Staying Sane While "Sheltering in Place"


This is an unprecedented time, which makes it easy to feel completely lost. Here are several tips on how to ground yourself and be intentional about your mental health during this crazy-making time!

  • Control what you can. Care for yourself and your community by washing your hands, practicing social distancing, and staying home if you’re sick.

  • Move your body. This is vital for coping with stress and - BONUS! - it helps strengthen your immune system. Stretch, go for a walk/run, find a yoga video on YouTube, or dance in your kitchen! Several workout programs are offering free online videos and free trials right now - here’s a list of some of them.

  • Be honest about your feelings and gentle with yourself. This is a worldwide tragedy, and it’s okay to feel despondent and terrified about it. But it’s also okay to feel disappointed that you didn’t get to celebrate your birthday or annoyed that you can’t take your kid to the zoo! This is a global experience but also a very personal one, and (as always) all emotions are valid. If you find yourself thinking you shouldn’t feel a certain way, remind yourself that there are no right/wrong emotions. Feeling guilty or shameful for having a certain emotion usually just makes everything worse.

  • Know yourself. Maybe you need to put on real pants (even if no one in your video call will see them) in order to keep from slipping into a depressed blob on the couch. On the other hand, maybe being able to wear yoga pants is the only small joy keeping you afloat! Your needs may be different than someone else’s during this time - take care of you in the way you need.

  • Seek out beauty, joy, and laughter. They may be harder to find right now, but they’re there. Look into what virtual tours are being offered of national parks, conservatories, gardens, and art museums. Identify the little things that bring you joy and relish them. Watch your favorite comedian and have a good laugh. It’s okay to laugh even when things are sad.

  • Maintain some kind of routine and sense of normalcy. Routine can help ground you in this time of chaos and uncertainty. How can you maintain pieces of your pre-COVID day or create new routines that you can depend on?

  • Practice mindfulness/living in the present moment. The future feels very uncertain right now. But really, the future is always uncertain - there are just some times we feel like we have more of a handle on it than other times. Anxiety and hopelessness feed on future thinking - stop giving them a feast! Try taking a few minutes every day to focus on your breath and the present moment. Here are a few resources for this:

Headspace App - they are offering some free content and discounts right now

3 Reasons You Haven't Tried Meditation (and Why You Should)

Stress Reduction: Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners

Mindfulness, Finding Peace in the Midst of a Storm

  • Stay connected to people. Isolation is dangerous in its own insidious way. Plan a virtual dinner date with a friend or a virtual group happy hour. Utilize the technology you have at your fingertips to maintain relationships and some sense of connection to the world outside your home.

  • Have boundaries around the news. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important to set up some boundaries around when/where/how often you check the news, Twitter, or the pandemic numbers. It’s all about controlling your consumption instead of letting it control you.

  • Seek out relaxation or activity - depending on what you need. This comes back to the know thyself point from earlier. If you tend to lean toward anxiety, seek out relaxation. Challenge yourself to take a bath, consume some magnesium or CBD oil, or veg out. If you tend to lean toward depression, seek out activity. Challenge yourself to connect with others, exercise, or clean your home. In a time like this, we need to be aware of our “default mode” and challenge it so we don’t get too stuck in it.

  • Get outside. Get fresh air and sunlight as often as you can in a way that feels reasonably safe to you.

  • Have boundaries around work. For many of us, work and home have suddenly been jumbled together. It’s important to keep some separation, even when everything is happening in the same space. Maybe it means you turn off your computer and notifications after a certain time. Maybe it means that when you finish work you have some kind of ritual where you leave the space as “work” and come back to the space as “home”. Keep firm to your boundaries and don’t let others push them - just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you should be expected to be available at all times.

  • Practice gratitude. It’s easy to focus on all the things that are hard right now. Each day can you notice one thing you’re grateful for?

  • A note to couples: Are you loving all this extra time you get to spend with your partner? Or are you feeling like if you have to spend one more minute with them you may lose it? Be (gently, kindly) honest about your need for closeness or space right now. During a scary time, we go into survival mode. For some this means extreme closeness and for others this means extreme distance. It’s important to find a healthy balance - come up with a plan together for how you can have both intentional time together and intentional time apart.

  • A note to parents: Chances are, you are feeling extra drained right now. You may be trying to manage work and your normal parenting duties (which is a lot already), with the added complexity of not having childcare or trying to also be your child’s teacher, friend, and whatever else they are missing right now. Cut yourself some slack! This is an extremely difficult situation and all you can do is your best. Make sure your expectations of yourself are fair/realistic. And cut your kids some slack too. They may not be able to express it well with words, but this is hard for them too. Remember this is temporary and take it one day at a time.

  • Talk to a therapist. This is a lot. It can be helpful to talk through it, as well as anything else it might be triggering and issues you’re dealing with that pre-date COVID. Please know, the therapy community is here for you during this time. Most therapists are offering video sessions and many insurance plans have committed to covering them during this crisis. Please find a therapist near you! If you need help finding someone, Psychology Today’s Therapist Finder is a great resource.

That’s a big list. It can be easy to read something like this and think “that all sounds great!”, and then continue living the exact same way. So, RIGHT NOW, choose 2 things from this list that you are going to start implementing over the next couple days. And then do them! Daily action leads to lifelong change.

What’s helping you stay sane right now? Share your ideas with others!

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© 2016 by Amanda Hofbauer

Tel: 312-857-6270

Amanda Hofbauer, MA, LMFT

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