By Ellen Ross, PsyD
I’ve been talking to many people over the past two weeks as our lives became dramatically different in a short period of time. Many people are feeling anxious. Anxiety can be unpleasant, painful, and overwhelming.
While most people wouldn’t choose to feel anxiety, we’re living through a global pandemic. It’s okay to feel anxious! Anxiety gives us important information. When we encounter a bear in our path, anxiety is what gears us up to fight that bear!
In this case, however, anxiety has geared us up for a fight when what we need to do to be safe and protect those around us is stay home, keep a safe distance from each other, wash our hands, and avoid touching our faces.
For many, taking the appropriate and recommended precautions can be especially frustrating when our anxiety keeps pumping and telling us to fight.
Here are some thoughts about actions we can all take to help provide an outlet for anxiety:
Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling right now.
Anxious? That’s okay. Grateful? Also okay! Frustrated? Angry? Frightened? All okay. We want to seek the space between pushing the feelings down and diving into them. Try to simply let your feelings be. Do what’s most important to you while carrying those feelings.
Be kind to yourself.
None of us are our best selves right now. Not being 100% is okay! Did you want to make an organic salad for lunch and had frozen pizza instead? That’s okay. Try to do what you need to, and move in the direction of what you know is good for you and your family. But while you’re trying and doing, be kind to yourself.
Do something physical every day.
Do you love yoga? See if your studio is streaming online classes. Yoga not your thing? Lots of people are offering all kinds of streaming workouts online. Check out something new. If home workout doesn’t work for you, go for a walk, even if it’s just around the block.
Change your scenery.
If you don’t want to go out at all, that’s okay. Do you have a porch where you can notice spring coming? Do you have a backyard you can chill in? Even a little movement and change of scenery can be beneficial.
If you don’t already have a mindfulness practice, start small. Try to breathe deeply into your belly for 30 seconds or a minute at a time. Connect with yourself in the moment and let thoughts and feelings come and go. Notice. When we can be present in the moment with ourselves in any given moment, we will often find that even if we’re not doing great, we’re okay. Practice finding the space where you can connect with the moment.
I’ve seen “social distancing doesn’t have to equal emotional distancing” in many places. I don’t know who to credit for it, but I like the sentiment. Do something fun with the family members you live with — even if ‘fun’ looks a little different than usual. Call and talk to people. Listen to how they’re doing and be heard when you tell them how you’re feeling. Reach out and say ‘hi’ to friends and family members you haven’t spoken to in awhile. We don’t have our usual social outlets right now, but there are many other ways for us to connect.
There is uncertainty about when, how, and if the world will go back to normal.
If you’re struggling to adjust to the new circumstances and find that what you usually do is not working, know your neighborhood therapist is available. We transformed the way we deliver support (to provide support via video), and we’re open. If you are currently in California, reach out to us at True North Psychology. Right now, we have video appointments available within a week.
Want to learn more about video appointments? Click here.