Managing Pandemic Anxiety

How’s your heart today? 💛

I ask this question because it may feel vastly different than yesterday, or an hour ago. 

If there’s a heaviness in your chest, your thoughts are spiralling, and you’re feeling kinda paralyzed – it’s going to be okay.

If you don’t recognize who you are without your job and your routine and being able to hug your friends – it’s going to be okay.

If you wake up with a pounding heart and sweaty palms or you feel like you can’t catch your breath (literally or figuratively) – it’s going to be okay.

If your shoulders are tight, there’s a knot in your stomach and you’re snapping at the people you love most – it’s going to be okay.

If you can’t concentrate or fall asleep. If you’re bingeing the news or Netflix – it’s going to be okay.

Take a deep breath with me right now (seriously, do it….ahhhh).

You don’t have to have it all figured out – there is no deadline.
You don’t have to pretend to be okay if you’re not.
Your “I’m-all-out-of-sorts-ness” is normal.

And it’s also normal if you’re feeling relatively ok about it all (and perhaps a tinge guilty because you are doing ok right now).

What I know for sure is you are not alone and that feelings can change quickly.

We’re all making our way through this the best way we know how. I’ve been hearing/reading a lot about a sort of low-level anxiety we’re collectively experiencing…so here’s 9 things we can do to support ourselves and ride these emotional waves in the days/weeks/months ahead.

Let me begin by saying – all fear is future-based. 

ALL OF IT.

This took me a while to wrap my head around because I thought ‘umm no, if there’s a gun to my head that’s a VERY present moment fear!’ Then I realized, nope, the fear is worrying about when they’re actually going to pull the trigger! 

It’s completely natural to get caught up in worrying about what we can’t see coming around the corner. We don’t like to have blanks in our stories. PERIOD. We like to know what’s going to happen next or at least be able to predict it. So, when we’re faced with real uncertainty, we project fear-based thoughts into those blanks, which usually results in approximately 471 “but, what if?!” scenarios.

However, it’s hard to worry about the future when you bring yourself back to the present moment, I know, wayyy easier said than done. Which is why I’m sharing some of my favourite holistic tools to help you manage your fears and anxiety in a more mindful way.

Jedi Mind Trick #1

First, you need to ACKNOWLEDGE how you’re feeling. When we do this we tend to say things like, “I am anxious.” That “I am” statement is powerful and potent as it signals to our nervous system that this anxiety is here to stay. Like it’s a Sharpie etching itself as a permanent state of being instead of an emotion that’s just passing through to say hello.

This applies to any emotion you’re feeling. When you say things like, “I am sad.”, “I am angry.” or “I am overwhelmed.” your nervous system reacts like it’s an absolute truth and set in stone.

But with one word we can invite it back to a temporary state of being. 

Wait, what?!  

Try this.

“I am FEELING anxious right now.”

“I am FEELING sad right now.”

“I am FEELING angry right now.”

“I am FEELING overwhelmed right now.”

Why is this important? 

Because feelings come and go. They aren’t permanent. By adding the word “feeling” to your statement you give your body permission to feel differently. Try it out now and see if there’s a shift for you.

Spiral Up

We already know that it’s easy for our minds to slip and spiral down into dark places and “what if” nightmares.

Instead, let’s try spiralling UP and add some hope and curiosity to our “what if”s.

How?

Start by imagining yourself coping effectively. What does that look like? What would you say? What would you do? What would you wear? Really visualize yourself as that person. Dial-in an alter-ego (a la Clark Kent and Superman) if you need to. Have fun with it. Give your alter-ego a name. Engage your senses. Clark Kent has his signature specs. Maybe for you it’s a messy top knot, or a colourful scarf, or hitting play on a soundtrack that helps you slide into your day like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. I mean look what happens to Beyoncé when she becomes Sasha Fierce….she slays….all day.

Get the Facts

This can definitely feel challenging right now. Conflicting news stories contribute to a feeling of confusion and uncertainty. Checking the stats every hour doesn’t help either (numbers need context).
I get my daily news from 3 sources: first up I check my email for my daily newsletter from The Bullet (Canadian) and if needed, then The Skimm (American). And if I feel I need more info throughout the day I’ll check in on Jessica Yellin on Instagram. Once I’ve checked in/read through these I’m done for the day. Find a couple news sources you love and trust. Schedule a time of day you’re gonna check (don’t do it right before bed!) and then give yourself permission to avoid the media.

Also, take notice of how you feel when you take a break from the media. Better? Calmer? If so, see if you can extend the time and give yourself a bigger break and only check every other day.

Perspective

Focus on the things you DO have control over. Even simple tasks like making your bed, calling a friend, going for a walk, tending to your plants, will all help take your mind off of worrying. Right now I’ve enjoyed re-watching tv shows. I like the predictability of it, it’s kind of comforting to know what will happen. I also switch it up by cranking a good playlist or watching a comedy special. I’ve also been nurturing myself by reading (currently Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’ – so good!) and colouring (my favourite form of meditation).

Jedi Mind Trick #2

Visualize putting all your worries into a jar (or box, or safe, whatever you want) label it and screw the lid on tight. You can also ACTUALLY do this and write out your worries on scraps of paper and put them in the jar (highly recommended…the hand is the conduit between the head and the heart). Either way, this exercise provides a CONTAINER for your burdensome thoughts. It makes space in your mind since you’ve decided to put this shit elsewhere. And you can always open it and take a worry out if you need it (likely not ;)) or just choose to leave it on the shelf indefinitely.

Movement

Be aware of how your body can reinforce anxiety. Notice WHERE in the body it shows up for you (heaviness in your chest, tight shoulders, pounding heart, sweaty palms, knot in your stomach etc.) Get outside if you can. Take a big breath on your porch or balcony. Notice how spring is pushing forth with the buds on the trees and the birds singing happily in them. And if you can’t get outside, tend to your plants indoors or have some playtime with your beloved pet. Organize or clean a room (or drawer/cupboard) in your home. Heck, even a simple stretch session can do the trick! Crank the music and dance in your kitchen. Tune into a yoga class online. Or invite your friends to a trivia party on Zoom (I highly recommend this trivia website/app for the actual trivia game called CrowdPurr).

Gratitude x1000

When you feel that oppressive sense of ‘oh shiiiit, something bad is going to happen’ sneaking in, lean heavily into gratitude – it’s your own life-raft. Get your senses engaged and notice the beauty around you…specifically call it out by naming colours, shapes, textures, sounds etc. Also be sure to use present tense, things like “I am thankful for this deep breath that I can do with ease. I’m grateful for the internet and hydro that remains on and provides my connection to the world. I’m grateful for the warmth of the spring sun on my face.” Write it out or speak it aloud….don’t shortchange yourself. Make it a daily practice and notice how it positively affects your life.

Turn off the World

Recognize that just because you have more time on your hands right now doesn’t mean that you have the CAPACITY to take on more. You’re not doing quarantine wrong if you don’t have it in you to write that book or start that side hustle business.

And if you’ve got kids at home right now you might actually have LESS time as you figure out homeschooling/distance education and find a new rhythm for the whole family.

I can’t stress this enough – be kind to yourself. Think of what you would say to a dear friend who was struggling and give yourself the same gentle and loving guidance. Write it out in a letter to yourself. Or say it to yourself in the mirror. Again, the brain will process the story you’re telling yourself as the truth. So make it nourishing.

Meditation will help you get present and release anxiety. If it feels impossible to quiet your mind right now try a guided meditation or use a mantra + mala. There are some fantastic meditation apps out there. My faves are Insight Timer and Calm.

Begin the day with a simple sun salutation yoga practice or whatever poses you feel intuitively drawn to that day. Gently moving the body always helps.

Tackling Loneliness

If you’re already grieving or feeling anxious, feelings of loneliness will only make matters worse.

Be sure to connect with others.

Call your parents/family to check in. Video chat with your girlfriends. Text your BFF.  When you venture out for supplies make eye contact with others and smile. Maintaining social networks can help maintain a sense of normalcy and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress.

Definitely keep a sense of humour…we’re gonna need to laugh through this together. Feel free to send me your favourite COVID meme!

And of course, reach out to me on social media. Sign up for a Lifeline session with me (it’s a free 30 min coaching session).  You can schedule your spot here

I’d love to hear what your favourite coping strategies are right now. Or which one of these you’re going to try and incorporate into a daily practice. Join me over on social media and let me know how you’re feeling.

Above all else, give yourself grace and permission to take it one day, or minute, at a time. 💗

Like this?
Share the love!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Leave a comment