We are living in strange, unprecedented times.

With so much uncertainty—and the radical transformation of our daily lives—it’s easy to feel anxious, overwhelmed, and out-of-control.

To stay grounded and maintain a sense of wellbeing, we need to be thoughtful about how we approach and structure each day.

Here are 5 steps—a daily checklist of sorts—that will help you stay centered and focused on what matters as you navigate the challenges of this time.

1) Stay Calm & Grounded
• Don’t forget to breathe. Your breath is key to staying calm and reducing stress.
• When you get hit with an anxious wave try these 3 Steps:
o Take a deep breath
o Feel your feet on the ground
o Open up your scope of awareness. Take a look around your immediate environment and consciously bring your mind into the present moment.

2) File a Daily Flight Plan
• Each morning spend a few minutes creating a schedule that manages your responsibilities, reflects your values, and expresses good self and family care, such as scheduling time for play and exercise.
• Remember if you don’t lead the day the day will lead you, which will only increase your stress and sense of loss of control.

3) Practice Mindful Acceptance
• Accept and make space for the loss of control and uncertainty inherent in these times. You can’t control the circumstances but you can control your response to the trials.
• Allow the feelings of insecurity and vulnerability to be present inside you, without investing in the mental what ifs that want to revisit the past or predict an anxious future.
• Instead, remind yourself to be present-moment focused and follow the schedule you created (daily flight plan).
• If you need more help protecting your mind from anxious worries, here’s a helpful book: Freedom from Anxious Thoughts & Feelings.

4) Boundaries around News (flow of information)
• Right now people are compulsively refreshing news outlets to get the latest update. As a result, they feel perpetually distracted and stressed.
• To stay centered and purposefully focused, check one or two credible news outlets at a specific time each day—with a time limit. For example, maybe you read Google News and your regional newspaper feed at 8am, 12 noon and 6pm each day for 15 or 20 minutes. Outside of these times, you protect your mind from being flooded by staying away from the news.
• If you suffer from historical health anxiety, you can use a similar strategy. Instead of incessantly evaluating and googling real or perceived physical symptoms, follow the current medical advice/recommendations and evaluate your symptoms on a specific, pre-designated schedule, such as taking your temperature every 3 hours.

5) Practice Gratitude & Kindness
• Even during the most challenging times there are things for which to be grateful. Do a gratitude exercise each day. Write down or take mental note of those things for which you’re thankful.
• Don’t let the fears and trials define who you are or dictate how you will approach the day. Tap into the best version of self, draw close to God, and see new opportunities with spiritual eyes.
• Instead of going internal and getting tangled up in an anxious web, rotate your concern outward. Ask yourself, How can I help others? Is there someone who needs an encouraging word or vital supplies during the lockdown?
• Take your fears and vulnerability and transform them into loving-action. This type of purposeful action feeds the soul and absorbs the fear.

It’s hard to know how long the quarantine will last. It’s hard to know what the consequences of the coronavirus will be. What we do know—what we can do—is create a daily structure that gives us the best chance of staying calm and living with purpose each day.

Author's Bio: 

SCOTT SYMINGTON, PHD, is the author of Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings: A Two-Step Mindfulness Approach for Moving Beyond Fear and Worry and a licensed clinical psychologist dedicated to helping adults overcome worry and anxiety, negative moods, addictive behaviors, and other conditions stealing people’s joy and freedom. He regularly speaks at professional conferences; large church groups; graduate schools and universities; and business groups, including the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

Dr. Symington earned a PhD in clinical psychology from the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and completed an M.A. in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. His career path began in the business and consulting world. Then in 1998, after much soul searching, he decided to leave a lucrative position brokering agricultural products to pursue his true passion—clinical psychology—a profession that lined up with both his head and heart.

One of his primary interests, which is informed by his diverse experiences and training, is making the evidenced-based methods of psychology and spiritual wisdom easy to understand and apply to your daily life. Dr. Symington practices and resides in Pasadena, California.