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Anxiety Hacks For a Pandemic

Are you feeling anxious or stressed out? Duh. Personally I’m an extrovert, and when you tell me I can’t be around people, I start to panic. What do you mean I can’t go bowling? I really want to go bowling! (I don’t even like bowling). We are facing something none of us have been through before, and we don’t know what to expect in the coming days and months. Uncertainty breeds anxiety. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be stuck at home in a fetal position worrying about what the future holds. I want to be calm and a source of confidence and peace for my kids. Here are some “hacks” you can try when it gets to be too much for you.

Two women in over coats bump elbows.
Two women bump elbows in greeting during the pandemic.

1. Go all Pollyanna on this pandemic.

Remember the movie Pollyanna? If not check it out on Disney+. Pollyanna went through difficult times but she could always find something to be glad about. Sure, I’m stuck at home with three teenagers who love to complain and make messes. I may feel like I may lose my mind if I hear the word, “mom,” one more time. BUT, there are also things to be glad about:

I get to spend more time with my kids and make memories we will look back on and laugh about. Last night we had a burping contest. I won. Don’t judge me.

I have time to clean out closets and cabinets and make my house look nice.

I have an opportunity to rest and be mindful and thankful.

I won’t eat out as much.

I have a good excuse to get out of doing anything I don’t want to do. TOO DANGEROUS!

The more you let your thoughts dwell on everything that is scary or hard right now, the more anxious you’ll be. Try focusing on your thinking on the good, at least for a little bit.

2. Put worrying on your schedule.

Set a timer. Give yourself 10 minutes to sit and worry about the world, the virus, your family, and all the things that are out of your control right now. Maybe even use a journal to write down all the things you’re worried about. When the timer goes off, close the journal or imagine yourself putting your worries in a box and closing it. You can get it back out later, but for now put it away and do something else.

3. Make stuff.

One time we had a really unexpected and tragic death in my family. I decided to start making quilts to feel better, so every time I was at home doing nothing but feeling sad, I would work on the quilts. Disclaimer: I don’t know how to quilt or sew. These quits turned out ugly, but my family pretended they were nice. Working on the quilts took my sadness and put it into something tangible. It works the same with anxiety. Do something creative, wash the dishes, work in the yard, go for a walk (while staying six feet away from strangers of course). Putting your anxiety into an action will give you relief. I youTubed how to knit. The longer we are social distancing the more ugly scarfs my family members will receive next christmas. BUT keeping my hands busy is helpful – plus the back

and forth movement of knitting helps to regulate your emotions.

4. Connect with people.

I’m glad we have technology that allows us to connect with others and provide support. We can connect with our families. Video chat with friends. Play games over zoom. Call your mom. Don’t let isolation isolate you!

5. Try activities that are good for calming your nervous system.

Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga are all proven ways to calm a stressed nervous system. YouTube has an abundance of resources for this. There are mindfulness apps you can download. If you think it’s not your thing, I felt the same way until I tried it and found it to be very helpful. Give it a try – you’ve literally got nothing else to do! Don’t forget to Breathe deeply and often. Move! Exercise is one of the best ways to help your body complete the stress response cycle!

6. Turn your focus outward.

Helping others brings good feelings. I know the times in life I feel the best are when I’ve stopped focusing on myself and spent my time and energy doing good in the world. If you can find a way to bring comfort or help to others right now, those good feelings will be a counter weight to your anxiety or stress. Make your neighbors cookies (leave them on their porch, ring the bell, and move six feet back). Support local businesses by ordering take out. Give someone who is struggling financially a gift card. Thank a medical professional for their sacrifices.

7. Remember you’re not alone.

I noticed when I chat with my friends about what we are going through, they have many of the same feelings I have. I hear my own worries and emotions echoed in their words, and it makes me feel like I’m not actually losing my mind, and that it’s ok to feel funky right now. In fact I am sharing this experience with literally the entire world. We need each other.

8. Be kind to yourself.

Right now if you are anxious, angry, sad, need to cry, are sleeping or eating more, feel depressed, or all of the above – it’s ok. These are ways our bodies respond to stress. If you have had traumatic experiences in the past, it’s possible your body will have an even stronger reaction to current events. Give yourself a break and remember, you’re doing the best you can. Maybe you can’t hug everyone right now, but give yourself a hug.

If you need someone to talk to, we are offering virus-free virtual sessions over Google Hangouts, Facetime or Zoom. Some insurance companies are even waiving copays right now. Give us a call at 918-205-4148 or email to set something up.