During this novel coronavirus pandemic, lots of emotions are running high. Anxiety is one that fits the situation but also feels overwhelming when it gets intense or out of hand. If you need more ideas for how to cope or for how to build new coping skills during this time, here are some things to try:
This can seem scary to think about in the midst of a pandemic from a virus that affects our lungs, but breathing, and doing it deeply is key to managing anxiety. When we are anxious, we breathe more quickly and shallowly, sometimes even holding our breath for short periods. This not only deprives us of oxygen, but maintains our feelings of anxiety. Slow, deep breaths physiologically induce a calming affect in our bodies, along with a host of other benefits.
Simple breathing techniques have you focus on belly breathing- relaxing and expanding your belly and diaphragm on the inhale and very slowly exhaling. Lengthening your exhales is what stimulates your vagus nerve and calms your body.
2) GROUND YOURSELF
For some people, when they are anxious, focusing on their body or their breathing can make them feel more anxious. If this is the case for you, keep trying to breathe slowly, but move your attention to something outside of your body as you do it. Notice everything you can hear around you. Can you count all the red or purple things you can see? Noticing your environment in the present with your five senses can help ground you in the present moment and help you feel less anxious.
When something like a pandemic disrupts our routines, the amount of change and uncertainty in itself can cause anxiety. While it is helpful to acknowledge the changes and the losses that come with them, if you are ruminating or unable to focus on anything else, it’s time to do something different. Try moving your attention to what is staying the same. If you are social distancing at home, your house and immediate surroundings are likely the same. Your dog or cat is still just as happy to see you. The sun still rises and sets. If you are evacuating a college dorm or are otherwise not in your same surroundings, try to find an object (a special item from home, a fidget, etc.) to take with you.
4) DISCERN WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL
With the level of disruption we have seen lately, it is normal to feel a loss of control. Often while we are searching for as much normalcy and stability as we can, we can find ourselves fighting to change things that are actually outside of our control. Or we might feel helpless, like we should be doing more, when in fact, there is nothing more to do. This can also be balanced with giving help when and where you can. Medical mask-making groups are popping up around the country as a way for people at home to help in a tangible way and make meaning out of the situation.
When in doubt about what to do, remember the classic serenity saying: “May I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
When danger, threat, or uncertainty looms in the future, we often anxiously avoid that danger – physically and mentally. We will ruminate about a disaster happening, feel anxious, and then rinse and repeat. A solution to this – coping ahead – means cautiously approaching (in your mind) a visualization of the threat occurring. The part that makes this different than garden-variety ruminating is that you imagine yourself coping well!! This doesn’t mean imagining the catastrophe not happening or an unlikely positive result, but that you imagine the bad thing happening and you responding well. For coronavirus this may mean thinking about the steps you might take if you or a loved one contracted the virus. You would breathe, and call your doctor, and take medicine, and stay present, and you would take each step along the way as best you can. Even when something stressful or dangerous happens, we can prepare for handling it the best way we can with the coping tools we have. At the end of the day, practice doing what you can control and let go of the rest.
If you’ve tried these coping skills and are still feeling unmanageable anxiety and/or having panic attacks, it may be time to reach out : Contact Us
If you or someone you love is in need of mental health treatment, Solutions in Living can help. Specializing in Addiction Services in Northern Kentucky, Solutions in Living, located in Burlington, KY, provides the support you need to gain and maintain wellness.
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