How to Stay Sane

A decorative image of Dr. Inna Post speaking on Russian television

Last week, I had a flashback to my childhood: Kiev, Ukraine, USSR. Our tiny kitchen. Every evening, my father is fumbling with knobs and a forest of antennas on a huge old radio sitting on top of the fridge, trying to find a wavelength that isn’t blocked by the Soviet government and broadcasting the “Voice of America,” a program that was our only window to an uncensored world… 

So when a producer of Voice of America contacted me last week to ask for an interview on the topic of the psychological toll of isolation and how to stay sane in our insane times, I was grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community and to the program that was our ray of light in the darkest of times.  

Here are some of the points we discussed (in addition to a compulsory discussion of the toilet paper panic :)) 

How to Stay Sane:

1. Keep the routine– the earlier you establish the routine the easier it is going to be. We are creatures of habit, and it is too easy to fall into bad habits when we are confined to our homes. If you establish a healthier routine now, before “everything stabilizes,” you are more likely to follow through with whatever goals you set for yourself. Take 30 min to write out a list of what you’d like to accomplish every day, then enter it into your schedule. If it is not written down and time is not allocated for it, it’s not happening. 

2. Exercise with a gym buddy via Skype/Zoom or take an on-line class– from Youtube to Instagram Live– the resources are limitless. Set a time and put a link to class on your calendar, so you are not tempted by news feed on social media when you’re comfortably settled on your yoga mat. Not only exercise is beneficial for our bodies as our freedom of movement is now limited, but it has a positive effect on our psychological well-being. 

3…and while we are on that topic– please limit your time on social media. Unless your job depends on the latest news update, nothing will change (well, you will actually be more productive) if you only check the news twice a day. If something drastic happens, bad news always finds its way to us, so FOMO is unwarranted. 

4. Limit work to work hours then turn off your computer. No “just one more thing.”

5. Use the time to reconnect and communicate with friends on Zoom/Skype or whatever media you prefer: virtual coffees, happy hour, dinner dates are a great way to prevent isolation and to check on your friends to make sure they are ok. 

6. Use the time you are saving on your commute to update your LinkedIn profile and schedule virtual coffee dates with people in your network. Whether you are thinking of pivoting your career or just making sure that you are connected to people in your industry for future job opportunities, now is the time to build a tighter net!

7. Use this time for deep learning and things you always wanted to do but did not have time for. Whether it’s learning a new skill, like playing an instrument, or finally having time to think through steps and writing a business plan for that venture you thought up during long hours in traffic on your way to the office. Schedule “thinking time” and put it on your calendar.

8. Establish a routine with your family: if you live together, figure out times that work for everyone to cook and eat dinner together, stream a concert or a show, or play a game. If you happened to be far away from your loved ones, technology to the rescue– do the same things via video chat apps. 

9. Reframe the way you think: what if this pause is a gift that allows us to slow down and appreciate little things? Our lives could be better off in the long run.

10. And if you need a thought partner or just a non-judgmental person in your life now, speak to a professional coach or therapist. We are all on Zoom and Skype now, so help and support are closer than ever.

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