How to stay sane when the world seems crazy

Five ways to help you relax and put things in perspective—in between washing your hands, of course

Illustration by Ariana Camille Maralit

Erasing stress and anxiety from daily life isn’t an option for most people today. Healthy habits can be hard to maintain and it’s easy to succumb to fear in the face of uncertainty and unpredictability. But psychologists and therapists say there are simple ways to overcome panic and combat negative emotions and anxieties while stuck indoors. Here are some tips from professionals.

Write your worries down

“You will be swamped with a lot of worries—physical, emotional, social, and even financial. In default mode, our minds wander usually about regrets of the past and anxieties of the future,” said psychologist and nurse Michael Jimenez. But writing down your worries, he said, can positively affect mental health. “When you are writing down your problems on index cards (one index card for each problem) or a notebook, you are helping your brain to compartmentalize each issue and assign a necessary solution the next time your mind begins to wander, he said. 

Reinvent self-care 

It is hard when you’re robbed of your tried-and-tested ways of taking care of your physical and mental health. But don’t abandon them as science has shown that exercise, good nutrition, and socializing are directly linked to emotional health, so now is the time to get creative. “Focus on self-care first and attend to your own emotions and needs,” said Dr. Renz Argao, a psychologist and a diplomate of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. “Schedule your day by engaging in activities that help you feel better, like watching comforting movies, doing art, or listening to music.”

Connect with people

Reaching out to people also helps maintain your sanity. “Talk to someone, whether it is a friend, a family, or a professional. It helps when you talk to a person about your worries and vent out your concerns,” Dr. Argao said. 

Socializing and turning panic into service also helps. “Check that phone and reach out to people,” Jimenez said. “Show appreciation by a simple greeting or help others by donating personal protective equipment. Thank people in hospitals, streets, and checkpoints to show that you appreciate their time and effort. Two words can go a long, long way.” 

Take a mental inventory of your wellbeing

Getting clear on what you can and can’t control is important, Dr. Argao said, because it helps you focus your energy on what you can control and accept what you can’t. “Identify if the problem is within your control. If it is, find solutions to handle it. If not, see how you can manage your emotions or reactions to it,” he said. “When a problem is outside our control since we cannot do anything about it, we can always do something with how we react to it.”

Pray and meditate if you must

Religion and faith provide social support, a consistent element of happiness and good health.

“Whatever your religion, engage in rituals—but keep your distance,” Jimenez said. “Surrendering to a higher force releases us from the pangs of unpredictability, knowing that a stronger power is in control. Moreover, a prayer conjures positive emotions including hope, gratitude, optimism, and above all, serenity.”