By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
This list of outdoor activities and indoor activities are great things to do when stressed for anxiety relief. Start on these self care activities while in quarantine!
During current quarantine measures for people experiencing coronavirus symptoms (or for the rest of us who are in self isolation, shelter in place, or social distancing), having positive mental health and a self care plan is more important than ever.
How are you all doing during this crazy period of time? Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, infectious diseases, quarantine and isolation is not exactly a walk in then park. With parts of the country taking quarantine measures or placing people in coronavirus isolation, this is such a scary time. Especially when we get such depressing news on the daily from the public health officials at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the spread of disease.
And feeling social isolation effects during a lock down is no fun at all. This is why it's more important than ever to have a plan for anxiety relief while you're isolating yourself. "Stress management is one of the six pillars in lifestyle medicine," says dietitian Kathy Levin, RD, CDE, DipACLM.
To help you find good ways to relax while you stay home to help prevent the spread of this contagious disease, I put together a whole bunch of self-care ideas from myself and my registered dietitian colleagues. These ideas include self-care strategies to do inside and things to do outside when you're feeling anxious.
By the way, if you're a healthcare worker and would like to receive a coronavirus donation of food for your department, click here to sign up!
Things to Do Outside
1. Go for a solo walk
“With a mug of matcha tea, I walk along the water," says Cheryl Buckley, MS, MBA, RDN, a nutritionist in Hoboken, NJ. "I look at the views and feed off the energy of others outside doing the same thing. I do this in order to get my day started on the right foot!” Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, agrees. "I love to get outdoors and take a long walk listening to my favorite music," she says.
Try it: Mocafe Matcha Green Tea Latte
2. Poke your head outside
“I love to get outside, even if it’s for a quick few minutes!” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN. “Fresh air always helps with my mental clarity and usually boosts my mood. I regroup and then come back to the problem at hand.” If you're currently quarantined indoors, you can take a virtual tour of a zoo or international landmarks!
Try it: Webcam at the Houston Zoo
3. Rake the leaves
Whenever you get stressed out about the thought of communicable diseases, venture into your yard. “I enjoy doing yard work,” says Felicia Stoler, RD, author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes. “As silly as it sounds, I'm on a mission to de-clutter the tree limbs and branches. It takes some time but looks great. Being outside with nature is very therapeutic.”
4. Sit outside
Getting sunshine can help reduce anxiety symptoms and help you to feel good. “I'm making a habit of sitting outside in the sunshine for at least 15 minutes a day while I take seven deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling for four counts each,” says Deborah Rankin, RD. “Whether I sit on my back patio, front porch ,or a park bench—or whether I need a light jacket or a parka—it's great to pause, breathe, and soak up a little sunshine.”
Try it: Stop, Breathe & Think App
5. Grow something
“I recently started an outdoor garden as a way to de-stress and enjoy time outside on my own,” says Cassidy Reeser, RDN, owner of Cozy Peach Kitchen. “Even growing herbs inside is a great way to fresh up a room. To avoid crowded stores, you can order seeds online, and many local garden stores offer delivery for a small fee.”
Try it: Vegetable and Herb Seeds
6. Do some people watching
“I walk every day, and sometimes I walk twice a day,” says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, host of Liz's Healthy Table podcast and co-author of No Whine with Dinner. “I love being outside, and it's been nice to see all the kids and their parents out walking, too. It reminds me of the old days before the explosion of electronics. Seeing kids being kids makes me happy—and right now, I am craving happy.” Under a coronavirus quarantine? See some fresh faces on TikTok!
Try it: TikTok
7. Take your dog for a walk
“No matter the weather, I make it a point to get outside and walk my dogs,” says dietitian Sarah Marjoram, RD. “It helps us feel not so stir crazy, and we get a little social interaction from afar. Nothing helps me manage my stress better than regular exercise.” If you have an Apple watch or Fitbit, you can easily track your activity for the day.
Try it: Apple Watch Series 5
8. Create an obstacle course
“I like to set up indoor or outdoor obstacle courses for myself, my husband, and the kids,” says Jamie Lee McIntyre, MS, RDN. “We set up cones, a jump rope, rope ladders, and stations for floor exercises. We set a timer on the phone, with music blasting. The kids love it, and we sneak in a stress-reducing workout. Plus, it gets all of us away from screens!”
Try it: Xben Rope Ladder
9. Blow bubbles
Why not embrace your inner child to kick away feelings of self isolation? Whether it's on your own or with your kids, go outside and blow a whole bunch of bubbles. You'll likely feel more lighthearted after a few minutes!
10. Run outside
“Running and bike riding are proving to be a saving grace for me,” says Sarah Garone, NDTR, a nutrition blogger at A Love Letter to Food. Melissa Mitri, MS RD, owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, agrees. “I run and get sun, even if it’s cold outside," she says. You can use MapMyRun to create a route.
Try it: MapMyRun
11. Have a musical walk
When it comes to physical self care activities, add some music to your day. “I love to get outdoors and take a long walk, while listening to my favorite music,” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition. “I listen to mellow music like Enya, Brian Eno, or other chill music.” Even if you walk for just 30 minutes, that's bound to reduce stress.
12. Head to the beach
“I head straight to the beach to run or walk along the water, hear the waves, feel the wind on my face, breathe in the salt air, and watch the sea gulls fly,” Jenny Shea Rawn, MS, MPH, RD. “It's off season here on Cape Cod, so usually I am the only one on the beach.” Not near a beach? "For people not near water, you can Google videos of waves crashing," says Jeanette Kimszal, RD, NLC. "I have done this before, and it was very calming.”
Try it: Ocean Waves Relaxation on YouTube
13. Go out for a bike ride
“I take my morning bicycle ride in my own neighborhood development, rather than driving to the park,” says Barbara Baron, MS, RDN, CDN. “It is more enjoyable because there are few to no cars in the street, plus I now get a chance to wave hello to a new mom taking her son out for a walk in the stroller. This brings back fond memories of me walking with my son.” Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RD also enjoys bike riding. “I love riding a bike as the weather becomes more mild,” says “You can enjoy seeing a neighborhood or park and leaving your worries behind.” If you're stuck inside, consider getting a stationary bike.
14. Play with your pets
When you're in self isolation, having pets helps. “I play with the dog on our back patio, which gets me moving and makes me smile,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
15. Go hiking
“I go on hikes or walks in an outdoor state park,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook. “There’s lots of room to social distance.” Brenda McIntyre, RD, says that she enjoys hiking in the woods with her dog. If you don't have a state park near you, you can always do a virtual tour of a state park!
Try it: Yellowstone virtual tour
16. Create an outdoor office
“Since I work from home, I always move my office to the front porch when the spring weather breaks,” says Rosanne Rust, RD, co-author of Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies. “I love the sound of the birds and the breeze.”
Things to Do Inside
17. Do solo yoga
“When I feel really stressed at home, I stop what I'm doing and take five minutes for a super simple yoga flow,” says sports dietitian Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD. “If it's warm enough, I head out on my patio. If not, I take it to my sun porch to get closer to nature. Just focusing on breathing and stepping away for gentle movement helps so much.” Consider enhancing your practice with essential oils.
Try it: BalanceFrom GoYoga 7-Piece Set
18. Watch a play
Obviously, you can't get to Broadway right now. So why not bring theater into your living room while you stay at home?
19. Pet your fur babies
It helps to have a support group, even if that support comes in the form of a fur baby or two! “My furry friends are so calming and soothing to be around,” says Arielle “Dani” Lebovitz, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDE, author of My Vegetable Adventures. In addition to petting your animal, you can also brush your pets!
20. Clean, clean, clean!
“I just finished scrubbing bathroom walls and the ceiling,” says Judy Barbe, RD, author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest. “Do you have streaks from steam? I have been meaning to do this for months. Fun? Not really. But I feel joy that it’s clean, fresh, and finished!”
Try it: Amazon Scrub Brush for Bathroom
21. Practice mindfulness
“Stop and smell the roses,” suggests Christie Gagnon, RD. “Practicing mindfulness allows you to live in the present moment and can help decrease stress and anxiety. Stop worrying about the future, and focus on your current surroundings. What do you see, hear, and feel right now?” Consider keeping a journal to record your thoughts.
Try it: Classic Ruled Journals
22. Work out at home
“I work out in my home gym while drinking my coffee and listening to NPR, or usually BBC because it’s 4am or 4:30am,” says Kathleen LaBella, RD. “It’s a great way for me to prevent any stress and catch up on the news, all before I turn on the computer. I believe in taking time for myself before I start my day, and then I’m available and ready for anything else.” No home gym? No problem. Many gyms are currently offering free streamed workouts during the coronavirus outbreak.
23. Take an indoor Spin class
“I ride my Peloton,” says Jill Castle, RD, co-author of Fearless Feeding. “I’ve joined a local Peloton Facebook group called #NCStrong. We are riding together, reporting out our workouts, and just connecting each day. It’s fun!” You can also make your bike into a workplace: Add a spin tray to house your laptop or a book.
Try it: Spintray for Peloton
24. Keep a gratitude journal
“I put together a five-minute journal, in which I write three things I’m grateful for, what would make today great, and three affirmations,” says Brontë Grooms, RD. “Then I end the day with what was great about the day and what would make it better. It helps to shift to a positive mindset.”
25. Knead bread
“I have found that baking with yeast is very therapeutic,” says Adams. “There is something about therapeutic about the whole process from kneading the dough to letting it rise, to baking it and eating it.” Dietitian Erin Hendrickson, RDN, agrees. “I took a sourdough bread-making class a few months ago,” she says. “Baking bread from scratch, along with a glass of wine nearby, has become a weekly tradition I look forward to. It's a great way to decompress and relax, and of course the end product is delicious!"
Try it: LeSaffre Saf-Instant Yeast
26. Sip a cup of coffee
When I'm feeling stressed, I drink coffee. Sometimes, it's decaf! It feels so nice to have a warm cup of liquid in my hands, and I find the aroma so soothing.
27. Stream a yoga class
Lauren O’Connor, RD, enjoys streaming yoga from her home. “It’s kinda cat yoga, because our cats come and go as they please between poses!” she says. “I finally got my big screen TV set up for YouTube to do Yoga with Adriene.” Dietitian Mandy Enright, RD, is a yoga instructor who's currently offering free online yoga classes.
Try it: Yoga with Adriene on YouTube
28. Do a meditation
“Meditation is a great way to chill out and help decrease inflammation in our bodies during stressful times,” says Levin. “I love to use the Insight Timer app because you can pick the amount of time you have available and a meditation that relates to the stressor in your life. I've used the app for daily meditation but have also used it when I get a migraine to help relieve the symptoms. If meditation is new to you, choose a guided meditation and sit back and relax.” Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RDN, owner of Halsa Nutrition, says that she's a fan of the Headspace app.
Try it: Insight Timer
29. Listen to music
“I listen to music, and then it turns into dancing, which gets the blood flowing,” says Jen Bragg, MS, RD, owner of Bragg Nutrition. “This can be done at home or while walking, or running. You can even have a virtual dance party!”
30. Bake with your kids
Have a cookie-baking session with your little ones. Or if they're old enough, leave them to it and grab some alone time! A friend of mine who is homeschooling her kids due to the quarantine let her children make cookies on their own. I thought it was such a cute idea, plus it gave her some much-needed solo time! "I gave the kids all the ingredients for chocolate-chip cookies and a recipe, and returned to my office to work," she said. "I heard teamwork, math, and giggles. Mistakes were made and they figured out how to fix them." If you're out of eggs, try these peanut butter no-egg cookies.
Try it: Happiest Kids Baking Set
31. Take a virtual tour of a museum
Take a tour of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris or the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC from the comfort of your home!
Try it: Virtual museum tours
32. Embrace your faith
“I enjoy taking moments throughout the day to read a bible verse or listen to gospel music to keep me encouraged,” says KeyVion Miller, RD, owner of The Miller's Kitchen.
Try it: Gospel Flow on Apple Music
33. Start a social media activity
“I started this ‘game’ on my Facebook wall, and it has been going well,” says Lacey Armstrong, RD. Here’s how it works, she explains, “Locked in remote workers! Let’s play a game called ‘My Pets are My Coworkers.’ Describe things your pets are doing, but refer to them as your coworkers. I’ll go first: My coworker is good at cuddling while I get my work done, but it’s so weird when she randomly licks my hand.”
Try it: Facebook
34. Eat a virtual meal
“I have virtual meals and connect with family I'm not physically close to, whether it be my mum in the United Kingdom or my sister in Australia,” says Shahzadi Devje, RD, owner of Desi~licious RD. “We've made time to talk through our worries, nurture a positive mindset, and brainstorm ideas to keep engaged in our home with our respective families. It's been an absolute joy to mingle and unite with the ones I love during these challenging times.” Need ideas for easy freezer meals?
Try it: Skype
35. Have a solo karaoke session
“I like to play my favorite songs from the 90s and sing them out loud,” says Jenna Braddock, RD, co-author of 200 Surefire Ways to Eat Well and Feel Better. “It’s nostalgic and brings back great memories, which helps lower my stress or anxiety level.”
36. Take a painting class
“I follow free online watercolor painting tutorials on YouTube,” says Chelsea Jackle, MFN, RDN, a dietitian at Chelsea Dishes. “Even though I’m a total novice, it’s so soothing.”
Try it: Let’s Make Art on YouTube
37. Enjoy a bubble bath
“I enjoy a relaxing, warm bubble bath with Tibetan meditation music in the background,” says Melissa Nieves, RD, MPH, founder of Fad Free Nutrition Blog. “Combined with circular breathing exercises, I feel totally renewed afterwards!”
38. Read a magazine
“Since the times are calling for a stop to the shop-till-you-drop practice, I’m just reading the fashion magazines,” says Cristina Svec, MA, RDN, CLE, a dietitian in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It does de-stress me.”
Try it: InStyle subscription
39. Whip up something tasty
“I love to put some music on and forget about the world for a bit,” says Michele Fumagalli, RD. “It’s just me in the kitchen, going step by step until the masterpiece is ready. Then my family and I all share it together around our table.”
40. Color in an adult coloring book
“Coloring brings out your inner creativity and helps you de-stress by focusing on your artwork,” says Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, owner of Olive Tree Nutrition. “There are many adult coloring books and free coloring printables online.”
41. Do a recipe challenge
“I find it fun and relaxing to experiment with creative ways to use the shelf-stable grocery items I have on hand,” says Samina Qureshi, RDN, a dietitian at Wholesome Start Nutrition Counseling. “You can start by asking yourself or your family what type of food they are craving. If they feel like having noodles, you can make a delicious ramen dish with instant noodles, frozen mixed veggies, and a soft-boiled egg!”
42. Show your gratitude
Here's one of the best self-care ideas. “I am using this time to write notes of gratitude to people who have touched my life,” says Stoler. Buy beautiful stationary to make the notes even brighter!
Try it: Simple Joyful Notes
43. Knit a scarf
“Focusing on stitches allows my mind to quiet,” says Kelly Abramson, RD, manager of Npower You. “And then we have something tangible in the end.” Denise Barratt, RD, author of Farm Fresh Nutrition, says she enjoys watching a movie while she knits.
44. Use your fine china
“For a change of scenery at the table, I have used my mom's China or stemware to bring back good memories of our family meals together as I grew up,” says Baron. If you don't have china, dress up the table with a pretty placemat.
Try it: Lunarable Floral Place Mats
45. Look for recipe inspo
“I go through old cookbooks or food magazines lying around the house,” says Kara Holton, RD. "I get new recipe inspiration this way, which allows me the opportunity to mix up some of our usual menu items! Plus, if nothing inspires me in a cookbook, I know I can put it in the donate pile and make room for something that will!" For more ideas, take a look at these pantry meals.
46. Re-read a childhood favorite
Saving a box of books for your kids? Go and unearth those dusty copies of The Babysitter Club or Sweet Valley High to take a trip down memory lane! Some of the books have even been reprinted, if you're missing any!
Try it: Sweet Valley High, Books 1-12
47. Do an active video game
My fiance gets a lot of his exercise from playing virtual reality games! He loves BOXVR. I've also heard that Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch provides a great workout!
48. Watch an online concert
“People can do much at home to relax and unwind,” says LaBella. “Turn on a smart TV or YouTube to watch a concert.” Coldplay's Chris Martin, as well as John Legend, have hosted concerts on Instagram Live during this coronavirus outbreak.
Try it: Instagram
49. See the sunset
It’s the little things right now, right? Wendy Jo Peterson, RD, co-author of Born to Eat, says that she enjoys sunset watching. If you really love a view of a sunset, hang up a painting so you can see it all day long.
Try it: Sunset Ocean Beach Canvas Prints
50. Sip a cocktail
How to relax your mind from stress during social isolation? Take a break! When in doubt with how to de-stress, craft up a cocktail! “We made Manhattans last night,” says Fumagalli.
Try it: Manhattan Cocktail Kit
- Kathy Levin, RD, CDE, DipACLM
- Cheryl Buckley, MS, MBA, RDN, a nutritionist in Hoboken, NJ
- Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN
- Felicia Stoler, RD, author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes
- Deborah Rankin, RD
- Cassidy Reeser, RDN, owner of Cozy Peach Kitchen
- Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, host of Liz's Healthy Table podcast and co-author of No Whine with Dinner
- Sarah Marjoram, RD
- Jamie Lee McIntyre, MS, RDN
- Sarah Garone, NDTR, a nutrition blogger at A Love Letter to Food
- Melissa Mitri, MS RD, owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition
- Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition
- Jenny Shea Rawn, MS, MPH, RD
- Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RD
- Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club
- Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Create-Your-Plate Diabetes Cookbook
- Brenda McIntyre, RD
- Rosanne Rust, RD, co-author of Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies
- Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD
- Arielle “Dani” Lebovitz, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDE, author of My Vegetable Adventures
- Judy Barbe, RD, author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest
- Christie Gagnon, RD
- Kathleen LaBella, RD
- Jill Castle, RD, co-author of Fearless Feeding
- Brontë Grooms, RD
- Erin Hendrickson, RDN
- Mandy Enright, RD
- Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RDN, owner of Halsa Nutrition
- Jen Bragg, MS, RD, owner of Bragg Nutrition
- KeyVion Miller, RD, owner of The Miller's Kitchen
- Lacey Armstrong, RD
- Shahzadi Devje, RD, owner of Desi~licious RD
- Jenna Braddock, RD, co-author of 200 Surefire Ways to Eat Well and Feel Better
- Chelsea Jackle, MFN, RDN, a dietitian at Chelsea Dishes
- Melissa Nieves, RD, MPH, founder of Fad Free Nutrition Blog
- Cristina Svec, MA, RDN, CLE, a dietitian in the San Francisco Bay Area
- Michele Fumagalli, RD
- Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, owner of Olive Tree Nutrition
- Samina Qureshi, RDN, a dietitian at Wholesome Start Nutrition Counseling
- Denise Barratt, RD, author of Farm Fresh Nutrition
- Kara Holton, RD
- Wendy Jo Peterson, RD, co-author of Born to Eat
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I'd love to hear from you! How are you finding anxiety relief and what self care activities are you taking part in while quarantine measures and self isolation policies are in place? What movement of people do you find helpful?
What have you found to be helpful during isolation and quarantine? What symptom of anxiety are you fighting the most?
How are you practicing spiritual self care? If you have anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder, what activities are helping the most?