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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

4 Tips for Coping with Anxiety and Cabin Fever

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay 

With the increasing spread of coronavirus around the world, I decided to postpone the post I'd originally planned for today. Instead, I'd like to focus on strategies for coping with the anxiety and cabin fever so many of us are feeling: It's an understandable reaction as our communities face increasing numbers of victims and are implementing increasingly strict safety precautions.

Many people find breath-based practices helpful in coping with anxiety, and that's certainly a very good option.

But to be perfectly honest, that's not what I've been doing personally.

Instead, I have the following four coping strategies during the corona crisis (and at other times when I've been stuck at home worrying for various reasons). I hope they'll be helpful to you, as well.

1. Limit Checking the News 

Find out as much as you truly need to know. Then stop checking for the day. Don't get caught up in a stressful cycle of checking, checking, checking when there isn't any new or helpful information. 

Here's what I do: Every morning after breakfast, I check the local guidelines and restrictions for my community. 

Then I do a quick check of the major headlines, so I have a basic sense of what's going on in the world.

That's it.

You may have a reason why you need more information than I do. For example, you may be in a position where you need to make policy decisions for your school or business.

But unless you're a media critic, there's no reason you need to read the endless commentary and speculation: umpteen different people's opinions about what umpteen other people said about what might or might not happen tomorrow, or what someone should or shouldn't have done, etc. etc. etc.

[update June 2020: I've been checking the news much more frequently since I wrote this, as the situation with coronavirus has changed, and we're now in the midst of widespread protests. My basic point is about striking the right balance: being informed enough to take appropriate action, but holding back from getting caught in the endless loops of social media.]

2. Focus on the Five Senses

Focusing on one or more of the five senses is a great way to shift attention away from worries.

There are dozens of five senses activities here at, including:

These can also be fun ways to spend time with your family, especially if you have kids.

3. Get Some Movement

I've been taking a walk every morning, which is the best way I've found to clear my head. For those of you who can't get outdoors, it may be more challenging to keep moving, but it's even more important.

Fortunately, there's an endless supply of exercise videos to choose from online. Here are a few recommendations.

If you're more advanced and/or used to going to the gym, try:

If you're new to exercise and/or want something less intense and without complicated moves, try:

I also have a few self-care video playlists, with a lot of options for gentle, mindful movement:

If you've got kids at home, you want want to try:

Update 3/31/20: I just posted a new playlist of At-Home Yoga and Movement Videos for Kids (toddlers through teens)

4. Try Something New

Is there something you've always wanted to learn? Whatever the subject, there's likely to be a variety of online courses or videos to choose from. 
    • I've been thinking for years that I'd love to learn sign language if I ever have the time.  Lo and behold, last week I found a wonderful program online called ASL University with Bill Vickers. (Since I was an adult ed ESOL teacher for 20 years, I tend to have very high standards for language learning programs.)

If you're stuck at home away from your usual routine, why get caught up in mindless distractions? This could be the perfect opportunity to expand your horizons.

[update July 2020: With hindsight, I can see that the above paragraph may come across as cavalier if you had/are having a really tough time during quarantine. My point isn't that you're never allowed to take a break. At the time I wrote this, I kept hearing about people spending hours a day binge-watching their favorite shows. That's neither productive nor truly restful.]

More Help with CoronaCoping

  • Popular author Alexander McCall Smith (#1 Ladies Detective Agency, etc.) has a lovely poem to help keep things in perspective:
"The unexpected always happens in the way
The unexpected has always occurred:
While we are doing something else,
While we are thinking of altogether
Different things – matters that events
Then show to be every bit as unimportant
As our human concerns so often are..."

  • You may also be interested in these posts from a couple of my colleagues:
    • Dr. Irene Kraegel, The Mindful Christian:  
"A global pandemic is scary and dangerous, and it's also good for a few things": 
  • It reminds us we are not invincible.
  • It slows us down.
  • It provides solitude.
  • It sheds light on our auto-pilot responses to stress.
  • It forces us to release our grip on perfection.

  • Dr. Sam Himelstein, Center for Adolescent Studies:

    "We as helpers; be it therapists, educators, mentors, physicians, nurses, human resources personnel, etc., are still charged to care for others as we ourselves experience this dismay in our own lives. This is why self-care and resilience are so important. If we want to help, we must tend to ourselves both individually and collectively." 

If you found these resources helpful, you may also be interested in the hundreds of posts here at on: 

About the Author

Catharine Hannay is the founder of and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance. (Sales of the book help me continue to run with no sponsorship or advertising.)