Psychologist Robert Reiner came up with a technique called 20BEADS to help people manage their stress in isolation.
It breaks down to three things, each done for 20 minutes: diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, aerobics exercises, and socializing with close friends. Reiner said people who are cooped up inside should try their best to replicate life before the pandemic.
“You want to try to replicate what your earlier life was before this pandemic occurred as much as you can,” he said. “So if you relied on close relationships, if you made it a point of seeing people all the time … you want to get back to that as much as you can.”
The technique doesn’t necessarily have to be done in this order. But if we were to do it that way, belly breathing comes first.
Reiner said it’s like having a string attached to your navel, pulling it in and out. He added that “it’s actually physiologically impossible to be anxious when you’re doing this correctly. ”
This type of breathing can trigger a “relaxation response,” or a state of “profound rest” that can also be reached through mediation and yoga, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Keeping the Routine Alive
Next come the aerobic exercises.
“The only thing worse, in my opinion, than a person who doesn’t get any aerobic exercise, is a person who’s used to getting it, and for whatever reason stops doing it,” said Reiner. “That is a trigger for anxiety and depression.”
Exercise gets the endorphins pumping, also known as the “feel good” neurotransmitters, according to Mayo Clinic. When the exercises stop, Reiner said the part of the brain that’s use to getting that neurological release is deprived of what it thinks is important.
And lastly, socializing daily with close friends or people who are “predictable”—via phone or video.
Reiner said he’s lucky to be isolated with three of his children. But he encourages everyone to socialize with people beyond their vicinity, like they normally would, and pass on the 20BEADS technique.
“You know, our brains were not built for big surprises, and we’re basically creatures of habit,” he said. “So things that you were doing before, as much as you can—and I get it, we’re in a compromised situation—but you want to try to replicate them as best as you can.”