We are in an ambiguous time. Our usual planning for the next several weeks or months in advance has been reduced to the latest Netflix show to watch, book to read, or game to play with our partner or child(ren). And even the here and now is providing challenges and walks through uncharted territories. Our everyday normalcies are now feeling off and restricted. How do we manage our anxiety during a pandemic?
What are ways we can gain control over these ‘uncontrollable’ and unknown times. I’m reminded of some coping skills I encourage my clients to practice when they get into an argument or are forced into a vulnerable place that is anxiety producing.
Be Reflective Instead of Reactive. This means to focus on the underlying fears and feelings before acting out the emotion in an unproductive or unhealthy way. Some reactive behaviors right now may be wanting to eat the whole bag of Doritos or package of cookies, watching the news 24/7 with changing numbers or downward arrows. A reflective way may be to acknowledge your anxiety and tell yourself, “While I can’t control this Coronavirus or the economy at the moment, I can control my body and what I put into it.” Go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Go fishing. Read a book. Learn to cook a new recipe. Learn how to play a new game with your family. One thing my family has started to do when we sit down for a meal is to hold hands and name one thing we are grateful for today. We are also being more intentionally about calling our family who lives around the country more.
Be Proactive Instead of Panicking. If you need milk, get 1 or 2 gallons for your family. If you’ve always gone through one gallon of milk a week, no need to buy five gallons. Keep washing hands and listening to local and state officials. Limit news intake—which leads to panic. Acknowledge your fear. Brené Brown says that when we name our hurt and pain (I’m going to add fear) we get our power back. Some of this can be scary. Pretending like it doesn’t exist does no one, including you, any good. When we become fearful, we can tend to either withdraw or become more anxious attempting to control other people or things to relieve our anxiety. If you find yourself more on edge, I invite you to be reflective, go inward, and work through those fears.
Rely On a Professional Therapist. This is an opportune time to work on yourself while places we tend to normally distract ourselves from those feelings are temporarily closed. Why not gain more insight to yourself becoming more self-aware, and gaining tools to help you strengthen the relationships in your life. And one of the greatest things about therapy—especially right now, is that you can stay in your jammies and slippers at home and do it virtually. I, along with my colleagues at SCC, are virtually certified and use a HIPAA compliant platform that works on any device.
It can be scary watching and waiting to see what happens in the days, weeks, and months ahead. It would certainly be less anxiety-ridden while learning new ways to cope and working on the one thing and person we are in charge of—ourselves. Reach out! You are not alone and can stay connected while physically distancing!
In the words of author and therapist Lori Gottlieb, “A virus can invade our bodies, but we get to decide whether we let in invade our minds.”