16 Strategies To Trick Your Mind Into Feeling ‘Normal’ During Extraordinary Times

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16 Strategies To Trick Your Mind Into Feeling ‘Normal’ During Extraordinary Times

Three weeks ago when I received an email from the local government ordering all non-essential businesses to close, I decided to close my in-person hypnotherapy practice.

But now, self-quarantined at home with my three boys, I stare at the gloomy images on TV of empty shelves throughout the country. These images negatively impact your mental health and happiness whether you realize it or not, and your emotional state will eventually show it.

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The last time I felt like this was during a wave of anti-Semitic pogroms in Soviet Russia, when I was hiding in my tiny apartment with my newborn son, staring into a bare fridge, shortly before we escaped to America.

And now, this current climate of uncertainty is once again triggering my deep-seated fears of survival. By the end of the day, they’ve evolved into a solidified rock of stress, weighing heavy on my heart.

Being a mental-health practitioner for over a decade, I know there are two ways to deal with any problem at hand, both equally important:

  • Emotional — how you feel about the situation
  • Practical — things you can do about the situation

For me, it usually starts with dealing with emotions first.

With the kids in bed and my hubby shooting out a zillion emails to keep his contracting business afloat, I crawl into my velvet armchair (my cozy safe space) and ask myself: How will carrying the burden of fear in my heart benefit this situation? How is that productive?

My mind fails to come up with reasonable answers. Instead, it reminds me that prolonged stress puts great strain on the immune system­ ­— the last thing I want.

So, I decide to use a simple self-hypnosis technique to let the ball of stress out of my body. It’s the same thing I teach my kids to do when they feel stress at school.

I close my eyes and focus on my breathing, imagining the darkness I sense in my chest floating out of me and forming a balloon. Feeling the tug of the string, I decide to let go and watch it dissolve into the blazing sun above.

This kind of subconscious imagery tricks your mind into believing it’s real, making you feel an emotional response. It’s like when you watch a scary movie, you tend to believe it and feel the emotions of fear and distress.

Watch a romantic comedy, and you feel lightness and ease. In both cases, you've been "hypnotized" by a movie.

So now, when I open my eyes, something interesting happens: The dark balloon has disappeared and I become aware that beneath my fear, there’s a solid foundation of faith. It’s as if the hypothetical concepts of spirituality that I’ve heard about in my synagogue come to life.

Who knew that surrender brings peace? I pull the fuzzy blanket over my shoulders, enveloping myself in the loving arms of God, trusting that He will take care of me and my family.

Having dealt with my emotions and regained my balance, I brainstorm ideas about what I can do daily to help myself and my kids cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

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This works for me, but you can do other things to help keep your calm and maintain the mental health of you and your family. In these extraordinary times of social distancing, lockdown, and isolation, you have to try new things to make sure you're keeping yourself afloat.

You can even "trick" your brain into feeling normal through habits and routines.

Here are 16 ideas to help you get through this with your sanity intact.

1. Make sure you look good. 

Wear your favorite lipstick and nail polish (even at home). 

2. Put on your favorite piece of jewelry.

Acts of self-care elevate your mood.

3. Go outside and feel the sun on your skin.

The sun is great for vitamin D and "happy chemicals."

4. Walk, stretch, or do yoga.

Stay physically active in the comfort of your home.

5. Be mindful of eating.

It’s easy to overeat when you’re stuck at home.

Keep your blood sugar constant with healthy foods like nuts, fruit, hummus, and chicken soup. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water and herbal tea with honey and lemon.

6. Take calming showers.

Or try bathing with lavender or Epsom salts and aromatherapy oils that relax and rejuvenate.

7. Boost your immune system with supplements.

Consider vitamin C, zinc, Echinacea, and goldenseal — they’re all immune strengtheners.

8. Connect with happy memories through photos and home videos, or binge on Netflix or books.

Do things you’ve always wanted to do but were too busy to do. With extra time on your hands, you have an excuse to self-indulge.

9. Walk your neighborhood, give a cheerful wave to your neighbors, and say hello to strangers.

You can use this opportunity to connect to and encourage each other.

10. Talk to your spouse and kids.

Get out the board games. Life on pause can be an opportunity to rediscover one another.

11. Write or draw in your journal.

Expressing fears on paper brings relief and can put things in perspective.

12. Take an online class.

On any subject, from making a pie to writing a novel.

13. Meditate.

Explore YouTube for tips on how to keep your mind calm during a crisis, and check out the many guided meditations for children online. My favorites are Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer.

14. Organize your medicine cabinet, pantry, and closets.

De-cluttering can be a symbolic act of emotional release.

15. Call, Skype, or FaceTime your family and people you have not talked to in years.

Ask how they’re doing and offer help. A crisis can be an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and reconnect.

16. Stay socially connected on your neighborhood blog.

I see a lot of neighbors offering tips and advice, proposing help, or asking for help. This way you don’t feel alone while going through difficult times.

Honestly, this breakdown feels like a global reset — an opportunity to pause and self-reflect. So, show yourself in these times of uncertainty that you can be your own constant; that you can give yourself attention, nourishment, and love while discovering ways to maintain your balance.

RELATED: 6 Things You Should Do If Quarantine Is Making You Feel Depressed

Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a medical hypnotherapist, holistic consultant, and author of "Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family." As the founder of the Achieve Health Center, she helps men and women attain mental-emotional alignment and close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.