Efficiently Dealing with Pandemic Anxiety
The current global pandemic has made the World look unusual and weird. You are required to refrain from going out, and if you do, you have to cover your nose, your mouth, and even your hands. The fear of ‘what might happen’ along with restrictive measures like strict hygiene and social isolation are leading to a ripple of unparalleled anxiety.
Anxiety is an unpleasant sensation, sense of worry, fear, or distress that usually serves to stimulate an appropriate action to protect you. However, during this time, these apprehensions have become disabling and are incurring a sense of helplessness in you.
It’s almost like the anxiety is spreading as fast as the virus, along with;
- Physiological symptoms – like sweating, palpitations, restlessness, and butterflies in the stomach.
- Behavioral signs – like avoidance, or overreacting. , and
- Cognitive components – like triggering irrational thoughts such as ‘ I will die’, ‘I will lose my family’ etc.
Even though excess worrying right now may appear to be normal on the surface, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Deep down under, anxiety is simply wasted energy that acts like a termite and slowly eats you up. Having said that, even if you recognize that excess worry serves no purpose, it’s difficult to switch off your anxiety buttons completely. But what is important is that you try!
Most of the ways to curb anxiety aren’t applicable right now in times of social isolation and lockdown. This entails the need to come up with innovative ideas to deal with your consistent worries and fears during COVID-19.
14 Coping Strategies
1. Do a thorough analysis of your past worries – Walk down the memory lane and reflect on moments when you were really worried. This not only helps you understand that worries come in waves and pass you by, but it also reminds you that you are capable enough to deal with adversities that knock your door.
- Ask yourself introspective questions like ‘did what I fear pass by?’, ‘Did my fears and worries help me in any way?’ ‘Do my old worries still hold any relevance?’ etc.
- Re-visit your past experiences with worrying each time you feel bogged down. A continuous and accurate assessment will give you the virtue of faith in your abilities.
2. Allow yourself to worry – In times when you can’t stop overthinking, stressing about your tendency to worry will only exceed your anxiety. So, it is, sometimes important to give yourself the consent to worry.
- Practice control over your worries where instead of fighting them, you contain your anxiety and set aside a specific time to worry about the problems each day. Eventually, you will find your worries to become increasingly moot. This will minimise the negative impact of worrying about your mental well being as well.
- Be kind to yourself as it’s okay to feel anxious in times of uncertainty. Remember that you are not alone in this.
3. Practice Connected Isolation – It’s important to understand that just as practicing homebound social isolation is a mandate for your physical well being, mainlining virtual social connections in such trying times is a must for your mental well-being.
- Make sure to stay connected to your friends and family through an audio/video call, a text, or even a WhatsApp.
- Like you, many people must be finding it tough to connect with others during this phase, so it’s a good practice to initiate and break the ice.
4. Use Traditional Techniques with a zest of social distancing – You can experience the benefit of age-old techniques that help reduce anxiety like yoga, getting together with your friends and others by moulding them to fit social distancing norms.
- Keep your customs intact to feel as non-pandemic as possible. Say, for instance, if you do yoga every morning with your instructor, simply download an app for yoga and take regular virtual classes. Or, if you usually get together with your friends over the weekend, you may hold zoom calls to maintain that tradition.
- Try to inculcate routine closest to that of what you had before the lockdown. This will help you feel more productive and relaxed.
5. Curb News Consumption – Constantly thinking about the duration of the lockdown, the impact it will have on the economy, and your financial status will only make you feel worse. Cutting down on your news hours to talk to a friend, watch a movie, read a book, or to learn something might not cure your anxiety, but it will surely take your mind off the hook.
- Use hit and trial to experiment with various ways that work for you to momentarily get your mind off triggering stressors. You may enjoy a hot bath, call a loved one, or start a new series to stay off the coronavirus topic for some time.
- You can set a timer that will allow you to watch news only for a stipulated time. Or, you can even give yourself verbal reminders to not binge watch news.
6. Be calm – Not to cut down on the gravity of the problem, but panicking about the situation, in itself, is increasing your vulnerability to catching the virus. Yes! your emotional health runs parallel to your immune system whose primary job is to keep you healthy and fight diseases. However, when the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ is released, it compromises your immune system by reducing its virus-fighting cells. This implies that being calm is not just beneficial for your mental well being, but it is vital for your immune functioning to protect you against the virus.
- Have a relaxation routine to feel calm and in control. You can opt for deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or even meditation as per what feels right to you.
- Dedicate a specific time of the day every day until it becomes a habit. Even if you continue to deal with anxiety, this will restore some peace in your life.
7. Direct the Course of your Health – Exercising control like deciding what to eat for lunch, which book to read, when to exercise, or even how to treat yourself will make you feel powerful and good about yourself amidst all the uncertainty. Also, this will boost your health and a healthy, well-rested body is stronger — physically and emotionally.
- Decide onto doing things that help you grow like maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle and eating mindfully. You can include probiotics and healthy leafy greens to your diet.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, or other substances as in the long run, they induce more anxiety and irritability while toying with your coping mechanisms.
8. Embrace the Perfect Imperfections – To have unrealistic expectations from yourself will induce more anxiety. It’s important to strive for quality, but it is equally important to acknowledge that just like everyone else, you will have your share of ups and downs as well. Embracing imperfections and realising that you have the right to make mistakes is only human and relieves you from worrying over small things.
- Always seek contentment rather than perfection in your life.
- Know that you can never please everyone with your story. That’s life and that’s how it’s supposed to be; messy and imperfect. Just accept it for what it is and make peace with yourself.
9. Be Mindful of Irrational Thinking – Although anxiety is triggered by real worries, sometimes, it takes a toll on you without having roots in rational grounding. Like you may find yourself stressing in good times about something bad happening which will turn things around. So, it’s important to keep a close eye on your worries and from where they are stemming.
- Each time you find yourself worrying over something, ask yourself if it is a legitimate concern. Sometimes, your worries have a superstitious quality which makes you believe that by worrying you might lower the chances of it to happen. Make sure that’s not the case with you.
- To ensure if your worry is valid, ask yourself questions like ‘What is causing me so much anxiety?’, ‘What would happen if I stop worrying?’ ‘what am I getting for worrying so much?
10. Radiate Positivity – You all have heard of the law of attraction umpteen times. The doctrines of Buddhism talk about the ‘oneness of self and environment’, wherein, your environment acts as our mirror image and reflects exactly what we put into it. So to say, if you radiate positivity, positive outcomes will reflect back.
- Next time your ‘what if’s’ pile up, proactively change the flow of your thoughts. For instance, if you’re thinking ’What if I fail at getting the necessary funds for my family during the lockdown?’, tell yourself, ‘I am putting my best foot forward and I will be absolutely fine’. Gradually, you’ll find yourself inclining towards more positive thoughts.
- Positivity attracts positivity so it is a good idea to surround yourself with positive people. You can stay in touch through a call or even a message.
11. Live in the ‘Here and Now’ – Usually, worrying takes us to a different time and place. But, if you fully focus all your attention and senses on this very moment, it calms you and brings you back to the ‘now’. With more mental capacity to immerse yourself in the present, without overthinking about the past and the future, you have a higher chance to cope with the issue in hand effectively.
- When you feel an unpleasant emotion like fear, worry or stress hijacking you, disengage from it to pause. Carefully observe your behaviour from a third-person perspective without any bias, take a few deep breaths, and after regaining your equilibrium, you will be in a better position to respond rather than react to the current situation.
- You may even pause and look around using all your senses. Look deeply at the colours, the people, and the space around you. This reconnects you to the ground, which is, the present.
12. Master your mind – Your thoughts are influenced by your own past experiences and fears that you carry over the years or by what others around you say about it. Here, it is important to step up and work on objectifying your thoughts. Objective thoughts are the ones that are strongly rooted in reality and are reasonable even in times of stress, depression or anxiety.
- Pay heed to information that is factual instead of being emotionally loaded. This ensures that you are mentally available to act appropriately like limiting exposure and enhancing hygiene for ensuring your safety.
- Ask yourself if most people would agree on your thoughts being rational. Calculate the chances of your fear being true and act based on solid proof only. Remember that a lifetime of specific anxiety-provoking thought patters won’t be easy to declutter and reconstruct. So if you feel like things are out of your control, ask for help.
13. Prioritise chores and share responsibility – Anxiety usually clouds your mind and surpasses your capacity to deal with everyday tasks. Understand that there are only so many hours in a day and only as much that you can proficiently address. Prioritise your day to declutter your mind and your life.
- Make a priority list and start by addressing the most important tasks first and then slowly working your way through smaller tasks. Don’t shy away from seeking help and have consistent follow-ups with yourself.
- Take only as much in your plate as you can finish. Else, unfinished tasks will cause more anxiety. If you feel anxious just reading about doing less and have thoughts like ‘I can’t do this. I need to get more stuff done to feel less stressed’, then just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s just your anxiety talking.
14. Be the Scriptwriter of Your Own Life – Remember that at all times, you are both, the author and the protagonist of your own life story. This implies that you have the power to decide what you think, what you say and even what you do.
- Undoubtedly, anxiety poses a challenge to a positive script, however, strive towards optimism. Say if you’re writing down or thinking about ways in which you will handle this crisis with calmness, add positivity in your script through affirmations like ‘I will feel less pressure to keep this house spic and span all day’ or ‘I will be more relaxed while I prepare meals for everyone’.
- Write down the challenges you face that keep you from being more positive than you wish to be. Work on slowly eradicating these challenges and when you feel like you need help, seek a trusted friend or a professional therapist. The simplest act of opening up to someone can sometimes be all that you need to regain your calm.
Take Away Message – The times are indeed tough and the world seems far away from what we call ‘normal’. Some not-so-positive things might already have or eventually can happen to you, however, worrying about them won’t stop them from happening nor will they better prepare you to cope with them. Rather, anxiety can further weaken your coping mechanism and can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless. So, instead of exhausting all your energy on anticipating your problems, it will be helpful to save it for dealing with them.
Remember that your mind has the potential to either be your strong ally or an intimidating foe. And, it is totally up to you to decide how you wish to use the powers of your mind. Just hang in there and steer your life proactively by implementing a few of the above-discussed steps.
What steps are you taking to deal with the overbearing anxiety of the current times? Share with us in the comment section below.
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