I’m a psychotherapist at The Center for Grief Recovery and have some tips about managing anxiety during difficult times such as these.
It is important to remember that although the future seems so uncertain and frightening just now, that we have never had any certainty about the future. The future has always been uncertain until it replaces the present and becomes the past. No one has ever been able to predict it with any accuracy. Anxiety will drive our thoughts to the most catastrophic places in an effort to gain control and provide certainty. But anxiety has no better information about what the future holds than anything or anyone else.
When you feel flooded by anxiety/fear/depression, say out loud, ” I feel anxious or fearful or depressed.” That way you have acknowledged your feeling and then let it pass through you. If you argue and wrestle with feeling states, they linger and often amplify.
If your anxious thoughts have a narrative, try not to engage with the content. Try, instead saying, “that’s just a story my anxiety wants to tell me.” Anxiety is very opportunistic and will seize on anything handy. So, then engage with something else. It could be a pleasant distraction, or a concrete task, or exercise…
Maintain a structure, at least during the week. Get up, get dressed, make your bed and exercise for 30 minutes. If you’re still able to walk outside, take a good walk. Be in touch with the natural world which is totally unaffected by our concerns and producing signs of spring. Actually, the earth may breathe a bit easier than usual with fewer cars on the road.
If you are lucky enough to share your lives with animals, they are always in the moment and teach us to be the same. Has there ever been a better situation for pets than sheltering at home? So, spend quality time with your pets. My dog is delirious with joy.
Limit the amount of time you listen to the news especially corona-related news. Choose a time each day to check in with it and then maintain a boundary around it. If you’re watching TV and more news interrupts the programming, try not to engage.
Nourish yourself with beauty. Listen to music, maybe focus on a period or composer so that you’re learning something every day that will enhance your pleasure. Read good literature – we all have lists of what we want to read and nows the time. Most of the worlds great art museums have virtual tours. We are lucky to live in an age when this is available to us at a safe distance–so we can have art in our lives. Many of the national parks have video promotions or tours–we can have these beautiful places to ourselves magically.
Check in with the people you love and tell them you love them every day.
Allow yourself to grieve losses. These losses could be personal or you could grieve for others who have lost so much. Grief is common to all humanity and becomes unifying in its focus and empathic extension. Grief is different from depression. It is active and full –full of feeling, full of memory and ideation. Depression is somewhat empty.
Pursue meaning. As people with faith (psychological or spiritual), we are lucky, meaning is always present. Our sense of purpose is a companion in suffering reminding us the path forward is always strewn with challenges and demands, hopes and renewals. Ringing of the bells at regular intervals places us in community with one another and mirrors observance of divine office in monastic communities. We are living monastic lives for the time being. Faith also provides a long view. The world has always been the world and its evils have always been present. Todays evils aren’t greater or more abundant, we just know more about them faster. Our good isn’t vanishing and isn’t more anemic. But the purpose and power of good– is to be good, not to overcome evil but to face it with goodness.