Managing Your Anxiety During Anxious Times

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It’s ok to be afraid. If not for our fear, we’d live recklessly. 

Let’s take a minute to admit something: We’re anxious. Our friends are anxious. Our communities are anxious. Pretty much everyone on the globe is anxious. And when we’re anxious, we do many things to manage and avoid that anxiety. But most of the behaviors we partake in to feel some relief in the moment tend not to be very useful to us in the long run. Some of us get overinvolved in current events, hyper-focusing on all the details of what’s making us feel anxious (like the current Coronavirus pandemic, for example). Some of us ignore what’s going on and pretend like nothing’s happening. We avoid talking about it and tune it out completely. And some of us acknowledge our anxiety about the issue while trying to be thoughtful, present, and solution-finding. Now, I’m not saying any one way is right or wrong; but in most circumstances, if we allow our anxiety to take over by either getting too focused on the issue or avoiding it altogether, it doesn’t tend to help us actually deal with it.

It’s ok to be anxious. Were it not for our anxiety, we wouldn’t take necessary precautions.

Many of us suffer with chronic anxiety as it is; so when our community becomes alerted to a possible threat, it doesn’t exactly help matters. It can make us feel like this is the one thing that will push us over the ledge. Situations like these can set our natural response to anxiety on overdrive. We might be faced with an alarming appearance of the “what ifs,” sleepless nights, increases or decreases in our appetite, aggressiveness, indecisiveness, a constant need to clean, or a compulsion to mindlessly follow the masses. We all have our own ways of coping when we’re anxious. And when we find ourselves in an anxious climate brought about by an epidemic of a virus like Corona, we’re given an opportunity to observe ourselves and our environment. It’s a time to practice managing ourselves and our anxious feelings, and to choose a response that may be more useful to us.

Many of us are tempted to be fearful, to despair, to think the worst is coming. And that’s okay. It’s only natural to feel that way. Yet it’s important for you to remember that it’s within your power to be your own self during a time of disease and fear. If you’re breathing, you’re alive, as long as you’re alive, there’s always hope. As most of us know, there’s no avoiding the hardships of life that create suffering. Now is the time to turn within ourselves to ease our own suffering. Here are some ways that you can manage yourself during this stressful time:

Observe your own thoughts and feelings:  Observe yourself. Not to judge yourself, but simply to pay attention to how you’re reacting during this stressful time. Be aware that others might be feeling bad, and be sensitive to the fact that you cannot know what pressures and fears are driving them.

Try to be flexible: Our circumstances are changing by the second. Cancellations, economic consequences, business closings, unexpected responsibilities, and emergencies are a fact of our current lives. As yourself: How can I become more flexible in my responses to what’s going on around me? How can I better adapt to life’s inevitable hiccups?

Find your resiliency: This isn’t the first time in your life that you’ve had to face something difficult. It’s also not the first time your family and ancestors have had to face a challenge. Ask family members what they’ve had to face in the past and how they got through it. Find the resilience within you and your family to get through this.

Remember, events don’t define people; people define events.

Be mindful of others: We’re all connected, whether we like it or not. We are one big team. Think about how your actions might affect others and their health. Do what you can to keep yourself safe while caring as much as possible for the safety of everyone you encounter.

Take it one day at a time: There’s no time like the present moment to take a deep breath, think about the gift of being alive, and lead yourself into the next moment, and then the next. You don’t have to have everything figured out today. Just get through the day, one minute at a time.

It’s okay to lose all sense of certainty: No one knows what will happen next. If they claim to, its mostly because they have some anxiety-driven predictions that aren’t helpful or truthful anyway. It’s hard to keep it together when our once “predictable” life doesn’t seem so predictable all of a sudden. However, its’ not that we have lost our sense of certainty. We have lost our illusion of it. Nothing is promised to us. If anything can remind us of that it is disease and a volatile environment. It is okay to feel uneasy in this climate. Just know if you are looking for certainty in uncertain times, it may better serve you to try and live with the unknown versus against it.

Embrace this time: Allow the anxious feelings to be there. Make peace with them, and let yourself feel the troubles they bring you. Hold onto yourself. Because in all of the confusion, there’s one thing I know for sure: You can always count on yourself to get through whatever life throws your way.

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Dr. Ilene

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