mental health when this is over.