Not even the most limitless mind was prepared for the biggest challenge that 2020 has thrown everyone’s way: the coronavirus pandemic 2019 (COVID-19). The WHO-declared global pandemic has claimed thousands of lives, put entire countries on lockdown and travel restrictions, decimated entire businesses and industries, and introduced a “new normal” that we are still grappling with months after the pandemic began.
Along with these unprecedented challenges come so much anxiety and depression for people cooped up indoors, not studying or working for months, or trying to cope when there seems to be no end in sight.
Here are five brain hacks you can try to combat the anxiety and deal with the coronavirus.
Recognize the Anxiety and Its Outcomes
In order to hack your brain and break the vicious anxiety cycle, you need to be aware of two things: that you are getting anxious, and what the results are. This will help you see if your behavior is helping you survive or taking you to another direction, which involves impulsive, dangerous behaviors.
Once you are aware of what’s happening (“All right, so I am acting anxious all along…”) then you can deliberately replace the old habits, including worry, with more naturally rewarding ones. This is because our brains, after all, will choose more rewarding behaviors because they feel better.
Once you start worrying about touching your face and getting sick, you can replace the panic, breathe deeply, and ask: When was the last time I cleaned my hands? Then you’ll realize it was just a few minutes ago!
Strive for Productivity During Work Hours
Not everyone is ultra-efficient in a work-from-home setup. But anyone can set clear work hours at home as a good first step. Next, train yourself to be productive during those hours.
There’s such a thing called classical conditioning, where two stimuli are linked together to produce a learned response in a person. Sounds familiar? Yup, it’s Pavlov’s experiments with dogs.
What may work for you is inciting your sense of smell with scented candles (or your sense of hearing with specific music) while you answer emails. Then you’d turn off the stimuli during your break hour. The scent or music will ultimately become tied to productivity and even when you step outside or do something else, you will have a reminder for when it’s time to go back to work.
Do Mindful Meditation
This wellness practice has been around since time immemorial, and has been proven effective way before modern-day pandemics. It is all about staying in the moment, and not worrying about the future. In addition, it teaches you not to obsess over what happened in the past either, e.g., I should have traveled more, took that class, or dated this person before the pandemic.
Mindful meditation is a known technique to sharpen your memory, attention, emotional intelligence, and just overall cognition. It is a known anxiety zapper and a resilience booster, which are two things you would need during a situation like COVID-19.
Besides practicing it early in the morning after you wake up or before you sleep at night, you can also explore apps that will let you practice it any time of the day, especially if you are having troubles at first. Remember that it’s okay to be anxious at this time – but coming to terms with what’s happening will help you get over it faster and get hold of your emotions better.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
Procrastination is a real thing, especially when you’re all worked up and anxious over events of the present and possibilities in the future.
One thing to address this is the Pomodoro technique, a time management method developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. Using a timer, it breaks down work into set intervals separated by short breaks.
You might wonder: how will using a timer benefit me?It tricks your brain into adopting a sense of urgency. It then creates periods of focus, where you can get in the zone and win over distractions left and right. It helps you “work with time” instead of struggle against it.
The intervals are traditionally 25 minutes each. Note, though, variations have come up over recent years. Ninety-minute intervals, for instance, have been found effective in young musicians who practiced in increments of 90 minutes each, marked by a break between every stretch. The good news is you may also “personalize” your intervals to your natural flowtime.
Try Prudent Supplementation
If supplementing with herbal extracts and nutrients is what it takes to help you achieve balance and calm during the pandemic, then it’s a route worth going. Admittedly, it’s a time when you feel you are not in control of your mind, body, and circumstances. Your head will naturally become full of scattered ideas and thoughts, holding you back from being at your best when you work from home or prepare for your post-pandemic activities.
Calm-boosting supplements often contain botanical blends that help you whenever you experience occasional nervousness, get triggered easily, lack motivation to work or be productive, or loss of energy and control over your life.
The trick that has always worked is to pair this with smart lifestyle changes, such as eating a good, balanced diet; finding time to exercise (even 30 minutes a day counts!), sleeping more, and gradually learning how to manage your stress effectively.
With this arsenal of tips and tricks, you can better cope with the coronavirus situation and the mind-numbing anxiety that usually comes with it. Good luck and try your best to win over it!