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  • Dr. Lalit Chawla

E#46: How Not to Drive Yourself Crazy during The Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic


This is a special episode how to deal with disruption of your routine, mindset and how to get out of your own way to stay sane.

I'm so tired of this same old routine!


(This is the core of the transcript from the podcast. The Intro has been removed and some areas improved for reading ease.)



First of all I want to apologize that I am not releasing the Hayley Wickenheiser interview this week as I mentioned last week, and that’s because I wanted to talk about the thing that is weighing so many people down right now; which is being self isolated and breaking routine.


Okay, so who isn’t a bit tired of this new routine? I think most people want to get back to some of their normal activities, maybe not all of their normal activities but things such as getting together with friends. Playing sports and having their children go back to school etc. Even some of the most introverted people I know want to socialize a bit more.

People are going a little stir crazy at home.


people are getting a little cooped up and a little antsy, even if you are still working, it’s not the same. Some of us are trying to homeschool, work from home, stay healthy,stay positive, follow the information on the pandemic all the while trying not to gain weight.

People are going a little stir crazy at home. So much so that I ended up writing another chapter in the 2nd edition of The COVID-19 Guidebook : How to Stay Safe, Sane and Healthy in a Pandemic. You can get a free ebook copy if you go to the website TheIntroverted Doctor.com.


And thank you for the many kind comments and feedback re. That guidebook, it’s very much appreciated by myself. Many people are finding this a very helpful and please feel free to share it with your friends or at work. I’ll share with you a funny thing my 14 year old daughter said as I was writing the book and I was about 8 days into it, she said “Hey papa, when are you going to finish this book? You know you have to release it before the pandemic is over right?” I was like “yes, did you have any other words of wisdom to share?”


So people are getting a little cooped up and a little antsy, even if you are still working, it’s not the same. Some of us are trying to homeschool, work from home, stay healthy,stay positive, follow the information on the pandemic all the while trying not to gain weight. Every day seems so similar, there is definitely a lack of variety in most of our day to day routine. We can’t have dinner parties, go visit the same way with friends, go watch our children’s soccer or baseball games and the like. So a few people reached to me and asked me what are some key strategies that they should use to make the most of being at home in this challenging time. So I’ll share with you eight key things to do to feel better and some key mistakes not to make in this time. Especially a couple comments not to say to children, if you have kids at home.

who hasn’t had their routine disrupted in a major way?

So the first is

1.Break in Routine: Well, who hasn’t had their routine disrupted in a major way? I personally have been staying up later and reading, writing and, yes, watching a movie or two when I know I should be sleeping. The one thing that kept most of us sane is that we had a structured routine, to go to work, take our kids to school, exercise or socialize for example. But now our cues to stay on track are gone.


Here are some helpful suggestions to overcome this issue and slippery slope into feeling out of control:

1. Create a schedule that you must follow. If you don’t schedule your life, you won’t do it. Write things down. There is tremendous control to having your day/week/month written down. The reason most of us stay on routine is because we are conditioned to complete daily tasks. To wake up, make breakfast, shower etc. I know personally speaking, if I don’t have any purpose of things to do, it’s harder for me to get out of bed.


2. Sleep on time. I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit relaxed on that both for myself and for my children, but that is not good for creating a better sense of wellness. As individuals, sleep is so vital to creating a greater sense of control. Sleep rejuvenates our mental energy and our spirits. It’s okay to have some days where you have a fun night, but that can’t be every day.


Otherwise bad habits set in and then when you finally have to get back to routine, you’ll despise the change. Plus late nights affects the following day as well. So by staying up to late, you are inadvertently affecting the following day.Children also need routine and they need role models. So do we as adults. Enough said.

go easy on yourself.

2. Guilt: Okay,so if for some reason you don’t follow your schedule, eat too much, drink too much, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be your own worst enemy. I believe that everyone is feeling some guilt because they are not following through with creating or living their best life - even the people who teach it and model it. So go easy on yourself. Just do better the next day. We are hearing messages that this is a wonderful time to learn something new, and yes that’s true it is. I’ve said it... and I’m learning to cook too. Much to the shock and disappointment of my kids, although they do love my eggs. Even though my daughter said “they were not bad” – I take that in teenage translation terminology as “the best eggs I’ve ever had”.


So learn something new, contribute something new, but don’t be your worst enemy, there are enough people in the world that are willing to take that role. Guilt should not be something you perfect, do better next time and use a bit of guilt to get you moving, don’t let it build so much that it negatively affects your self esteem.


3.Get A Friend: Connect with a friend or two and get on the same program. Talk daily and connect. Social isolation is a poor term. It implies we can’t talk to others or we have to talk to our family members only. We have the technology that allows us to Facetime, text and talk with each other. Make a pact with others to talk even for a few minutes daily. Do a 7-14 day challenge where you keep each other accountable to avoid certain bad habits such as staying up late, drinking too much or binging on Netflix. Contribute to someone else’s well being daily. Me and a friend of mine are reading and discussing a non-fiction book that we are reading. A two person book club.

people are drinking more than the recommended amount.

4.Alcohol: Well too much consumption of this is a little secret that no one wants to admit. My concern is that once the economy opens up again, people will be trying to detox themselves and get back to normal. People are drinking more now than they ever did because they are bored and it all seems relaxing. Know your limit.

The Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse recommends a limit of no more than 10 drinks a week for women (with no more than 2 drinks a day for women) and 15 drinks a week for men (with no more than 3 drinks a day most days).


I speculate from the people and patients I’ve talked to or people who have been in touch with me, is that during this quarantine period, people are drinking more than the recommended amount. So, if you think you do that, limit yourself accordingly. NOTE: If you (or someone you care about) feel you have exceeded this amount DO NOT QUIT on your own. Call your healthcare provider or a detox center to help you. It’s dangerous to your body, especially your brain, to quit on your own, without medical supervision.

The other thing is,Alcohol is a depressant and interferes with your quality of sleep. It’s not going to help your mood and overall well being in the long run. You may also say or do things you may regret. End of sermon.

I don’t have the willpower to stop watching it so I limit it to movies

5. Exercise: I’ll be brief here. You must move your body daily. Stretch it, walk it, move it. When your body moves you feel better. You clean the toxins from your body. Schedule this daily. Exercise will help your immune system too. Start small but do this daily.Enough said.


6.Know Your Crutch: Everyone has a crutch that moves them further down the road to feeling out of control. For me, I know I can’t start a Netflix series. I don’t have the willpower to stop watching it so I limit it to movies, where I know that it will be done and there won’t be a cliff hanger. I’ve watched Netflix series it in the past where I see one episode and then there is a cliff hanger and then I want to see what the next episode is and what was supposed to be only 22 min became an hour or more. Plus when I stop, I’m always thinking about what is going to happen next. This pulls me away from doing some more important constructive work or different ways of enjoying other activities that gets my kids active or engaged. I also read, fiction and non-fiction because that requires some effort on my part.

So what’s your crutch? Alcohol, soda pop, eating chocolate, gossiping? All of them? The first part of improving our actions is knowing what takes us down the wrong road and to avoid it.

So try something new. As cliche as it may sound, use this time to do something positive. I think people will feel guilty if they don't use this time wisely. One of the regrets people have when they die is not about the things they did, but about the things they didn’t do. When this pandemic is over, can you say you did a few constructive things?

I’m so tired of being home with the kids all day….t

7.Family Meeting & Home Schooling: Talk as a family on how you are going to manage things. If you have kids at home then homeschooling is an issue for you. As much as I truly adore my children, I did not plan for them to have a 5 month vacation at home. They need to learn something. Negotiate with them so they keep a routine too. Kids need a routine and role models too. If they see you not doing constructive things, why should they? Really why should they? Unless you have angelic children, you’ll have to settle for a certain number of hours of successful studying. Try to link them up with other classmates to work together.

Every school and child is different so use your judgement to create a more successful home. Having family meetings on a scheduled basis helps create a sense of shared purpose. Children are smarter than we give them credit for. Have them involved in the pandemic process. Note, they may also learn some other skills that may not be school-related.


I’m teaching my 9-year-old how to play chess and he has to learn how to type on a computer keyboard. There are some great online tools for that. I’m also going to teach the kids how to paint walls, take out the garbage, clean toilets and do dishes. Real life skills that can help them and me throughout their entire life. ;)


I hope this doesn’t come off wrong and I know it won’t apply to many off you, but please remember not to tell your friends or your kids “I’m so tired of being home with the kids all day….they don’t get what you mean. In a child’s mind all they hear is - I’m a burden to my parents. They don’t need to hear this type of messaging. They too have broken from their routine and it’s so easy to say something off the cuff that essentially disrespectful to them and not helping their self-esteem. I know this won’t apply to many of you, but sometimes we can say things unconsciously and be oblivious to what it means to others.

we can’t be overstimulated because we need to catch our breath.

8. Limit Digital Technology and News: Right now we have so much news about one topic and that is tiresome in many ways. How many of you are tired of listening to it all the time but can’t seem to turn away from it because it’s fascinating, concerning, informative AND anxiety inducing all at the same time? And that’s okay, it’s a normal human response to be engaged in this way.


But we can’t be overstimulated because we need to catch our breath.

So how much Facebook or other social media or news media are you consuming? Can you and should you be taking a break from it? Schedule daily breaks and think of the times you’ll be media free. I personally recommend not consuming anything first thing in the morning and at night at least one hour prior to ending your day. Try even a whole day off from media consumption or half a day.

When will you take a break from watching all this news and being on technology? Too much stimulation takes us away from being present and living in greater peace. That’s all I want to say about that.


Conclusion:

If you are not doing any of the above, start with one or two methods daily. Don’t dwell on guilt and get support from others- teamwork is essential. It’s hard to do anything worthwhile without the help of others. We should work together. One last note, I really believe in writing things down and using tools such as daily planners, journaling and reflecting, which is the part 6 of the Pandemic Guidebook is proving to be very helpful to many people. The most successful/healthiest people use tools like those in that guidebook. It’s hard to manage routines and accomplish things otherwise. So in summary, Know your ABCDEFGH’s:

A- Alcohol Management

B-Breaking Routine

C-Crutches/Weakness

D-Digital Distraction

E-Exercise

F-Friends

G-Guilt

H-Homelife/Home-schooling.


There are some relevant & popular episodes to revisit that might serve you or revisit on this podcast:

E3-The 4 Core Areas to Creating Meaningful Lasting Change

E16- Accepting Change, Moving Forward: The 1% Principle

E20- How to Overcome Boredom

I hope this served you. Please share this message with others, and if they walk away with one golden nugget or reminder, that might help it might chang


Stay Calm, find daily joys and live with intention.

A shout out to all my colleague's nurses, doctors and allied health care professionals who are helping to keep society safe and healthy. And a shout out to all the beautiful people who are doing the right thing by social isolation, and connecting with others and helping the vulnerable people who could use our help right now.


I'm Dr. Lalit Chawla and thank you for listening.


May excellent health, happiness and magic grace you and your loved ones.

And if you like more podcast episodes that might serve you, please go to TheIntrovertedDoctor.com. You can join the weekly email list, where I release the new episodes as a reminder. Have a great week!



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