How to Cope With Stress While You’re Stuck at Home

Last Update: September 28, 2023

Learning how to handle stress effectively should be in everyone’s quarantine survival strategy. We’ve all been forced into new routines, which means families are navigating school closures (and close quarters) and employees are working from home—not to mention the stress of the virus itself! Understandably, our monkey minds can quickly go from okay to panicky in a matter of minutes. So yes, it’s safe to say a majority of Americans are experiencing varying levels of stress these days. If you’re in that camp, today’s post should help. We reached out to Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Kate Cummins to get her take on the best ways to cope in the midst of a pandemic.

Embrace Your Social Network

We might be living in isolation at home, but it’s easier than ever to stay close with friends and family. Cummins says many of her patients have been coordinating a weekly social schedule via video chat platforms like Zoom or Skype. “Some clients set up family and friend time during the work day in the form of a 15-minute virtual coffee date, or during the lunch hour. It helps them feel connected and supported, even during the work day,” she said.

Carve Out Quiet Time

Living with our families or roommates 24/7 might lead to extra quality time, but it can also be challenging to recharge and manage our own emotions during the day. Cummins recommends creating a space called the “time alone zone”—a break spot anyone can use to decompress and recharge. “If you live in a very small space like some of my patients in big cities, you can make this space the corner armchair in the studio apartment, or even a closet,” she says. “Also, for moms and dads who are now working from home and sharing kid duties, the car is a nice option to get away for a break.”

As for what to do once you get into the zone, here are a few suggestions:

  • Listen to music
  • Drink a cup of tea in peace
  • Journal what you’re grateful for
  • Read a book

No matter how you choose to fill the time, Cummins emphasizes the importance of pressing your emotional reset button. “This can be done by giving yourself the space and permission to do something that makes you feel good.”

Mental Health Check

For people who were already managing depression or anxiety before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s essential to continue getting the support you need. “I’m seeing a lot of people experiencing increased symptoms of depression or anxiety due to the forced behavioral change that has been created by shelter-in-place orders,” Cummins shares.

Many of the things we used to do to lift our spirits, like going to shopping centers, hitting the gym, or meeting with a friend, aren’t possible now. Some of us may be processing anxiety in new ways like at-home workouts, virtual family gatherings, and online retail therapy.

“Those already dealing with depression have probably used the bedroom or home as a place of retreating when symptoms of depression start to increase. As a result, being stuck at home may feel a little similar to depression, even if the person isn’t actually feeling depressed,” she shares. “It’s important to be gentle with your thoughts during every hour of COVID-19. Productivity expectations prior to the pandemic should be softened so you can offer yourself more compassion during this time.” If needed, Tempest holds free virtual sobriety support meetings, and the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) helpline is always a resource (call at: 800-950-6264) as well as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (call at: 800-273-8255).

Sweat It Out

Home gyms and online fitness classes are booming thanks to the new world order. Many of Cummins’ clients have created new routines like walking around the block before starting work, during lunch, or in the evening. “This helps symbolize a boundary and can help prevent feeling like they have no ability to get away.” You can also connect with free workouts on Instagram and YouTube. Plus, many gyms are offering services from trainers.

More healthy coping strategies for stress

Here are some more ideas to help your time at home feel as supportive as possible.

  • Schedule a virtual happy hour with friends or family
  • Commit to moving your body at least once a day
  • Get dressed in workout gear in the a.m. to motivate yourself
  • Make a “Quarantine Playlist” comprised of songs that elevate your mood
  • Meet neighbors in the street (while maintaining social distancing)
  • Set a phone timer to check in with yourself throughout the day (or to spend time in the “time alone zone”)
  • Download a mindfulness app like Headspace or Calm

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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