21 Helpful Tips and Resources to Stay Sane During the Corona Pandemic

With mass fear about Corona spreading and governments taking swift and life-upending action to slow the spread of the virus, most of us are scrambling to adjust. Here are 21 tips and resources I’ve gathered that I believe are helpful for Highly Sensitive People (and friends!) to stay sane during the corona pandemic.

(No time to read it all right now? Pin it for later)

Or listen to these points as a podcast with bonus content in the Library, here.

drawing of corona virus with crown eating all the toilet paper

Part 1: 6 things I learned – from being chronically ill for several years and often not being able to leave the house – that can help during a pandemic

I was often too exhausted, overwhelmed, dizzy and unsteady on my feet to venture out, during a period of several years (starting in 2009). As a result, I was in more-or-less quarantine much of the time. Here are some of the things I learned that help:

 

1. Appreciate the basics and the little things

Take the time to really look at and appreciate all the things you do have. One of the things that personally got me through that time was realising how lucky I was to still have a house, a quiet place to rest, my own fridge and enough money for good quality food.

There are places in the world where I would have had to shack with family, because not all countries give you disability money.

So yes, I don’t say “count your blessings” a lot, but in this case, do.

Compare your situation to that of refugees living in tent camps, street kids scrambling to stay alive, or anyone living on less than a dollar a day and you realise: all of that considered, if those people can survive all that, I should surely be able to survive this!

And remember, this is temporary. Even if it might be long(ish), it’s still temporary.

 

 

2. Slow down, do things more slowly when you feel panicky or frazzled

When we feel stressed and panicked, we tend to run around a lot – even if it serves no purpose and stresses us out even more.

Often, going faster does not make things better, it just overwhelms you more (for a detailed video on this, please take a look at the Library class “what to do with fear and panic” where I explain how this works for HSPs and give you detailed steps to break the panic cycle)

Literally slow down and focus on the pleasant things around you. And if your house is a mess and nothing feels right – start with that! Make an effort to create a pleasing corner that you can retreat to.

When things feel pleasing around you, it will be easier to slow down and relax.

Your brain will tell you “there is no point, because there is a pandemic” but I am telling you, this really helps. As a client recently exclaimed: the little things make a big difference!

They do, especially when you’re Highly Sensitive. Since you don’t control the big things, set up the little things in a way that is supportive for you  and do things more slowly, purposely, where possible. (need help? I’m just an online call away)

 

 

3. Rediscover radio and podcasts to keep you company

My forced quarantine back in the day was – well – very lonely.

And on top of everything else, my brain was too frazzled to read more than 350 words a day (yes, I kept track of what I could and couldn’t do).

It had been ages since I’d listened to the radio. But I found there were some programmes I enjoyed and it made me feel more connected to the world. At the time, there was also a wave of telesummits on all kinds of healing topics. Following those did a lot to take my mind off things and spend my time well too.

Nowadays, there are oodles of fun and helpful podcasts. This may be just the time to listen to them.

 

 

4. LIMIT the time you spend thinking about stressful things

Look, when there are big things happening in your life and a lot of uncertainty, it’s easy for the mind to just endlessly recycle stressful thoughts about it, but this serves no point whatsoever.

All it does is make you feel worse.

Back in the day I reached a point where I could literally see my mind going through endless regurgitating loops of the same drama. At some point I realised: it feels important, but it’s the same old shit.

So I made an agreement with myself: I was only going to pay attention to negative thoughts if they were truly novel thoughts. All of the “been there, thought that” I vowed to ignore.

Doing that freed up 90% of my brainspace.

Now, this didn’t mean that I ignored pressing issues, it just meant that I didn’t pay attention just because the thoughts were big and scary.

If your thoughts are driving you crazy, start practicing to take charge of what you do and don’t pay attention to that is happening in your head.

 

 

5. Schedule time to problem solve

O.k. you don’t need to literally schedule time, but it helps. And if you’re living with loved ones, scheduling time together to discuss pressing issues can do a lot to help everyone calm down.

Why? Because you’re committing to solving problems. You’re actively doing something about the things you can do something about.

As a result, you can gather all you worries and put them on a “to solve” list, instead of an endlessly looping “to think about” list.

 

 

6. Actively do things to calm down and recharge.

Dust off all your old meditation tapes, binaural beats tracks, essential oils and other things calming

(Lacking tools? I have a bunch specifically for Highly Sensitive People inside the Happy Sensitive Library)

Also note, this is a very bad time to be an untrained empath – so if you are mostly overwhelmed by everyone else’s feelings, this is definitely the time to do something about it. Being able to let go of everyone else’s stress will radically cut down on your own and put you in a much better position to actually help.

 

 

7. Have sick-food in the pantry

Going shopping when you’re sick and woozy is a nightmare. You’ll be so glad with things like instant soup, frozen meals and other easy-to-make things.

So do go and stock up on 2 weeks of food you’d want to have if you were sick (remember, when you’re sick, you usually eat a lot less, so it wouldn’t be a ton of food).

DON’T be like one of those crazy people who buys up all of the supplies, because that just makes life harder for your fellow humans. But do think: “hmm, when I am ill and not very hungry, what are the foods I need to have? Crackers? A bag of soup I can warm up easily? A freezer meal I can throw in a pan and eat?”

When you’re sick and tired, going to the store is an ordeal (and with Corona, you’re not allowed to!). Even logging on to an online portal to order food to have delivered is an ordeal. When you’re sick, everything is an ordeal.

It makes a huge difference when you know you won’t have to worry about what to eat. And if you have loved ones or friendly neighbours nearby who can get you what you need, remember: you could all get sick at the same time so it’s still worth having some things.

Alternatively, make a list now of what you’d want someone to buy for you if you did get sick. If you’re the mom, or the dad, make a list for your whole family, of things you need to order online if you can’t go to the shops yourself. And when I say “sick” I mean: expect the ‘flu’, don’t expect the worst.

 

 

Part 2: 5 helpful things I learned from spending time in Cuba

15 years ago I visited Cuba. Not for a super long time. It was only 2,5 weeks but I stayed in Havana (I didn’t move around like most tourists did) and I met and talked to a lot of local people. I stayed at a kind of airbnb – a room in a family’s flat, and they made me breakfast each day. Staying in Havana and talking to people about what it was like there at the time made a huge impression on me. A year later, I was still processing.

 

8. Limited Supplies do not have to limit you

This was 15 years ago, hopefully things have changed for the better since then, but supply wise, things were tight (and not in the cool meaning of the word). Going into a supermarket in Cuba meant looking at big bare shelves with one or two items here or there.

Toilet paper was sold per roll. I seem to remember a roll cost about a dollar. Needless to say, people tried to use as little toiletpaper as possible! And back in the communist days, everyone used pieces of the national newspaper (some places still had newspaper to use that way, back when I visited!)

Going to little supply stands dotted around the city meant that on some days, they had cheese, on others, they didn’t. So when there was no cheese, well you made something else to eat.

All in all, people purchased and made do with what was available without panic. Local markets had plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Sure, every now and again someone would get emotional and explode about being so tired of eating eggs, eggs, and more eggs and not having any meat.

But I think, if people there could make do for years. Surely, we can learn to make do for weeks or months if it comes to that.

 

 

9, 10, 11 and 12 – camaraderie, restrictions, entrepreneurship and panic

One of the things that baffled me the most about Cuba at the time was that everything seemed illegal and yet everyone seemed to be doing it anyway.

There was a very strong sense of camaraderie.

Strangers would help each other out. Everyone would sympathise and try to help if people needed something or they were arrested by the police for something stupid. People warned each other. There were subtle hand signals and codes for “please take care of this person I’m with, I’m being arrested and don’t know what will happen”

Well actually, no I shouldn’t say everyone was supportive, because there were also spies who worked for the government. A family I knew had a spie living next door – or so the husband thought. He was freaking out about it. So far, nothing had happened as a result, but his panic was palpable.

In the end, I was very happy to leave the country because of the panic. A lot of people felt trapped and as I got to know some people a little better, I started to pick up on their panic and hopelessless more too.

O.k. but what use it that to you?

 

9. When things are bad, camaraderie makes everything better.

There are already tons of people online sharing stories about helping each other out. This is a real and beautiful thing (and let’s keep it going after the pandemic is over!).

 

 

10. Too many restrictions lead to people breaking the rules.

With all of us needing to abide by new rules to keep each other safe, make sure you’re not unnecessarily strict for yourself, because that could actually backfire.

 

 

11. Keep an eye out for new opportunities

Many people in Cuba were only just making ends meet. One acquaintance showed up in shock one day. As it turned out, he’d been sleeping in a hospital bed next to his kid who suddenly had to be taken in. He was so panicked when he first heard the news that he took a cab to the hospital, but now – the day after – reality hit him: he didn’t really have the money for a cab. What was he going to do?

Very quickly, he and a friend came up with something innocent they could sell me. Was I in? Sure – I’ll buy 5 of your merchandise for 5 dollars a piece, no problem. “Not 25?” they tried. No, just 5. In the end, they bought the merch from someone else who was charging about 20% of the price. They split the profits and guy no.1 had enough to cover the hole in his income due to the cab he took.

Most people I met had some kind of “sidebiz”. One boy I spoke to sold socks. They were ugly, and quite useless, but tourists bought them from him and he felt like a genius as a result. Other kids made their own music and sold the tapes.

The man selling lemonade on the street watered down the lemonade – which was illegal, but also the only way to make a profit.

The best meal I ever had came from a foodvendor with a cart who sold his food on bananaleaves.

People resold clothing that friends and family sent them from a broad. Havana was one big market place. Everyone was looking ways to sell something.

As the lady working in one of the museums told me: “we Cubans are always looking for a way to make a little extra money”.

And they succeeded, despite a regime that constantly tried to slash any kind of entrepreneurship.

Due to Corona and new goverment regulations, a lot of things are changing. We can learn from the Cubans I met: they didn’t give up looking for novel ways to make a little extra money when they needed it. But also, when they didn’t need it or they weren’t successful at selling, they relaxed.

A taxidriver once tried to convince me to go to a disco at 2 in the afternoon – he would drive me! “Er, no thanks. Would you like a peanut?” I shared the peanuts I’d bought and we chatted a little about his car and how he made a living.

Just because you need to hustle, doesn’t mean you have to keep pushing. It’s o.k. to try things and then take a break when it doesn’t work out. Try again tomorrow.

 

 

12. Look for ways to empower yourself when you feel panicked

Panic is the worst. To the extent that it comes from powerlessness and hopelessless, be sure to keep an eye on all the ways you can use this new strange time wisely. Make it a good thing. Be on the lookout for what you could learn or do that would make you feel empowered.

In Cuba at the time, information was extremely limited. Books were expensive and scarce and most of them were literary books, poetry or communist propaganda.

People had very little choice about what to read or learn outside of what was officially provided. Internet use was government monitored. Everyone assumed the government was reading their emails. You couldn’t simply “get online” and google something.

Only very privileged people had been granted permission to have an international phone line in their home (so they could call abroad and receive calls from abroad).

That’s hard to even imagine, right?

No matter how bad Corona may get in places, it’s not going to limit our access to information, and each other, like in Cuba.

You have access to tons of information and with the internet, even being locked up at home does not deny you access to that. We can use zoom, phone, email, whatsapp etc. to stay in touch with each other.

In Cuba, most people had to make use of “illegal” phonelines to call abroad. What that meant is that you’d be on a phonecall, and every 1-2 minutes, the line would be cut. You’d have to redial, and maybe wouldn’t be able to reconnect.

I can tell you, it’s crazy making. If you’re hungry to hear what someone you care about is up to and midsentence the line is cut, and you don’t know if you’ll be able to continue the conversation… stress galore.

You don’t have that problem, that’s a great thing. Enjoy the time you can talk to loved ones, uninterrupted. Even if it’s over the phone instead of in person.

Remind yourself that modern communication is a beautiful privilege that is here for you!

 

 

Part 3: 4 helpful things other people are sharing online about Corona:

 

13. Protect your marriage

Bruce Muzic is putting together a free Coranavirus Marriage Survival Guide

Here’s an excerpt:

“Four of us in a 2-bed apartment 24/7 is challenging.
Here’s what I’m struggling with personally:
I need a private place to work and complete silence while I work.
I need my 20-minute afternoon nap every day (Jeez! Reading that, I sound like an old man!).
How can my family help me meet those needs?
The kids have agreed to be quiet during my client calls and my 20-minute nap time (earplugs are also my friend).
And, I’ve converted the balcony into a temporary office and everyone has agreed to stay away from it while I work there.”

This link is the first in a series he’ll be publishing on his blog, so check back there over the coming days.

 

 

14. What does social distancing mean in practice?

The Atlantic wrote a helpful piece on what social distancing means in practice (with different expert opinions!): The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Distancing

 

 

15. The Ins and Outs of the Corona Virus

I mentioned in a recent newsletter:

When it comes to news, one of the ways I like to limit overwhelm is to get a deep dive version of something upfront, so that any little tidbit notifications popping up don’t rattle me.

So when the Corona Virus first hit the news, I did a deep dive. I let my brain ask all the questions, and then kept reading until I had the answers. So now, despite constant news updates, I don’t have a “OMG what IS this about” cloud of thoughts spinning in the back of my mind.

Every time I hear the news, there is no radically new information to take onboard. (New practical adjustments yes, but it’s not as if the virus is suddenly “different” than reported previously).

So anyway, when it comes to potential information overwhelm, that is my first HSP tip: ask all your questions and spend time getting all the answers (within reason), then you can let it go and you don’t have to keep opening a new question box every time there’s a news report.
A bit like doing all your taxes in one afternoon, instead of spreading it out over the month in 10 minute increments!

In case you haven’t done  a deep dive like this yet, I recommend setting apart 30 minutes and reading this:

Don’t panic, the comprehensive Arstechnica guide to the corona virus

It’s constantly updated and it’s very very thorough. Read this and you won’t need to blip back and forth between tiny distressing news updates anymore.

 

 


photo of overwhelmed cat and class announcementThe coming time will challenge us to stay calm and do what is needed, while still having fun too!

If you find you get overwhelmed easily – take a look at the How to Avoid Overwhelm class inside the Library.  Taught live in March 2020, you’ll learn a unique system + hear participant’s Q&A.


 

16. A different perspective entirely

I’m not saying I agree or disagree with this, but it was a link that landed in my inbox and I thought: “hmm, interesting”

For those open to some woo-woo: a message from the coronavirus and after the coronavirus, a vision

 

 

Part 4: Senstitive Self-Care during the pandemic

With all the stressing about avoiding the virus, it’s easy to lose sight of something even more important: your emotional, mental and physical well-being! Especially at a time when we’re all encouraged to stay home a LOT more, you may need to develop some new work-arounds.

 

17. Working out from home!

Working out is good for your health and your mood!

Here is a list of HSP-friendly online workout studios to check out.

Ellenbarrett.com – My fav right now and her membership is crazy affordable. Mindful movement, with and without weights.

Bodygroove.com – takes a “relax and dance in your own way” approach to working out.

Hipshakefitness.com – is an online dance studio with a lot of different workout styles. They also have an online community so you don’t feel alone.

Onnit.com – has a very well thought-out and kind kettlebell workout with clear instructions. If you’re looking for something that is literally a bit heavier, but that does encourage you to respect your limits, take a look at this class.

 

 

18. Mental Health Support

CreativeLive is offering free streaming of their health and wellness classes:

Right now it’s more important than ever to focus on our health and wellbeing – not only for ourselves but to support one another. So in addition to the free classes we offer our creative community, you can now stream these health and wellness classes 24/7. Please share this with anyone who may need self-care and calm.

During this pandemic, there are a lot of things you don’t control. What you do have a lot of control over though is your own mental and emotional health.

If you’re struggling, this is the time to take steps! Maybe you were doing o.k.-ish for most of 2019, but now with the pandemic, you find yourself going under… This means that while you were able to seemingly get by “just fine”, you really could have done with a self-care skillset up grade previously, but you could get away with it still. Now you can’t.

The pandemic is forcing all of us to address the parts of our life that are wobbly.

 

 

19. Don’t forget to laugh!

Vidangel – home of DryBar Comedy – is offering free access until March 30th

Also, make sure to get the H*nest Meditation App (Apple / Android) version of this:

 

 

20. The Toilet Paper (T)Issue

Meanwhile – it seems my area absolutely ran out of toilet paper.

On that topic, toiletpaperhistory.net says:

Before the advent of modern toilet paper many different materials were used for the same purposes. Different materials were used depending upon the country, weather conditions, social customs and status. People used leaves, grass, ferns, corn cobs, maize, fruit skins, seashells, stone, sand, moss, snow and water.

Shells?? I’m going to have to learn some new coordination skills.

According to Wikipedia:

In ancient Rome, they used a sponge on a stick to wipe (it was rinsed between uses). “… the first documented use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China. …

Hmmm, I have sponges. Do I have sticks? Yes, I do.

 

Wikihow explains:

Toilet paper is not standard use in India. Rather, squat toilets are the standard type of toilet and it is expected that you will clean yourself afterward using water from a hand bidet sprayer, butterfly jet, hand shower or even a bucket of water.

Wikihow has step by step explanations but I have SO MANY QUESTIONS. Someone get me on a skype call with someone from India – stat. I need to know more about this (do they realise they could make a fortune right now exporting their toilet hygiene know-how?)

If a reader from India sees this and thinks they can share a tip or two – I’m game! Let’s make this a podcast asap. We will need practical details though, so no vague politeness. A lifetime of practice needs to be boiled down to a 1-day class!

 

 

So, the stores are out of toilet paper here, and it’s good to know there are novel options. For now though, I’m moving to paper towels.

After that, I’m thinking I might:

  • talk my body into* producing only the most well-bundled poop possible. Requiring no toilet paper and sufficing with a little water+essential oil spritz (*if anyone has a meditation for that, please send it my way. No wait! I’ll do myself one better and MAKE one, check it out below this list.)
  • cut up some old towels and pretend I’m a baby in the pre-babywipes era. With a bucket of disinfectant+ water near the toilet to throw the cloths into.
  • Uhm, orange peels, maybe? At least I’ll smell nice. Still trying to figure out the logistics on that one.
  • Make sure I only poop before I was going to take a shower anyway.
  • Poop at night, then drag my butt around on the grass in the garden when nobody’s looking. Geez Caroline, that’s not creepy at all. Moving on.
  • When all else fails – read up on hand wiping/ butt washing techniques. The upside to that is that we’re not allowed to shake hands now anyway, so we don’t have to worry which hand to use for that (look for the silver lining folks!).

And now, for what I personally think is the BEST alternative. I really think this one is most HSP-friendly. We like to meditate, and it just seems like a non-violent solution overall!

 

 

 

P.S. It was mentioned on the “That’s Quarantainment” podcast here.

 

21. Last but not least: The 5 Corona Commandments

  1. Thou shalt laugh
  2. Thou shalt be kind to others
  3. Thou shalt remember this is not the zombie apocalypse
  4. Thou shalt not fret about thy supermarket coupons*
  5. Thou shalt not steal other people’s toilet paper

*At the supermarket, the cashier somewhat defensively announced that there were no coupons. To which I replied “no problem, I don’t collect them anyway!”

Then I asked her if people actually complained about the lack of coupons. She said people did. The phrase she heard most often was “dat kan ECHT niet” (loose translation: “No coupons? This is outrageous!”)

I thought that was both sad and hilarious. It seems that some people have so little life experience that an unexpected lack of coupons constitutes an emotional crisis for them.

(Note: these coupons are either free little stickers you can collect to save up for a discount on towels, tupperware or a ticket to a theme park etc. And then there are other coupons that you “buy” and they give you 5% interest on what you paid for them, when you’ve filled a card with enough of them. So it’s a way to save money – provided you don’t lose any coupons nor forget to use them. So we’re not talking life essentials here)

 

 

Who can answer this?

Question: if you TP someone’s house during this time (and it’s not raining or snowing etc – so they could collect it all and use it) are you an asshole? Or a hero?

 

Leave a Helpful Comment

Let others know below:

  • What is keeping you sane during the pandemic?
  • Are there any other generously offered resources HSPs should know about?
  • Do you have a favorite tip from this article?
  • What does camaraderie look like in your area?

Your email is asked when you comment, but won’t be published. Also – you can choose anything as your “name”. I moderate comments based on content (to filter out spam).

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous March 21, 2020

Hemorrhoid wipes: generic kind are cheaper but preparation h makes them: they are an EXCELLENT toilet paper alternative! They’ll leave you SUPER clean after as well. :)

Reply

2 Dawn April 17, 2020

Thanks for the tips. Very helpful and love your humor.

Now…to answer your question about, “if you TP someone’s house during this time (and it’s not raining or snowing etc – so they could collect it all and use it) are you an asshole? Or a hero?”. In my opinion, ASSHOLE. I would have just given them the roll of TP so they didn’t have to pick it up from all over the place. That’s just rude, not to mention stupid.

Reply

3 Caroline van Kimmenade April 18, 2020

TP:Gift, 0:1, noted! ;)

Reply

4 Steven June 11, 2020

That was an enjoyable read and pretty funny.

I thought this would be good tool that people would also find entertaining

https://swankyden.com/toilet-paper-calculator/

Reply

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