The brain likes certainty, predictability and structure. Those things keep our stress response system from being activated. In the middle of a Pandemic all bets are off. If you’ve never had anxiety before and all the sudden find yourself worrying about everything, there’s a good chance you are not alone. Racing thoughts keeping you up at night? Unfounded fears multiplying?
Sitting alone in your car on a drive home from work, where you are deemed an “essential worker” and have been working non-stop since all of the lock downs started, suddenly you feel your chest tighten, your grasping for your breath, your legs are tingling and you think you’re going to die. Most likely you’re having a panic attack.
Mask wearing, excessive hand washing, social distancing, the number of people infected or dying everyday adds to the stress. Add in whether or not your job went away, is not coming back, or you just don’t even have a clue what’s going to happen…this all adds to stress.
In my experience managing anxiety is not an easy task, especially when so many things are outset our control. That’s the first strategy. Focus on the things you can control. We can’t control Uncle Bill’s sudden outrages over having to wear a mask in Walmart, but we can control our reaction to his emotional deluge. We have absolutely no control over politics or anyone’s political opinion, so try to restrain from arguing on Facebook with your friends or family. You won’t change their minds and it will simply add to your stress.
Breath. Sounds stupid, but it really works. Breathing deeply five times and exhaling clears the mind and relieves anxiety almost immediately. It won’t cure you, but it will help make things more manageable.
Take a time out. Walk outside in nature. It’s calming, peaceful and doesn’t have an underlying agenda.
Exercise if only for short moments. Five minutes is better than nothing. Take a five minute walk outside in the neighborhood. Do a pushup challenge with your friends. Find free online workouts you can do from home. Move the body it will help the mind.
Everyday is about taking one small step forward. We can’t get to the end of the tunnel when we can’t see the light. Right now, there’s no light shining. All we know is there’s so much we don’t know. We are living in constant uncertainty.
Be careful what you put in your body to manage these rough times. Too much of any good thing…well it turns into a not so good thing. Too many cigarettes, too much booze, etc. There’s no easy solution to this circumstance.
Take a step back and remember the times you’ve gotten through difficult times. What did you do? How did you think about what steps you needed to take? What helped? Who helped? And smile knowing you made it.
We will live through this time. It won’t be 100% unpleasant nor 100% pleasant. It will be a mixed bag. Stress will come and go. Some people will have it much worse than others. Help someone if you can. Ask for help if you need it.
One day at a time. Find the little joys that make your heart sing.
Wishing you safety and good health,