For the past month, I have worked hard on staying in the present moment. I haven’t allowed myself to dwell on how long coronavirus may continue, how much worse things might get, or what consequences the shut-down of the country could have on life as we knew it. I have fallen into a new, comfortable (or as comfortable as possible) routine. Even so, weeks of staying at home has resulted in a restlessness and longing for what was. Specifically, the freedom to go and do. No doubt, this is true for the majority of us.
Due to this onset of cabin fever, I started thinking about quick and simple practices that can help me “escape” by redirecting my attention, reducing stress, and infusing my current experience with more peace and joy. (This article was written not only for your benefit, but also for mine.)
Christiane Northrup, MD, (drnorthrup.com) author of The Power of Joy – How the Deliberate Pursuit of Pleasure Can Heal Your Life, (among many other books), says, “We are pleasure-seeking creatures by nature.” She goes on to say that the experience of joy makes you healthier, smarter, and even younger. (Younger, you say? Yes, younger!)
I’m sure you’ve seen recent news stories of folks hanging over their balconies singing, for themselves, their neighbors, and medical workers on the streets below. (Did those stories put a great big smile on your face? They did mine.) Music, whether you’re listening to it, singing, or playing it, is uplifting and medicinal. Psychologists from McGill University in Montreal studied music’s effects on the brain. Turns out, dopamine, a primary “feel-good chemical,” can be released both in response to music and in anticipation of it. (https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.2726)
Marci Shimoff, co-author of six Chicken Soup for the Soul books (happyfornoreason.com), says that laughing creates chemicals in the body that induce happiness. Dig out your all-time favorite funny movie (Moonstruck is one of my faves. What’s yours?), listen to some stand-up comedy, or play a silly game with those sharing your space. During the times you set aside for laughing, don’t let any talk of the pandemic interrupt.
Another quick way to redirect your attention is through guided meditation. Even if you don’t consider yourself a meditator, these can work for you. I find that taking myself somewhere beautiful, even if it’s only in my mind, provides a nice respite. There are meditations on letting go of fear, helping with sleep, and reducing anxiety, among others. You can find short ones of 5 or 10 minutes, or longer ones up to an hour in length. Check out YouTube for a large selection of guided meditations. Try this super-short & really beautiful one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT5w5rBUaxw&list=PL9A333FE227FF8599&index=8&t=0s&app=desktop.
Being creative is another good way to focus your energies into a more positive state. I’m a cook, so I enjoy creating new dishes a couple times a week. (Unfortunately, I never write down the recipes, so if I’m asked to repeat a dish, I’m a bit lost . . .) Do some baking, building, writing, sewing, painting, drawing, gardening, beading, knitting, scrapbooking, or any other creative project that lights you up. An internet search yields an abundance of ideas if you need help getting started. Also, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (juliacameronlive.com) is an inspiring read to get you into the habit of thinking more creatively.
Razi Berry, founder and publisher of NaturalPath (thenatpath.com) and host of The Love is Medicine Project (loveismedicineproject.com) says that listening to live nature sounds reduces stress 30% more than silence. She says the 3 most effective sounds are birdsong, rustling leaves, and a rushing stream. You already know that getting outside is good for you. Now you have another reason to do it! And if you can’t get outside right now, can you open a window?
Finally, we come to my favorite way to combat cabin fever: foot massage. Yup, you read it right. According to the ancient art of Chinese Reflexology, the entire body’s wellness rests on the foundation of foot health. Rolling your foot around on a tennis ball helps in a pinch. For more relief, The Center for Intuitive Movement Healing, Sparhawk Pilates, offers a video series on their Facebook page called Happy, Yummy Feet. Each short video gives instruction on massaging your feet to help make their 100+ muscles, ligaments, and tendons healthier & happier.
In our current environment, it’s imperative to regularly distract ourselves from bad news, redirect our energies, and take the best possible care of ourselves in every way. The next time you find yourself ruminating on what was and cabin fever kicks in, give one of these ideas a try.
There now. I feel better already.
Blessings for Peace & Joy in Quarantine,