The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact our daily routines. As we improve the habits of physical/social distancing and diligent hand washing, we must also address what may be going on emotionally and psychologically. In these unprecedented times we face change and uncertainty, which lead to varying degrees of increased stress, anxiety and even, fear.
Fear (worry, anxiety) is the negative projection onto future events. It comes from the mind wondering or obsessing about all the “What if’s …?” creating a stressful whirlwind of scenarios.
The work, then, is to stay in the present. We accomplish this by mindfulness, awareness or consciousness and by using grounding or calming techniques. We need to regulate both the body and the mind (thoughts).
Start with the Body Do frequent check in’s or body scans. Notice your breathing & heart rate starting to accelerate. Are your picking your nails, zoned out, or talking or walking fast? What to do:
- Stop what you are doing (if not, then slow down).
- Exhale ….. exhale ……. exhale ……. [find some ‘calm breathing exercises’]
- Do some shoulder shrugs, arm circles, lean over your hips.
Then … Get your Mind On-Line Now that your body is settling, you need to say something supportive and true (although a part of you may resist!). This will be whatever you need at that moment depending upon what negative & false belief (“I’m doomed!”; “I’m all alone.”; “I’m helpless.”) you are dealing with. Sometimes we need a few supportive statements!
E.g. “I got this.” “I am safe (now).” “I can support myself (by ….) “ “I’m doing the best I can.”
Watch any sweeping or catastrophizing thoughts. Work with any irrationalities.
E.g. “I’ll lose everything.” Or, “I’m helpless.”
Will you really lose everything? Make a list of items, situations you may “lose” [some or most, for now] (social outings, investments) and those you will still have (your sense of humor, favourite item, friends).
This pandemic brings uncertainly and lack of control. Again, sort out what you do know (now) and do have control over. Find the facts that you truly need to know and then turn off the news. Keep it simple and stay in the present.
To help with the ‘What if’s?’ – we don’t want to be stuck or looping in these – get them down on paper and flush them out as best you can. Change them to ‘Then what …? ‘ And then, ‘In the meantime …’
E.g. “What if I can’t work/money gets low?” “Then I’ll …..” And so, “In the meantime I will …”
In this way, we move past the worrisome thought and shift into taking whatever action we can (for now).
Boundaries & Knowing Your Triggers
Besides the obvious physical boundaries we are all being asked to maintain, emotional and psychological ones need to be kept as well. Our assertiveness skills will be needed here. Knowing what triggers or adds to your discomfort is important – as is knowing what lessens your anxiety or helps boost your mood. Some to watch for include:
- the amount and sources of media
- talking with people (topics talked about, negative/fear-based thoughts)
- honouring your intentions, time for self, etc.
Feel Your Feelings!
Although we want to ‘be positive,’ and act with kindness, empathy and support, we also do not want to be in denial of our feelings. If you are sad, cry; angry or frustrated, growl. Lie down and take time to acknowledge what your body is feeling or holding and let it out. Accept and do not judge any feeling.
Try to identify what you are sad or angry (or …) about.
What issue is “up”? What is this emotion really about? Many people will have core wounds surfacing on top of expected concerns and anxiety. These could be … abandonment, helplessness, lack of control, victim, etc.
To some extent, we are all grieving. We can be grieving for what we already have lost as well as experiencing anticipatory grief for what will most likely come (again, be mindful of any irrational projections). On a deeper level, we are being asked to ‘let go’ (of certain beliefs, ego-based parts, etc.) and transform. On that note…
The Role of Crisis and Adversity
We are experiencing personal and collective challenges. Many people are recognizing the need to take the time now to:
- Dig deep – Identify what is ‘up’ in you?
- Change – “self-correct” (Marianne Williamson); What is being asked of you?
- Togetherness – check-in with people, make amends, reconnect, sharing, helping
- Connect to higher power/self – clarifying values, who you are, purpose
- Find sources of positive grounding leaders (e.g., Eckert Tolle, …)
We’ll end with some practical suggestions…
Watch your Habits & Up the Self-Care
- During stressful times we often slip into our not-so-great coping mechanism, perhaps even introducing some new ones. Again, be mindful of these and take action now. Watch coffee, alcohol, sweets/carbs, etc. intake and excessive time spent doing anything.
- Thus, keep your self-care routines going!