How To Cope With Anxiety During Coronavirus
Whether you’re familiar with feelings of anxiety or not, the coronavirus is creating an unprecedented tidal wave of emotions for many of us. You may find it difficult to manage your feelings and foster hope. Please understand that this is completely normal.
What it isn’t, however, is pleasant. We don’t want to feel out of control and uncertain. Being out of balance is uncomfortable at best and life-altering at its most severe. The coping skills you’ve used to may not be working for you right now. But there’s good news.
The same coping skills you rely on to manage daily anxiety can help during this time. The key difference is the approach. Your mindset and how you choose to roll out these coping skills can make a significant difference. That’s what we’re talking about today in a two-part post.
First, we want to get into how to let your anxiety go. In the next article, we’ll talk about how we’re distracting ourselves in healthy ways.
Cope With Anxiety During Coronavirus: How Do I Know I’m Anxious?
Obviously, if you’re feeling anxious this seems like a silly question. For many people, however, anxiety masks itself as other emotions and behaviors.
- Anger and irritability;
- Inability to focus;
- Lack of motivation;
- Changes in eating behaviors;
- Emotional outbursts;
- Sadness; and
- Fear –
These are all warning signs that you’re experiencing anxiety. They go hand in hand with the more commonly understood symptoms of anxiety. These common symptoms include feelings of panic, panic attacks, a racing heart, rapid breathing, numbness in extremities, and even seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there.
Although some of these experiences also indicate that you’re depressed (you don’t always feel sad, in fact, often angry!), they can all signify that you’re having trouble coping. Today, we’ll treat them similarly.
Cope With Anxiety During Coronavirus: What’s The First Thing You Should Do?
What can you do to relieve stress right now? It’s a little radical but if you embrace it, it might actually help.
A friend once told us that ‘worry is a form of chaotic control’ and that seems particularly fitting now. What if your worry wasn’t actually helping anything at all? Could you let it go?
It isn’t actually stress, worry, and anxiety that prevents anything from happening. Worry is kind of a neurotic response to the refusal to accept an actual lack of control.
In fact, we have very little control over what’s going on around us including other people. What we can do is try to accept our actual role. Doing that gives us more energy for self-care and the things we can actually impact.
So the first thing you should do is really examine what your worry (i.e. anxiety) is doing to help the situation. Sometimes it feels like worry helps because it keeps us focused, but it’s not a healthy or beneficial kind of focus.
If you can accept that your worry is actually distracting and draining you it might be easier to let it go. Next, try touching in with your body for some much-needed grounding.
Try Connecting With The Body
We suggest taking a few deep and calming breaths. Try closing your eyes for a moment and simply connect with your physical body. If your heart is racing, try connecting with a different part of your body first. Move on to focus on breathing and your heart and see if you can imagine it slowing to normal.
These are mindful and visualization techniques.
Sometimes it’s helpful to actually lay down and close your eyes. Shut the world out for a few minutes and do your best to simply be in your body.
While you’re working on this somatic connection which can be very grounding, give yourself permission to feel your emotions and to also let them go!
How Do You Let Anxiety Go?
Trigger warning: we’re going to briefly mention something that could initially be upsetting. If you feel you cannot tolerate holding space for the uncertainty of life, skip this part for now and come back when you’re ready. You can focus on your mind and body connection in the meantime. Our next section offers some ways to distract yourself and that might be a better place for you right now.
If you’re ready, let’s continue.
What’s The Worst That Can Happen?
In order to truly release the anxiety you’re carrying surrounding this pandemic, we encourage you to consider your actual role in the world at this time. You’re simply one person who can only do their very best. We aren’t guaranteed everlasting life because that’s not how the human experience works.
It’s easy to see your actions during this time as a magical talisman against infection and death, but the truth is less mystical. It’s actually disordered thinking to believe that if you just remember to disinfect your doorknob every day, you’ll be safe.
We want you to take these precautions, but we want you to do it in a healthy way. If we can avoid falling into obsessive/compulsive behaviors that drive more anxiety and assign physical tasks the job of soothing us, we’ll be mentally healthier in the long run.
In other words, your actions don’t control a global pandemic. We keep hearing in the media that they do, but your actions actually are a personal protection plan just like family fire preparedness drills you might practice at any time. Those drills don’t prevent fires. They simply put a plan in place to keep you safer.
This mental distinction is helpful because it places less pressure on your psyche.
A Safe Way To Talk About Your Role
Your behavior is not magically preventing anyone from getting sick. It isn’t creating a mystical forcefield around you. It simply establishes the best practices that you can take to be as safe as you can be. Remembering this keeps us from feeling like we’re responsible for the outcome. The truth is, we have very little control over the outcome.
Furthermore, we can’t control the behavior of anyone around us either. We encourage you to resist the urge to yell at your neighbors or have angry outbursts about those you see outside. Remember that you don’t know why they’re not isolating at the moment you’re seeing them. They might be taking every precaution to keep those around them safer.
To be perfectly clear, we hope everyone is isolating and social distancing right now. We also hope you’re following the guidelines experts give. Keep washing your hands, avoid touching your face, stand back from people if you’re at the store for necessities. We simply ask that you try accepting that these are informed actions and not rituals. We hope you can hold a space full of kindness for your neighbors instead of one full of judgment and fear.
Head over to part 2 of this little series to find out how you can distract yourself in healthy ways to give you the mental break you need.