How To Handle Stress & Anxiety From Social Distancing

March 23, 2020

What a wild mess we’re in right now, huh? Collectively we are scared, uncertertain, stressed and if you’re stuck inside you may also be sorta antsy.

While I am 100% for the WHO and CDC and state to state regulations that are requiring or suggesting we practice #socialdistancing to #flattenthecurve in order to not overwhelm our healthcare system with the global pandemic of COVD19, it can be so hard.

My kids want see their friends. It’s the first warm days of spring and they want to go to the playground. I seem them growing increasingly anxious as they cry more often or give me a bit more grief than usual.

My husband is a comedian and as you can imagine, his work has come to a screeching halt. He is stressed. I see him up in the middle of the night at his computer screen trying wrangle his anxiety and find the next right thing to do.

The unknown is the hardest part for me. How long with this last? How sick will my youngest get with her asthma that lands us in the ER with many respiratory viruses? I worry that the last post I gave on Instagram with advice is already outdated as the information changes hour to hour with this thing. What will happen to the life we’ve built and the plans we were making for moving and for summer vacation? What will happen if I get really sick and can’t work to support my family?

And I worry what will happen to my kids’ academic career with me as their teacher, ha! As well, I’m struggling like so many of you attempting to work at home and homeschool my kids. All the while, being pent up with each other is a gift in many ways, but let’s be honest it’s also really, really hard.

Let’s not take for granted I have a healthy marriage and the means to work from home, this is not the situation everyone is in. I have friends that have already been laid off and we are less than a week in as of this writing. I have friends that have had to close the businesses they’ve built for years. I have so many friends and patients in the arts or hospitality industry that are struggling to keep the faith their careers and business will be standing when this is over. I have friends that have parents and loved ones in nursing homes that they can’t visit – some of them at the end of their life.

There are also people staying in unsafe places with unsafe people, there are kids that have a worse environment at home than they did in school for a variety of reasons, there are many, many people without the ability to work from home and with little to no savings for back up.

It is all heartbreaking. I’m not a crier but man, have I shed more confused, overwhelmed, what-the-hell-is-going on tears this past week.

No matter who you are, this whole thing is stressful. And many of us have had many of our stress management tools taken away just when we need them most.

We can’t meet our friends for coffee, we can’t have friends over for dinner, we can’t go to the gym, we can’t visit extended family, or if you’re like my husband, you’re unable to go do the job you love with your whole heart.

As I’ve listened to my tribe on Facebook and Instagram and email and our podcast, I’m hearing the common themes of feeling powerless, anxious and antsy sticking so close to home so I put together a series of solutions. I hope with all my heart something here is helpful for you during this wildly intense and stressful time.


What To Do If You’re Feeling Anxious


Breathing is such an important one because while you’ve probably heard me talking lately about how bad stress is for your immune system, and this situation is nothing if not stressful! The 2XOut Breathing tool (breath in for 4 seconds and exhale for twice as long, 8-10 seconds) is not only a mental pause in the chaos but it will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system and get you out of the cortisol fueled fight or flight response. So this one will quickly, physiologically stop your stress response. It’s one I recommend we do as needed but also at the start of each meal to lower stress, increase calm and divert neurological input to your gut for better digestion.

Many of these are part of the 12 Tangible Tools from Hangry, for which we did our best to include a variety of types of tools because stress management and wrangling anxiety is highly individual. What works for me, may make you feel even more agitated. So try several of these tools or suggestions from other experts, but have one or two that really work for you in those moments when you’re about to lose it. I know personally I’m having to use these several times a day. I feel better for a bit, then all the fear and stress come crashing over me again like a wave.

That’s how it is going to be for a bit, so you just keep going back to the tools that work for you. If you need some mantras, grab this free guide that has all the mantras we gave in Hangry.

Download the 12 Tangible Tools from Hangry by Dr Brooke & Sarah Fragoso


What To Do If You’re Feeling Powerless

Something I am hearing a lot of and man, I feel it too, is how can I help?

Some people are able to donate money, other can’t yet want to support their communities in some way. You’ve likely heard the advice to keep up memberships to your gym and your kids’ activities (i.e. my daughter’s dance school) if you can. Yes, please do this if you can. If you can’t, a free way to help that business is to leave a helpful online review on Google or Yelp, etc. These are vital for businesses and something you can do that won’t cost a cent.

I for one have been showing up with more live coaching and Q&A sessions within the free, private Sarah & Dr Brooke Facebook Group and my Instagram. The feedback from you all has been great but also it has helped me so much to help you all. #HelpingHelps

Kindness, compassion, helping lower stress and it gives us forward motion, which is so important when you feel stuck and powerless. As Anna says in Frozen II, do the next right thing.

And while you may not be able to go to the gym, a quick at home workout ideally with some weights always makes me feel back in my power.

Finally, there is real power is controlling what we can control because there is just so much about all of this that we simply cannot control.

What we can control is our mindset and perspective and to a large degree we can control what we’re doing when it comes to food and some version of exercise. So move your body, whatever way you can right now and eat more of the foods that work for you and less of the ones that don’t. You’ll be less inflamed and have more balanced blood sugar, both of which will bolster your mood and keep your cravings from getting crazy. This isn’t about perfection or restriction or some pressure to use your hunker down time to get in peak shape, this is about being your best friend. When you feel better you can do better.


What To Do If You’re Feeling Antsy At Home


I’m such a hermit already, so this staying home part is not particularly challenging for me but I know it is for so many people! Now that said, I’ve cleaned our bathroom twice this week so I guess I am feeling antsy as well. For this uncomfortable feeling it’s best to do something like tackling a home project or getting in some movement.

Now please don’t think you have to reorganize your entire home, get in the best shape of your life or write a novel during this time. It’s OK to do some things that make you feel better but no pressure to use this time to be insanely productive – unless that actually does make you feel better. It’s Ok to rest during this time as well.

In Hangry, one of the Five Pillars is Full Engagement living and that one feels particularly hard for a lot of us because it’s all about staying present and honestly, I’d rather be about anywhere than our current present. But this really is one of those times where the only way through it is through it. We’re in it, no getting out of it.

One of our tools for Full Engagement Living is to do something that can’t be undone. The dishes, the laundry, the kids’ schoolwork it’s all only temporarily done and soon it will be there for you to tackle again. The beds get unmade, the clothes you are wearing need to be washed next round and you’re only ever a few hours away from more dirty dishes right? So do something that can’t be undone like playing an instrument, practicing a new skill, reading a great book, playing a game with your kids, making a memory, having a conversation, making some art. These things ground you in the present moment and nothing, not even a pandemic, can take them away from you.

Download the The Five Pillars of Real Self-Care

Get this guide to the Five Pillar System from Hangry and learn the tools to have more health and happier hormones with less stress.


What To Do If You Feel Lonely


Thank goodness for technology right? My oldest has had her piano lessons via Facetime and has her daily recess time with her two besties via my Zoom account. My littlest plays Barbie with her friend via Facetime and we’ve been connecting more often than ever with our family that lives far away.

As part of our homeschooling they are also connecting old-school by writing letters.

Just yesterday I was talking with a girlfriend about how this situation is one of those things I thought “could never happen to me”. Arrogant American I am right? It’s been so humbling and has made me so appreciative of the absolute truth that as humans on this planet, we are in this together. That makes me feel less lonely for sure.


Episodes Of The Sarah & Dr Brooke Show That Will Help

Sarah and I did a great episode last week on What To Do Instead of Panic, so give that a listen wherever you get your podcasts!

Other podcasts that can be super helpful right now are:

Mindfulness and Self-Compassion with Dr Shauna Shapiro, author of my favorite new book Good Morning, I Love You.

90 Seconds To A Live You Love (which is all about managing anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings) with Dr Joan Rosenberg.

Dr Brooke Kalanick, ND, MS, LAc

Dr Brooke Kalanick is a naturopathic and functional medicine physician specializing in thyroid issues, autoimmunity, histamine intolerance, and women's hormone issues including PCOS, perimenopause, endometriosis and infertility. She is the best selling co-author of HANGRY: Balance Your Hormones & Restore Your Joy in 5 Simple Steps. She is also the co-host of the Sarah & Dr Brooke Show podcast. To learn more about Dr Brooke click here.

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