Covid-19, an illness affecting health around the world, is also greatly impacting the global economy, societal interactions, it's blowing up social media, and most definitely causing stress and anxiety. It doesn't help that common symptoms of anxiety (for example shortness of breath) happen to mimic known symptoms of Covid-19. Let's talk about how to reduce anxiety in response to this global pandemic.
First and foremost health anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety, so it’s to be expected that you might be experiencing higher levels of anxiety, ruminating thoughts, as well as fears and worries about the future. It’s important during this time that you rely on credible sources of information, such as local health departments, your family doctor, nurse practitioner or naturopathic doctor. Searching google, scrolling Facebook and reading headlines are bound to spike your anxiety... even a headline you see for two seconds will remain with you and you might have to spend time trying to convince yourself the information isn’t true.
Anxiety hates data and facts that decrease your fears. It hates the evidence that doesn’t support your irrational worries. I know... how do I know they are rational or irrational? I don’t. But I do know that I too have anxiety, and I’ve had to reframe the way I view this Covid pandemic. I’ve had to look for the the positive things that might come from this (like more time with my kids, or a family game of baseball at the local ball diamond while they're not in school, ways to build connections within my community instead of distance). I’ve looked at the numbers to weigh out whether me (as an asthmatic) is at greater risk, or if my perfectly healthy children are. Odds are we will be just fine.
Did I spend a little bit more at Costco this week when I went shopping? Yes, a little bit. Did I make sure my prescriptions were filled? Yes, I did. It’s a reality of the current circumstances where people are draining supermarket shelves. I did not take more then what I needed, and I certainly didn’t buy things I don’t need like masks, gloves, or sanitizer (with the exception of the one container I have at my office for my clients to use if they wish). When we look at our current situation and take a realistic approach we can reduce our anxious response.
Remember, we have no control over the future. We can only control this minute. You choose how you spend your time. Do you want to spend it anxious and overwhelmed? Or can you at minimum neutralize your energy to the here and now? Here and now, I am on my couch with my dog sitting beside my ear, I can hear my kids laughing while they clean their rooms, and my partner is making dinner. In this house, at this moment, it's no different for us than it was 2 weeks ago, 6 months ago, or a year ago. So when you're faced with the pandemic of the outside world, try to neutralize yourself with the here and now.
Our future is unknown. It’s going to happen as it is. You can get there kicking and screaming or you can get there making the best of what you have in this moment.
Worried about money? Think about a time you were worried about money. Did you find a way then? Was the outcome better or worse than you originally thought? Worried about your health? In the past if you have worried about your health, did your dire predictions come true when you went to the doctor? Were you perhaps right about your ailment once or twice before so now you use reasoning as an attempt to predict your health fate? Was it serious? Did you survive?
When our future is unclear, our knee-jerk reaction is to panic. And right now, globally, things are pretty unclear! I would encourage everyone to lean into this experience as hard as it might be. Maybe this is a great time for building stronger connections with your family. Learn to play a musical instrument. Have a game of monopoly. Try home workouts or yoga. Get out and walk, ride your bike, or play a sport as a family. Lean on your neighbours, friends and family. Read books together. Maybe it’s time to take the long needed vacation you never went on. I know the other stuff won’t go away entirely, but you can choose to let it go (check out Letting Go by Dr.David R Hawkins). Now is a good time to change the culture. Lean in, and be open to the opportunity unplug and reconnect with yourself and loved ones.
If you would like more tangible tools for combating stress, check out my blogs Take pen to paper, and take charge of your anxiety and What does anxiety look like? Recognizing the signs and taking control. For more information about anxiety, visit Anxiety Disorders - CMHA National.