Home! Usually we love to be there—it’s our safe place, our refuge; it’s where we relax. But when we have to be home most of the time and can’t go anywhere else it can be quite stressful.
Stress is caused by having to adapt to change, and we have lots of change to adapt to at present, so it’s helpful to think about just what it is about having to stay home that is stressful. Different people will have different reasons: see which reasons resonate with you.
We can embrace change or be resistant to it and our mindset can drastically affect how stressed we feel. Are you resisting change? See Choose Your Mindset, below.
Being at home might mean that our routine and schedule have become so relaxed that, although we have things to do, we have lost initiative and are not sure how to get ourselves (or our kids) to be organized, productive—and relaxed. Or maybe we need to craft a routine that is not borrowed from somewhere else, but uniquely fits our needs. If that’s you, see Self-Made Structure.
Introverts and Extroverts respond differently to almost everything—including change. If thinking about the special needs of introverts and extroverts might help you—and others in your house—see: Introvert/Extrovert Differing Needs.
It is an anxious time, so having anxiety is understandable, but if worry, nervousness or fear dog your thoughts constantly and you feel agitated and restless, see: Anxiety.
Finally, the pervasive sense of threat caused by the Pandemic, constantly coming at us from the news and other people can cause us to forget the solid biblical promises that can give us peace. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of our theology. If this could be of help, see: Spiritual Perspective.
Scroll down to whichever section or sections are most relevant to you.
Choose Your Mindset
It is natural to resent and resist all the changes we must make right now. It is natural to wish “all this” were over and that we could go back to normal. It’s natural—but not helpful. If we stay resentful and resistant, hankering after a different reality, we will not adapt well. Instead we can choose to embrace change. Yes, our mind set is a choice—and an important one, since it colors all we do and affects those around us. God made us to be adaptable creatures. We can be flexible; we can be positive; we can adapt. But we choose our attitude about it.
If we believe God is in charge and has allowed what is going on right now, then we should be even more willing to adapt to and embrace the changes needed—see Spiritual Perspective.
Instead of resenting being at home and all that goes with it, we can think: “Okay….here’s a chance to rethink my life. Let me come up with some creative new ways to exercise…” Then brainstorm all the possibilities—rejecting many of them—but coming up with a few good ideas. Then try them.
Or, think, “Okay… given what’s in my pantry, and what’s available in stores, how about some new recipes, new food combinations…” Or, “Let’s see, how can I connect in different ways with the people I want to connect with? ” “What hobbies did I always say I wanted to try, but didn’t have the time?” Make multiple experiments—remembering that experiments sometimes fail and sometimes succeed.
You get the idea. Embrace change; try new things. This kind of thinking takes thought and prayer. Make time for that. Then, take it easy on yourself as you implement changes: you may discover new hobbies, new ways of exercising, new recipes, new routines that really work—or you may have a few failures. So what? You’re embracing change and trying new things. Good for you! You may discover new ways of doing things that you’ll want to keep even if or when things go back to normal.
If things go back to normal, you can adjust to that change, too.
The mindset of the Apostle Paul when he was in jail (a sort of Stay At Home order!) is exemplary: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation… For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)
Stay in the present: that is where God at work, and where His presence is with you.
Be grateful for all you DO have. Researchers have found that gratitude is an essential characteristic of resilient people. No wonder God’s Word commands, “Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
Most of us are accustomed to having our lives structured by obligations outside our home: school, work, committees, social engagements. Now all that external structure is, for the most part, gone. Some may have employment or educational tasks they are supposed to complete, with much of that done online. But it may not matter much what time tasks are started or completed. There may be no need to get dressed, shave or put on make-up. Some people have no employment, no schoolwork and no structure at all.
That might sound like vacation, and it can be fun to sit around in your pajamas and do nothing for a few days…. But the problem is, it isn’t vacation. Vacation without somewhere to go and fun things to do soon palls. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no structure can make us feel useless and bored. If we aren’t accomplishing much, we start feeling not so good about ourselves
But if your outside world is not structuring your life, you have a marvelous opportunity to structure it yourself—for maximum health and well-being. And for getting productive things done on your own terms. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan a healthy and workable structure for yourself and/or your family:
First, think about your own biorhythms: when do you naturally wake up? When is your brain working at its best? Do you have a slump, in terms of energy, at some time in the morning or afternoon? When do you naturally wind down and get sleepy? Are you a morning person (a lark?) or a night person (owl)? I.e., do you naturally wake up early, raring to go and get your best work done early in the day? Or do you get your inspiration after 8 p.m. and love to stay up and work or play as the rest of the world sleeps? How much sleep do you really thrive on?
As you plan your own structure for this time of life, keep in mind how your body works so that you can make the most of the energy you have, and plan times of relaxation for when your body naturally needs rest. If you are home with others, you can think about their biorhythms as well.
Keep in mind that our bodies and minds thrive when we get up, eat, and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Being at home with little structure might induce in us a lethargy that allows us to wake up whenever we feel like it, eat when we get hungry, and (typically) go to bed later and later each night. It’s okay to do that for a day or two, or for one day on a week-end. And obviously, if you are ill or kept awake during the night taking care of someone, then you may need recovery time the next day. But basically, we stay healthiest, rest better and are most productive if we keep a regular schedule of waking, eating, sleeping, working and relaxing.
It also helps us to think through, the night before, what we will start to work on the next morning. If we have no clear concept of what to do when we start the day, we cast about in our minds and sometimes do nothing. So have a plan of what you will begin with the next day—even if it is cleaning out a closet, organizing the garage, or writing a letter.
It’s important to sleep well, so make sure the room where you sleep is dark, cool enough, and sound-proof. Stop using electronic screens of any kind (yes, computer, tablet, phone, television) two hours before you want to go to sleep, since light from electronic screens affects our brains and can cause sleeplessness. Instead of using computer, tablet, phone or TV, read a real book, do puzzles, fold the laundry. Craft a nightly “wind down” ritual that is easy to do, almost mindless, and doesn’t arouse you in any way. The ritual will help your mind and body settle for sleep.
Plan a time each day for exercise, for getting projects done, for indulging in a hobby, for errands, for food preparation, for contact with others by phone or internet. If you’re staying at home with family members or housemates, discuss with them some times when you can hang out together, play games, watch television or movies, or work on crafts or projects together.
Get dressed each day: not necessarily “dressed up,” but shave, put on a little make-up. Look decent—not like a lounge lizard or couch potato. Why go to the effort? Because you will feel better about yourself. The associations in your mind that go along with “being dressed” will help you feel more awake, alert and productive. Being dressed might also have a good effect on those around you! Not to mention that if you suddenly need to look presentable for a video chat or errand—you’re ready.
If you’re working on projects that require a great deal of concentration or considerable time at the computer, give yourself a short break every 50 minutes—that’s how long the human attention span is. If you take a five minute break and get a drink, listen to a piece of music, look out the window, put some puzzle pieces together, strum the guitar, then your mind will work better when you go back to the computer.
Keep in mind that working at a computer and on-line for hours, even when you are in contact with others, can be draining. See the article in nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/Zoom-Fatigue-is- taxing-the-brain-here-is-why-that-happens/. Plan your work, your breaks, and your pacing so that you don’t get too worn out and irritable.
Here’s a sample day-plan that would work well for a person who is neither an extreme morning person or night person. It takes into account the fact that this person thinks best in the morning and has a biorhythm slump in mid-afternoon.
7:00 a.m. get up, have coffee, make breakfast and eat, get dressed for exercise
8:00 a.m. exercise: either at home, or outside, as allowed. Shower and dress.
9:00 a.m. Begin on a project: this could be a work project or a home renovation or
organization project. Take breaks as needed.
11:00 a.m. Switch projects to a different kind of activity
12:00 noon : lunch
1:00 p.m. Do something relaxing: read, play a game
2:00 p.m. Go back to work on projects or do housework, errands, or enjoy a hobby
4:00 p.m. Get a healthy snack, talk with some people, play games, check the news, read e-mails
5:00 p.m. start thinking about/preparing supper
6:00 p.m. supper and clean up
7:00 p.m. watch news, TV shows, or a movie; play games
8:30 p.m. switch off all electronics, get ready for bed, read
10:30 p.m. sleep
Create your own structure that accommodates your biorhythms, the exercise you can do right now, the projects you need to work on, and time for relaxation and other people.
You can change the structure if you need to: it is a guide, not a dictator.
The final verse of the hymn by John Greenleaf Whittier comes to mind. It begins, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways…”
Drop thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease,
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
Introvert/Extrovert Differing Needs
“Down time” tends to be used differently by extroverts and introverts.
Your classic extreme introvert enjoys being with people and helping them, but really needs—sometimes desperately needs—a certain amount of solitude.
Your classic extreme extrovert loves to be with people and doesn’t necessarily need time alone. He or she certainly can and does work alone—even for hours at a time—but feels most fulfilled and satisfied when he or she can interact with others.
What happens, then, to introverts and extroverts who are forced to Stay At Home? You can guess—or you may know all too well. The more introverted person who is home alone, or with one other quiet person will eventually get lonely and need to reach out by internet or phone to connect with people. Since the introvert is totally in charge of how much energy goes into being with others, that might be fine. But the introvert who suddenly has a house full of family members around ALL the time will gradually become starved for solitude–and could get irritable or depressed if there’s not enough solitude to be found.
The extrovert who must be home alone, or alone with only one other introverted person, will gradually become starved for interaction with people. He or she will create reasons to leave the house or become part of social interaction of any kind. The extrovert who suddenly has family members around all the time may do better than the introvert with the constant interaction, but might also find the kind of interaction available less than fulfilling.
Both introverts and extroverts then, during a time of enforced isolation or enforced togetherness may need help understanding themselves, being patient with themselves, and being patient with others.
First of all, know which you are: introvert, extrovert, or a combination. There is great deal of information (and free self-tests) on-line to help you figure out your particular configuration of introvert or extrovert characteristics, so do some research if you need to. For purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you have a pretty good idea whether you need considerable solitude, or thrive without much solitude.
If you are an introvert living alone, you will find that even introverts get tired of constant solitude and need to work on ways to connect with people. If you are an introvert with family members or housemates around more than usual, you may enjoy their company some of the time, but find that you need to create an oasis of solitude for at least some part of every day. So give some thought to: what room or part of the house can you use to be alone? How can you negotiate with your spouse, house-mate or kids so that they understand why you need some solitude and how you are going to go about getting it. (When our kids were 4 and 6, my husband and I would give them a short list of things they could entertain themselves with and then go to another room either for solitude or marriage time. We’d tell our kids they could only disturb us for “earthquake, fire, flood or blood.”)
If you haven’t already done so, it’s a great idea to explain to the others in your house that you are an introvert—which means you just need and thrive on some time alone. Explain that you are not mad at anybody, you are not tired of them, you just need time alone and need them to respect the time and space you designate for solitude. Other introverts in the house may appreciate a similar arrangement.
If there are two parents at home, you can negotiate with each other for one of you to be more “on duty” while the other one indulges in some solitude—or extrovert activities—depending on your different needs.
If you are an introverted parent mostly home alone with a bunch of children who need to be monitored pretty constantly, I would suggest settling them for a nap—and a nap means simply staying on their bed with quiet activities. Or set them up with a movie or a project that doesn’t involve you, so that you can snatch as much solitude as you can. You may have a commitment to not having your children watch movies or TV, but during a time of higher parental stress it is okay, in my opinion, to let them do so for an hour or two. After all, that hour or two might mean the difference between a healthy and happy parent or a grumpy, resentful parent!
You can also have the kids go “to bed” before it is time for them to go to sleep, and specify that they can read or listen to music or stories, but they need to stay quietly in their beds and not disturb the parent who is grateful for some “down time.”
For the extrovert staying at home, connecting with others is crucial. Work and projects might cause some connection with other people, and that’s good. But the extrovert will most likely also need to connect with friends for conversation, or play video games that involve others. The extrovert might also benefit from simply getting out of the house and driving around. I know people who, during Stay-At-Home orders, go out and drive to a grocery store parking lot and park so they can talk (6 feet apart, of course) with a friend in another car. Others have gone to parks and simply talked with friends while observing social distancing measures. Sometimes it just helps to see someone in three dimensions (not flattened by a screen) and actually be able to note their expression and posture.
God made us to be social creatures: introverts in one way and extroverts in another. Recognize your own needs, and while being respectful and caring of others, come up with creative ways to obtain the solitude and/or connection you need.
If you are living with family members, this is a great time for everyone in the family to be educated about, and sensitized to, the unique needs of introverts and extroverts. Learning to love each other, after all, means not only “doing unto others as you would have them do to you,” but also learning how to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you….if you were like them.”
Some people are stressed because they feel anxious. Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, or fear. It can be occasional, intermittent or constant. It is characterized by repeated loops of worried thought about the bad things that could happen. Sometimes the person who is anxious has rapid, shallow breathing, a faster than normal heartbeat, an upset stomach or sweaty palms. Corona Virus has created an anxious time, so feeling anxious is understandable, but if anxiety is keeping you awake, dominating your thoughts, and upsetting your peace, there are some things you can do.
While the symptoms of anxiety are roughly the same for most people, the cause of anxiety and the way a person responds to different kinds of intervention differ greatly from person to person. Sometimes, honestly, almost nothing seems to help anxiety. But all of the interventions below help some people, and are worth trying if anxiety is troubling you.
Reasoning with the anxious thoughts: arguing against the fears you have, or trying to find comforting solutions for them is something most people try—and most relatives and friends of anxious people try, too. Counselors are trained to help an anxious person rationally think through their fears and find reasons why they can lower their anxiety.
To get this method to work for you, try to figure out just what is worrying you—what you are afraid of. Write it down in black and white. Then try to figure out how realistic your fear is. Try to figure out what the probabilities are of what you dread. When anxiety begins, some people “catastrophize”—they imagine the worst outcome possible and dread that. So trying to figure out whether what you dread is possible—but not probable—can be helpful.
Once you have figured out your exact fear or fears—think about whether there are realistic things you can do to prevent—or prepare for—what you dread. Then you do those things. (I.e., if you are deathly afraid that you might die of CoVid 19, do everything you can to prevent contamination, get your Advanced Health Directions in order, make sure your Will is up-to-date, and let someone know about your finances.) Do anything practical and concrete that you can do, but don’t try to prepare emotionally for what you dread: that does no good and wastes emotional energy. For example, if I should lose my husband (God forbid!) I know what I would do financially and logistically. I’m as pragmatically prepared as I can be. But I’m not prepared emotionally—and there’s no point in trying to be prepared emotionally. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” as Jesus said (Matthew 6:34 old KJV).
So argue with yourself about the rationality of your worries. Or have a very logical friend or family member help you evaluate the validity of your fears and worries. If the fears have some validity, do some creative and preventive planning and problem solving.
For some people, though, the rational approach doesn’t help—much. Or only helps some of the time.
You can also try distraction. If your brain won’t get out of its fearful rut, then don’t sit or lie there thinking anxious thoughts, get up and move. Do some exercise, some cleaning. Start a project that requires energy and distracts you. Or, watch a movie, play a game, call or talk to someone more needy than yourself—that is one of the most powerful distractions you can use (not to mention a good idea for other reasons). If you find yourself anxious often, create a list of distractions you can use, and when you need to, move into that distraction mode.
Grounding: If you are feeling really anxious—so anxious that you can’t get yourself to calm down, reason, or use any of the distracting techniques described above, use what trauma counselors call “grounding.” Grounding means forcing your attention to focus on sensory input in the present, instead of input from your anxious mind. So I’ll say to an anxious person, for example, “Feel the chair you’re sitting on. Notice the wooden arms, the texture of the fabric.” Or, “Look around the room and count how many things there are that are blue.” Or, “Cuddle a pet, feel the warm body and fur of your dog or cat. Notice how your pet is breathing in and out.” Having a friendly animal nearby, and especially touching them, is wonderfully calming. Another grounding technique is to focus on your breathing. Breathe very slowly in and out, and do so for ten breaths.
Which reminds me to suggest you consider two tools that reduce stress and anxiety for anyone: Deep Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation. To learn how to use either (or both) of these excellent tools, please look for them in the “Sojourner’s Toolbox” section of the SojournerWorkbook.com website.
It is okay to use any and all of the above techniques. Whatever works for you. And don’t be surprised if you need to apply a technique (or several of them) multiple times. Getting control over anxiety can be quite a battle—and an ongoing one, in which you need to argue with yourself, distract yourself, or ground yourself over and over.
If none of the above works for you and anxiety is making you miserable and undermining your health, you may need medication and/or counseling help. If so, do consult a professional psychiatrist and counselor.
If you believe, as most Christians do, that God is all knowing and in control, (Ephesians 1:11) then it follows that He has known all about this CoronaVirus pandemic since long before it began. He has allowed it to happen, and that means He has known how the pandemic would affect us personally, and those effects are part of His plan. So our confinement at home, our inability to get certain kinds of work done, our inability to be close to certain people, and our financial situation—all those things and more have been taken into account by God.
Not only did He know about it, He has had, all along, plans to use the entire CoVid19 situation for our good and for His glory. (Romans 8:28) That means that our current situation is—in effect—an assignment from our Lord. The duties and tasks of this present time, the waiting, the uncertainty… none of that is a mistake. It is not random coincidence. It is how God has allowed and designed things to be. So we need not worry that our present duties, or performance, or lack of them, are a mistake. The current challenges, and the current down time are our divine assignment. Therefore, let us learn to cope with this situation as well as we can, because learning to do so is part of the assignment. He will help us learn, grow and cope. That’s the kind of God He is.
It may not look to us like God is accomplishing anything good: we may end up suffering illness, loss of loved ones, financial difficulties, and any number of inconveniences and discomforts. But our Lord’s promise is:
- that He will be with us: Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 31:6
2. that He will give us the strength to bear whatever He allows in our lives: Philippians 4:12-13
3. that He will use what happens to shape our character to be more like Christ: Romans 5:1-5; 8:26-30
4. that He will be glorified: Ephesians 1: 11-12
Finally, He has promised that if we need wisdom regarding how to handle any aspect of our current lives, He will give us the wisdom we need. (James 1:5)
With all of that in mind, we should watch for how God is at work in our current situation. In my experience, even in the midst of great hardship and suffering, our Lord gives quiet little gifts of tender loving care. I have learned to watch for them and be comforted.
Remind yourself of the Biblical truths cited above—often. It helps to write down and memorize verses of Scripture that speak those truths to you. Put the verses on your bathroom mirror, over your kitchen sink, placed near your computer, handily available on your phone. Speak them to yourself in the dead of night, or when anxiety rears its head—as often as you need to.
Play music that reminds you of those promises and of God’s love and care.
Here are some additional Scriptures that are wonderfully comforting and not hard to memorize:
Psalm 34:18; 46: 1
Isaiah 40:31; 41:10; 53:4
Romans 8: 26-27
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
1 Peter 4:12-13
Any of the above issues can make a period of quarantine uncomfortable and difficult. But there are things you can do, and ways you can direct your thoughts that mitigate the stress. Besides the helps mentioned above, I suggest you consider two tools that reduce stress and anxiety for anyone: Deep Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation. To learn how to use either (or both) of these excellent tools, please look in the Sojourner’s Toolbox section of the SojournersWorkbook.com website.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. (Hebrews 13: 20, 21)