Navigating Restlessness

When you’re cooped up inside for over a month, restlessness is the result. And people are demanding for relief. Extended quarantines have already resulted in protests, petitions, and a willingness to compromise social distancing.

No one likes feeling irritable and restless. But understanding and tackling it will help you stay sane and avoid irrational behaviors.

Restlessness is bottled energy that can build when your reality does not match your desired state. Maybe you’d rather be socializing with friends, eating at your favorite restaurant, planting your garden, working, building your business, going to the gym or having some personal space. But instead you’re inside, confined with your quarantine mates, unable to carry out these desires and plans – with no end in sight.

Maybe the restlessness you feel is more personal. For me, I get restless when who I am is not who I want to be. Or when my normal life is not one I like. When I feel like I can’t easily bridge the gap between my current self and my ideal self, it leads to an uncomfortable feeling of agitation.

The result? An overwhelming sense of restlessness.

How to Cope

Understanding the source of restlessness from can help depressurize it, even if it’s just a little bit.

Identify the desires you have that you aren’t able to fulfill right now. Recognize how your current self is different from your ideal self. How are you trying to relieve that pressure or fill that gap?

Consider developing new dreams and desires for this season that are actually achievable. There’s a lot online about using this time to develop a new skill or hobby. And while that may work for some, it’s important to remember that people have different needs. Staying productive may give one person a sense of purpose while the same idea may increase feelings of guilt, shame or the pressure to perform for another. For some of us, the best way to take advantage of quarantine is to use it as an opportunity to practice self-care, work through personal issues, rest, set healthy boundaries and manage our expectations. Quarantine will eventually end, so take time to figure out what you need during this season and what works best for you.

Movement can also help you expend pent-up, nervous energy. Find a way to move your body and “get it all out”, even if it’s just for a little while. Here are a few ideas:

  • Dance
  • Walk
  • Tap
  • Sing, make music or clap your hands
  • Go for a bike ride or other social distancing activity
  • Play a game
  • Jump or run in place for 15 seconds
  • Race your kids around the house or yard
  • Channel energy into physical tasks like cleaning, organizing, yard work, etc.

Understanding the source of your restlessness and finding healthy ways to release the pressure will bring relief and protect you from making rash decisions you might later regret.


This post is part of a 10-part series on how to successfully navigate your emotions during a crisis. Check out the other emotions in this series below: 

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