All my life I’ve been a worrywart. When I was young, it was pretty extreme! I would worry about EVERYTHING, including the small mundane stuff. Thankfully in my early 20’s I started learning ways to manage my anxieties and help quell my worries.
I’m going to share my secrets for combatting fear and uncertainty.
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders have really multiplied the number of triggers for stress and unease for everyone.
Whether it’s the increasing death toll and number of infected, reports of insufficient testing and medical care, the loss of work, the nose-diving economy, canceled events we were looking forward to, and so forth, it all weighs over us like a ton of bricks.
In addition, our daily routines including how we work, provide education for our kids, buy groceries, wash our hands – you know, those small mundane things – have all been upended.
The dynamics of our friendships have changed while family relationships have been tested. To top it off, there are all the “unknowns” like how will I pay my bills next month, when can the kids go back to school, when can I see my friends in person again, is it OK to touch that door knob without a glove.
It all adds up and compounds into what sometimes may feel like a mountain range.
The good news is the skills for handling the anxiety have not changed. Those skills I learned way back for myself and helping thousands of clients are just as applicable now. I just have to be a lot more aware and intentional than ever about practicing them!
- Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is normal. If your friend tells you she’s doing fine while you’d prefer to crawl back to bed for the rest of the day, mentally note that we all have varied reactions to stress.
- Limit your exposure to the news. You need to stay informed on a daily basis, but hearing the same bad news on repeat will feed the anxiety. Once you find yourself reading the same reports, unplug from the TV and put down the devices.
- Come back to your breathing. When you focus on your breathing, it literally brings you back to the present moment. That’s it. Not the future or the past. Slow down your breath, stay aware and let go of those negative thoughts
- Focus on what you can do, rather than what you cannot change. I have said before that I prefer to not think of this time as quarantining, but as “cocooning”, or retreating to the comfort and solitude of my home. A cocoon is a place of transformation, and I am using this time to better myself and my family in ways I might not have done had things been business as usual.
- Connect with your body by exercising. When our minds go into autopilot, our body goes into a coasting state as well.
- Get to bed on a consistent schedule! Immunity and sleep are deeply related. More sleep, more time for your body to build immunity and fight any kind of illness more effectively. Earlier bedtimes are more nutritious then late-night bedtimes.
- Use time to cocoon both by yourself and with others. This is not always an easy one as we all need our space, and too much time together may amplify existing conflicts. If this is happening to you, make sure to maintain physical boundaries and give each other space. Schedule out an hour or two once a day to be by yourself. Let everyone know so they respect that time for yourself. And then schedule fun times together too. We’ve had plenty of games and movie nights, and several meals al fresco.
- Keep up with your friends. Unfortunately, uncertainty causes many of our loved ones to panic and be anxious filled with limiting beliefs and negative responses. It’s hard to process when another person can’t see the forest through the trees.
- Find a creative outlet. Whether it’s writing, painting, baking, playing an instrument, crafting or DIY’ing, find something to keep your brain I have plenty of home reno ideas throughout the rest of my blog. Even playing is a creative outlet. On my Instagram stories, I showed my kids recreating several Disneyland rides for Trav and I. I hadn’t laughed that hard in days!
Irrational fears can feel like reality but they’re NOT.
- Identify your uncertainty triggers (not being able to go to the grocery store or fear of trusting that things will be ok in the future).
- Recognize the physical cues when you are being triggered: acid reflux, neck and shoulder pain, tighten chest, headache, shortness of breath.
- Stop the what-if from spiraling out of control. Deep breath then test your negative thoughts: It’s called reality testing. Write down your worry and ask yourself is this true? Is it 100% a fact. If not, reframe your worry to something realistic like I understand it FEELS like it’s the end of the world. But for the moment, I am still healthy, my family is too. We have food and are not going to lose anything at the moment. And that I know that is 100% a fact.
- Write down and read what reality is:
I don’t know what the next minute will bring. But I know right now I’m OK. I choose to look at my feelings list to identify my feelings. I choose to go take a walk. I choose to deep breath and journal. I TRUST that I will be ok after I take my walk. And if I’m not, I will choose again.
It’s really important to maintain a calm state of awareness. Be present at the moment. Most helpful way? Deep breathing. When we are connected, we can control our thought life. Meditation is a wonderful tool!
WFH pro tip
I set a time to turn off work. END YOUR DAY just like in the office. Set a time and stick with it. When I first became a social worker, I inherited 236 difficult cases and I was so overwhelmed , lost sleep, and ate poorly. Finally, my therapist reminded me, the work will always be there. So I slowly pulled back and found a balance for myself. My productivity went up and I was happier with myself. That was so much better for my clients too.
Make sure you have a feeling word vocab list handy on your desk or bathroom mirror or fridge. There are so many words beyond angry, happy, sad, good, bad. The more accurately you can identify your current emotional state, the more clarity you can seek support for. And who to seek support with. I plan to give you a list this week on my weekly newsletter. So don’t forget to subscribe now!
Another faulty but very human reaction to uncertainty is to control our environment and relationships in the following ways:
- Excessively seek reassurance from others – our insecurity can’t be solved by others’ verbal affirmations.
- Micromanage people – controlling other people’s behavior doesn’t solve our insecurity and inability to control our behavior, reaction to uncertainty
- Procrastinate – maybe if I avoid making a decision, if anything bad happens it won’t be my fault.
Once these secrets are not a secret for you anymore, you can easily manage and combat these fears using helpful tools.
I’m here to support you and your family the best as I can with both my interior design tips and psychological wellness coping strategies. We are going to get through this together!