A woman lying on a blanket next to her dog as she reads

I don’t need to tell anyone how different the world looks right now or emphasize how much uncertainty we’re living with. We’re all feeling it, individually and within our collective communities. 

My loved ones are spread out around the world. I’m not only attempting to stay up-to-date with the developments in my own area, but I’m constantly keeping an eye on what’s happening in the cities of those I care most about. Staying home worrying about loved ones is one of the biggest stressors for many people, especially if their work requires them to be out in the midst of this crisis while we’re locked away at home. It’s definitely got me feeling all kinds of helpless.

Recently, I caught myself pacing the house and anxiously scrolling through my phone as I awaited replies to equally anxiety-inducing messages. I grew frustrated at being trapped indoors, and then, I realized my behavior had a familiar ring to it. 

My dog has a tendency toward separation anxiety. It was a process in getting him comfortable with being alone and finding positive ways to reassure him that I was definitely coming home. A few of these tactics are benefitting me now in the midst of quarantine.

Find healthy ways to channel frustration and fear.

One of my dog’s worst responses to combat his anxiety was destruction. He had toys but became completely non-discriminatory about what he would destroy—from laptop cables to sunglasses, to clothes and, at one point, the hallway carpet. He wasn’t being naughty. He was just trying to distract himself from his anxiety. 

In times of stress, I too have a few destructive behaviors. I skip meals and exercise. I binge on Netflix. I spend too much time on social media, ruminate on negative scenarios and sleep late. All of these things compromise my emotional capacities to think and react calmly.

To stop my dog’s destructive behaviors, I found positive replacements. To combat my own, I’ve had to do the same. 

Being stuck at home means it’s easy to throw routines out the window. I’ve been trying not to do that. From sticking to mealtimes and workout regimes to finally mastering some new recipes, cleaning up the garden, reading and getting back into journaling. When I feel that anxious-destructive itch, I’m taking a moment to pause, breathe and re-focus on something that’s healthy instead.

I’m taking a moment to pause, breathe and re-focus on something that’s healthy instead.

It’s okay to voice all the feels.

When I used to get home from my day, my dog had no trouble having an honest conversation of playful barks and grumbles to let me know he was happy to see me. (Maybe he was telling me off. Who knows?)

I’m guilty of bottling up my anxiety and pretending things aren’t getting to me, but it only leads to a further spiral of anxious thoughts. I’m finding that owning and naming my emotions of worry, anxiety and frustration have helped those I love feel safe to share their feelings too without either of us feeling guilty. 

Practice a daily affirmation.

The best advice I got on helping my dog understand he wasn’t being abandoned was to use repetitive phrases. When I leave the house, I tell him, “Back soon,” and reaffirm to him when I get home, “I’m home.” In no time at all, when he sees me getting ready to leave, instead of going into a panic, he would sit in his bed and wait patiently. It became routine for him. He attached meaning to the words, and it helped calm his behavior. (Also, giving him a treat at the same time probably didn’t hurt!)

While scrolling through a plethora of Instagram posts, I came across a positive affirmation that read, “You are not ‘stuck’ at home, you are safe at home.” It really struck a chord with me. Now, when I’m starting to feel a bit caged and trapped, I’m learning to catch myself and replace the anxious thoughts with, “I am safe.”

I’m learning to catch myself and replace the anxious thoughts with, “I am safe.”

This realization of my own safety has actually been the most helpful for me with coming to terms with the new normal of quarantining and self-isolating. Reframing the situation from a place of reduction, frustration and loss to one of safety—for myself and those around me—has been deeply comforting. Adding a cookie each time certainly hasn’t hurt either.

What are some lessons you have learned throughout quarantine? How do you plan to apply them to your life going forward?

Image via Classy Girls Wear Pearls

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