These are scary and unknown times here recently with people stocking up on essentials, spring break plans being cancelled and schools preparing to transition to on-line classes if necessary. Many parents are facing job insecurity and extra concern about their students. I have literally talked about COVID-19 in every single one of my sessions for the past week—man, woman or child. Everyone is thinking about it. I noticed that even if people are taking the approach of mocking “how fanatic the world is being,” we still talked about it most of our session. The fear and anxiety are coming out in different ways but they are coming out.
It is a fact that fear is contagious. The more we talk about it and flood our thoughts with it, the more we feel that anxiety and fear. The important thing to remember about fear, anxiety and threat is that it literally changes how our brain works. It slows our cognitive functions and creates a sense of hyper-vigilant readiness for whatever is coming our way. If you are a person who is already prone to anxiety and worry, these kinds of mass fear moments can be especially hard. You may find it hard to focus or get things done. I’ve written a few things you can hopefully remember if you are struggling. This is certainly not intended to dismiss anyone’s feelings of worry or any real concerns for sick family members or friends. These are simply tactics to help calm your nervous system during high stress moments, especially those on a mass scale like we are experiencing today.
Top Tips if you are starting to struggle with overwhelming fear and anxiety:
- Gentleness for yourself and others. People respond to events like this in very different ways. If you are worried or not worried, it doesn’t help to minimize or change someone’s experience. What ishelpful is to listen and validate people’s experience.
- Avoid Media. Yes, it’s important to stay informed but most of the media is talking about the same thing over and over again. And it’s everywhere. This is a great time to get off all the social media and just be with you. If this feels really hard or you feel you need to check on people, schedule a limited media time to take care of things and then put it away.
- Delegate an informant. Ask one reliable person you trust to let you know if you really need to know something that could impact you (ie upcoming quarantine or a travel ban). This may make it easier to stop looking at the news.
- Do fun things. There is a lot of fear and panic going on right now. We need to balance this energy with self-care, friends, and family. Get outside. Plant a garden. Take a walk. Watch good movies together. Play some board games. Laugh. If you are choosing social distancing, that’s okay but extra connection though technology is key. Try to hear and see people when doing this via Face Time or phone.
- Practice reframing. If you are staying away from others, reframe this experience. Try not to get swallowed by the fear and rather, think of all the unique things you can do at home. Spring cleaning. Yard work. Read books you never have time for. Write letters to friends you haven’t seen. Scrap book or play video games. Be sure to balance fun distractions with self-care.
- Extra Self-Care: The impacts of this kind of mass fear and anxiety must be counter-balanced. We do that through self-care. Self-care looks different for everyone, but it is how you nourish your body and mind.
- The basics (good food, enough sleep, water)
- Movement: take a walk, a workout video, dance
- Fun: games, music, singing, dancing, funny videos
- Relaxation: hot bath, good book, inspiring movie, coloring
- Mindfulness/Let out feelings: journaling, talking to someone about your feelings, therapy, church or praying, meditation
And of course, don’t be afraid to get professional help if you are really struggling, there are a lot of therapists offering tele-sessions online for those who need it. Please know that Bridge Box is here for you and sending positive thoughts to everyone who is impacted by these events.