Manage Your Anxiety

“During these uncertain times…”

I hear this phrase often.

Uncertainty. The great unknown. For some of us, that idea sounds like fun when it means venturing into a new city, in a new country, ready to explore and discover new things.

But when that new country is the land of coronavirus we are talking about something decidedly not fun.

If this is my new country, what does it look like after being here for one month?

In Stanislaus County, we have seen only four deaths at the time of this writing, so the medical aspect of the pandemic has not deeply affected the layperson on the street. It is the laws of the land that seem to govern our experience.

  • Everyone stays home except to buy groceries.
  • No one gets near each other.
  • No one shakes hands or hugs those outside their immediate family.
  • Food is delivered to our homes.
  • In this small town, people exhibit this look of relief at the sight of a new face and engage in 6-foot-apart chat.
  • Families go for walks.
  • Parents see their children.
  • Parents become the primary educators of their children.
  • We work from home.
  • We cook at home.
  • We entertain ourselves at home.
  • We spend less.
  • We become resourceful.

There is an opportunity here for good, the shutdown of the country becomes like a deep breath, a pause in our everyday lives.

Still, the uncertainty remains and when faced with an unknown danger

the natural response is fear or anxiety.

You know the feeling. Physically, muscles tense, breathing gets shallower, our heart rate increases. Mentally, we jump at new information, obsess or avoid information, we ruminate replaying ideas again and again. Relationally, we might snap at our loved ones, be more distracted than usual, more protective than usual.

Since the thing creating so much anxiety in our culture right now can be identified, let’s call it for what it is:

coronavirus.

Ask Yourself This

Next ask, “what do I know about this?” It is important to check that what you know aligns with credible sources like WHO or the CDC. Avoid sensational titles and click-bait eager for your eyes to get them more advertising dollars.

“What don’t I know?” Perhaps there are some questions you need to get answered. There are still a lot of unknowns regarding this novel coronavirus, but sometimes, even when we are told information from a credible source, we still do not believe it.

Usually, there is a reason for this. When that happens the biggest question becomes, “what am I afraid of?” Name the fear.

Check your fears against what you know. Check it against what you do not know. Look for answers to the latter if answers are available.

Now, “what can I do?”

Do what you can. Handwashing, limiting outings to essential tasks, social distancing. Check. You have made a good defense.

Go on the offensive if you need to. Maybe you fear for your parents. Talk to them about a plan if they get sick. Maybe you fear for yourself. You can take steps to optimize your health now to make you stronger if you do get sick.

Is the fear related to finances and the future? See if you can order those ducks, access the help that is slowly becoming more available, write down your expenses and track your spending.

When you have done what you can, step away from it all. Distract yourself, practice gratitude, find an activity you can engage in that energizes you and benefits others. For me, writing, reading to my kids and gardening. They are the small things I can do in short spurts that keep me connected and keep me sane.

Make sure every day has some non-coronavirus thoughts and some non-coronavirus talk.

Then, finally, practice acceptance and letting go.

The thoughts will come to mind during your off-hours from corona-worrying. Address them with some mantra that helps refocus you. It could be the wisdom of the ages,

“this too shall pass”

or a right-now reassurance,

“I am doing all I can. It is enough.”

It may sound morbid, but what helps me is the phrase

“death comes to us all”

Having faced the death of my daughter to anencephaly three years ago, it helps me to remind myself that death is part of life. We should try to live long and well, but it is not so foreign as it feels. It is heartbreaking, but if I know that death of part of life, I know the grief will not be insurmountable.

And as the signs and t-shirts tell us,

we will get through this, together.

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