These days, we are all being bombarded with advice on how to deal with all the circumstances associated with the coronavirus pandemic — which isn't showing many signs of slowing down. While it is important to consider ways to improve our current situation, it may also be helpful to identify ways to simply be with the way things are.
When we are in moments of crisis, the part of our brain that thinks rationally literally shuts off. We enter into survival mode: We’re worried about our next paycheck, our safety and health and the well-being of our loved ones.
When we feel overwhelmed in these situations, we tend to lose access to the part of our brains that help us feel calm, cool and collected. As a result, we may rely on old tools we used to cope with stress — disconnecting on our phones, shutting down, frantically moving, drinking or eating more than we should.
I want to remind you that your nervous system is responding normally to something that is not normal. What your anxiety is telling you is that you have some needs. Just like any "first" (whether it’s a job or a new baby), when we are experiencing new things, we change and so do our needs.
Most of all, I want to remind you that it is possible to find some peace throughout your day, even in these uncharted times. In my virtual support circles, I help participants identify and focus on things throughout their day to help them accept their anxiety, rather than try to get rid of it. Doing these things can help you find more peace — at least a moment of peace — during these trying times.
Identify Your Anxiety Triggers
We're all different, and so are the things that cause us to feel anxious. Consider what sends you into an anxious state or into shutdown mode — what leads up to it, and what you are feeling before it happens.
Then, consider what gets you out of it — an activity, a sound, a connection, a particular image, meditation, movement. Identifying ways that you’ve dealt with the challenges that life has dealt you in the past may open up new possibilities in the present.
Notice What Anxiety Feels Like
Anxiety is our body’s way of letting us know to pay attention to it. It may be helpful to shift the goal from getting rid of anxiety to simply noticing it. Identify sensations, memories, feelings and thoughts that are connected to your anxiety and then let your anxiety know that you see that it’s just trying to help you get through a tough time without collapsing. Acknowledging the reality allows us to live better with it.
"Identifying ways that you’ve dealt with the challenges in the past may open up new possibilities in the present."
Add Rituals to Your Day
As our lives have changed so dramatically over the past few weeks, so have our guideposts — the activities that anchor us and remind us of what matters to us. Come up with some practices that will help you find a rhythm in your day.
It could be stretching for five or 10 minutes when you get out of bed every morning, lighting candles at dinner time, journaling after lunch, or oiling your body with a soothing body oil. Or perhaps it's simply scheduling 15 minutes of dream time and worry time into your calendar every day in order to create more space for what’s being generated inside your fertile mind.
Keep Boundaries in Place
Our homes have now become where our entire lives take place, which makes it even more essential to set boundaries with ourselves and with others. Rather than take away from our relationships with others, boundaries actually enrich our relationships with others by letting them know our need for space.
Our “no’s” make way for the “yes’s” that truly matter to us. You might consider sleeping with your phone outside of your room (the bedroom should ideally remain a place for sleep and sex), setting time limits on Instagram, only reading news updates when you have the head and heart space or signing off of email at 5pm. Do not be afraid to let others know what your capacity is for connection during this stressful time.
Do not be afraid to let others know what your capacity is for connection during this stressful time.