With the Coronavirus has come a lot of fear and worry. The news is full of stories in the US and throughout the world about the havoc it is causing. In Ohio, like other states, we have been ordered to stay at home, at least until the beginning of April. No school, no work outside the home, no play dates and limited runs to grocery store. Some of us are going stir-crazy while others are becoming neurotic!
Many of my clients are asking how to deal with this high stress situation that is impacting all facets of our lives. Here are 4 tips to help you manage your anxiety. Remember, the goal is not to get rid of the anxiety but to decrease it so you don’t feel quite so overwhelmed and want bury your head in the sand. Emotion can be motivating but too much emotion can cause inactivity.
Identify Your Feelings
It is OK to feel whatever you’re feeling. It might be anger, frustration, disappointment, discouragement, sadness, fear. It could even be a combination of emotions. Recognize those feelings and talk about them with someone you trust. Just because someone has it worse than you do, does not mean your experience is not valid. Your experience is real to you and you are entitled to feel the way you do about it. Comparisons to others are not helpful.
Stay in the Present
Often times when we are upset or scared, we tend to think about “what if?” And that “what if” is usually worst case scenario. Remember that we cannot predict what the future holds. Spending time thinking about what might happen is wasted energy. If you are going to think about what could happen then think about the short term future. Choose to focus on several weeks or even a month down the road. Identify possible outcomes in that time frame and make a plan for those possibilities. If you get too far out into the future, you tend to forget about the present. Bad stuff happens to all of us. Deal with it when it comes. Don’t anticipate it. Think one step at a time.
It is important to keep things in perspective. Not everything in life is the absolute best or worse that could happen. Everything is relative. Create a rating scale of 0-100. Think of the worst event you could imagine in your life and give that a rating of 100. Think of an event that would be least impactful and rate that a 0. Then think of something that would reflect a rating of 25, 50 and 75. Now, when something happens in your life, give it a rating. Then ask yourself if that rating is relative to the events on your scale. By doing this you help regulate appropriate responses to life events.
For example, let’s say you rate the loss of your spouse as 100, the loss of your job as 75 and getting sick and missing work as 50. On your way to a workout you hit all the red lights and are late. You become angry and start yelling at the other drivers. By the time you get to the gym you are in a bad mood. Ask yourself where this would fall on your scale. Initially, let’s say you rate this is a 75. Then ask yourself if being late is really more significant than losing your job. It probably isn’t so re-rate it appropriately. Then give it that amount of energy and emotion. This will save you time, energy and relationship struggles.
Sleep, Diet and Exercise
Make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep, eating relatively healthily and getting some exercise. Those 3 things alone can help manage your anxiety levels. It is easy to get out of our routine when we are stressed. This is normal. Do your best to maintain regular bedtime and wake time. Give yourself permission to indulge in some of your favorite sweets during more stressful periods and commit to walking your dog 15 minutes every night. (If you don’t have a dog, walk with your partner, child or a friend). The goal is to forgive yourself for slip ups and get back into your normal routine as soon as you can.
Stress and anxiety are unavoidable. If we take some time to figure out what we are feeling and what we need to feel a little better, we can manage through a difficult situation. Think in terms of small steps in short periods of time. Remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is our single step in our next long journey. Be kind to yourself and to one another!