3 Ways To Deal With COVID-19 Anxiety
Yesterday I woke up with a fever, and it slightly terrified me. Normally, I would’ve drank some OJ, eaten some Pho, taken a nap and not thought much else of it. But sh*t is not normal right now.
My mind starting making up all these stories. What if it’s COVID-19? What if I infect my partner and my puppies? What if my lungs fail?
What if..what if..what if…
Obviously, none of that made me feel any better. So I scaled it back – tried to let go of the stories in my head, and took care of my body. Now today I feel so much better! There’s a lot of panic in the world right now. While awareness is the first step to protection, fear & anxiety will weaken your body & fuel collective dis-ease. These worries can tack on to the already mounting pressures of daily life. It’s something that accumulates in a highly stressful state that psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, M.D. calls “emotional inflammation.” The conditions, she says, are not unlike those of PTSD, but they stem from the increasing anxiety of living in a world where we feel completely out of control.
So how do we deal with all of this? On top of being socially outcast and borderline paranoid, now we’re dealing with the effects of mounting stress. As a yoga teacher and mindfulness coach, I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with the mind and managing stress. If there’s any advice I can give on how to deal with the mounting stresses of our current society, it’s these three things.
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Accept your feelings – but then let them go
To release the grip of anxiety we have to be able to see the bigger picture. We cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness. This means detaching yourself from your emotional reactions.
So, what, does that mean I just stop caring completely?
Not at all. We’re emotional creatures; that’s just a fact. I’m not asking you to fight off your feelings of stress. I’m asking you to accept them, but then let them go. Chemically speaking, it takes about 90 seconds for your brain and body to experience an emotion. After that, it’s up to us whether we want to stay there or not. We choose to release or to linger in that cycle. So the next time you notice the bodily reaction of stress or anxiety – let it happen. Watch it happen. Accept your feelings and reactions as they come to you. Acknowledge how you feel, but try not to engage with your feelings or let them carry you away. And definitely don’t ruminate in them.
Realize these feelings are just forms of energy, and they can be released as easily as they came on.
Ask yourself what you actually know
This is harder than ever in the era of social media and the 24/7 news funnels. But it goes deeper than just asking your outspoken uncle to cite his source on Facebook. It’s easy to take sensationalism to heart when it’s being fed by half the country. By focusing on what you know, you eliminate the noise of outer influences. (Obviously, you should still listen to the warnings of health services like the CDC and your local health departments).
But the next time you start to feel overwhelmed or scared, ask yourself these questions.
- What do I know? What do you – for sure – know about your experience in your body – right now?
- What’s the story I’m creating? What am I telling myself is true? What am I assuming is true? What am I taking as truth from other people – but I’m really not sure about?
- What do I have control over? What aspects of my current situation do I have control over? What can I do to make myself feel more at ease? Can I change my perspective on the things that are out of my control?
Take the action steps you can
Piggy-backing off the last tip, what can you do to make yourself feel more at ease? In a situation like this, so much is out of our control, and that’s scary. But there are also a lot of things that are in our control. By taking preventative health steps, you’ll not only protect yourself, but your mind will also be consoled to know you’re doing what you can.
- Wash your hands
- Boost up your immune system
- Be aware of the virus status in your state
- Carve out time for some self-care and emotional rehab
Bottom line – stay aware, but don’t let fear and anxiety run your life. Focus on what you can control, and how you can support yourself and others in a scary situation.
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