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9 Fun Things You Can Do (Even in Self-Isolation) to Help Manage Your Anxiety

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Do I even have to say right now is the probably one of the most frightening times we’ve lived in since 9/11? The uncertainty, the lack of knowledge and mixed messages and onslaught of bad news due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), a new-to humans virus that causes respiratory infection and can lead to serious or fatal health complications, has sent even the calmest of folks into a tailspin. For those of us who are prone to anxiety, it has become very difficult to manage.

I could write a post about all the usual things you can do to help keep yourself calm: limit screen time and avoid the news, get outside for some fresh air, guided meditation and breathing exercises, phone a friend or video chat with a few, working out, limiting alcohol and avoiding overeating — all things that can certainly help with managing stress. If you struggle with anxiety, you probably know about all these things. You’ve probably tried some, if not all, of them.

All my life, I’ve dealt with anxiety. Believe me, I’ve tried all kinds of strategies to manage my symptoms when they threaten to take over. Today, I’ve got you covered with some creative, fun things you can do to distract yourself, make yourself smile and maybe ease some of your anxiety. What we’re dealing with right now isn’t one bit fun, but taking a break from all the bad news and stress to do something different just might help ease the pain a bit.

1. Jump around.

Do jumping jacks. Or burpees. Or jump rope. When you’re feeling anxious, do something that will get you moving and take you out of the moment. Anything that gets you to breathe deeply will help you avoid hyperventilating and take your focus off the anxiety.

2. Dance or sing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a bad dancer. Put on some fun tunes and shake your money maker. Sing along. Hook up the Wii and play Guitar Hero. We did this on Sunday and it was a blast! Guaranteed to make you smile, dancing, singing and/or jamming to some tunes will also make you sweat and give you a dose of endorphins, the body’s natural mood booster.

3. Stand on one leg and breathe.

I know, weird, right? But it’s really hard to balance without being mindful. That’s the whole purpose of this exercise. Or you could just do tree pose.

4. Give your anxiety a name.

I once saw a young patient in my clinic who came in with what was most likely gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). He told me he named it Frank. I thought that was brilliant! Why not do the same thing for your anxiety? Giving your anxiety a name can help deny the negative voices in your head.

5. Snuggle with a pet.

There’s a reason therapy dogs have become a thing for hospitalized patients and stressed-out students everywhere. Research shows petting a dog can actually lower your heart rate. I’ve always found the sound of a cat purring to be very soothing. And while you can’t pet a fish, watching fish in a fish tank can be soothing, too.

6. Color.

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. There is such a variety of options. I gave my nephew a People of Walmart coloring book for Christmas! Here’s one that’s perfect for now. I recommend colored pencils over crayons. I find it easier to stay in the lines with them. I also found this adult activity book with all kinds of fun things to do if you’re looking for a distraction.

7. Do a puzzle

Puzzles are all the rage right now, too. Building a puzzle helps you focus and take your mind off the anxiety. Don’t like jigsaw puzzles? Crossword puzzles, word searches, sudoku and other problem solving activities are also great tools for helping to relieve symptoms of anxiety.

8. Take a forest bath

Apparently, this is something I’ve been doing on my trail runs and I didn’t even know it. A forest bath is simply immersing yourself in nature. Going for a walk on the trails in the woods has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood. Works for me, every time. Just make sure you maintain proper social distancing.

9. Walk around barefoot outside.

Obviously, it would be preferable to do this in warmer weather. Walking around barefoot is a sensory exercise that puts you in the present moment. Of course, if it’s cold out or if there is snow on the ground, you’ll be way more focused on that sensation than on your anxiety.

Struggling with anxiety due to COVID-19? Check out the following articles from our community:

Getty image by juli-julia

Originally published: April 3, 2020
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