I've never considered myself to be an anxious person. But the last few months of 2020 has brought out an anxiety that I've never experienced before. Anxiety can affect anyone, but in particular, those of us who have stressful home environments, uncertain futures due to coronavirus, those of us who live alone, and those experiencing financial difficulties are particularly prone to experiencing stress, depression and anxiety during COVID.
It is critical to get anxiety under control early on in the process, because if left unchecked for too long, it becomes a generalized anxiety disorder that is much more difficult to treat.
If you have ever had to deal with anxiety, you know that it is a problem with the mind - where thoughts can spin out of control, causing worry, uneasiness, or nervousness, and typically leading to feelings of imminent doom. These thoughts have a direct impact on the body - causing the nervous system to sense danger, and keeping you in a state of fight or flight as the body develops an overactive stress response driven by the sympathetic nervous system. In order to keep anxiety in check, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to help calm the body and mind.
Of course, yoga and meditation are great ways to do that. But there are other ways to help calm the nervous system so that we can move through anxiety into a state of relaxation.
If you are anything like me, when anxiety strikes, it feels impossible to relax, or do anything to help calm yourself down. Anxiety often leaves me feeling frozen and helpless to engage in any activity that I would normally find relaxing. It became critical for me to find ways to trick myself into doing things that would allow me to transition from movement into stillness. In addition to taking sugar and caffeine out of my diet (as well as yoga and meditation), I have found the following solutions extremely helpful.
I hope these solutions are beneficial to you as well.
1. Take a walk outside. Taking a walk allows me to keep my body moving (something that anxiety often drives me to do anyway). Walk for as long as you need to, and focus your mind on your breathing. Breathe long and deep as you walk. Long, deep yogic breaths will gradually calm your nervous system down. Once you have your breathing under control, you may choose to focus your mind on a mantra. I like to use the mantra "I am safe and protected." But you can choose any mantra you like. I like to walk for at least 30 minutes to give my body and mind the opportunity to settle into a new way of being.
2. Take a break from social media and the news. Media can be good for a lot of things, but in these uncertain times, where everyone is triggered by everything, social media and the news can become an anxiety trigger. I find a direct correlation between the time I spend on social media and the anxiety I experience. If you can take a week off from social media, that is fantastic. But if you can't do that, at least limit the time you are spending on each platform. Notice the way that you feel when you are on social media and use that as information and a catalyst for keeping social media time in check.
3. Reach out and connect. Make an effort to call or video chat with at least one person every single day. Isolation drives anxiety, so connecting with your loved ones is just as important for you as it is for them. We are social beings, and in order to maintain a healthy mental state, it is critical that we connect with others every day.
4. Practice gratitude. When your mind is spinning out of control, imagining every possible negative outcome, it is important to flip the script and focus on the things that you love and are grateful for. I recommend writing down 3 things that you are grateful for first thing in the morning, before anxiety has a chance to set in. If anxiety does start creeping in, notice it, and bring your awareness back to the things that you are grateful for that day. The power of gratitude should not be under estimated. It truly shifts your worldview from gloom and doom to a sense of wonder and awe.
5. Create a schedule that incorporates self care. With so many people working from home, it's easy to allow the workday to go on and on. Make a work schedule and stick to it. In addition, make room in that schedule for mental health breaks and time for joy and play. You might take ten minutes mid-morning for a breathing practice, ten minutes mid-afternoon for a guided meditation (choosing one for anxiety would be particularly helpful), and end your day with any activity that allows you to feel a sense of deep joy - such as dancing. Make this schedule and stick to it. Give yourself the gift of small breaks for self-care. You can also check out our online courses to supplement your self care and focus on your healing. I have suggested a few for you at the bottom of this page.
I know I said there would be 5 ways, but I also want to include a simple meditation that you can do to help alleviate anxiety. You can find that meditation here.
These are just some small things that you can do to help fight feelings of anxiety. However, it may be necessary to seek medical attention to help support you. Many therapists are offering phone and video calls if you don't feel safe going into the office. If you don't know where to look for a mental health professional, you can start here:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA offers a free, confidential referral system in English and Spanish to help connect you with someone local to you that can be of assistance.
I hope these tips can help provide you some relief from the anxiety you may be experiencing. I'd love to know what tools you use to deal with anxiety! Let me know in the comments below!
NOTE: This blog post is not intended to be medical care or advice. Please seek professional help if you are struggling with any mental health issues.
WIth all my love,
Stress, depression and anxiety all go hand in hand. We are so pleased to offer these online courses to help you overcome these thoughts and emotions.