You don’t have to be especially empathic to feel the surge of collective panic rippling around the globe right now. Even if you are not directly affected by Covid-19, the consensus is that it won’t be long before we are all feeling the effects.
But from the social repercussions of self-isolation to the economic effects of restricted movement, the fallout from this virus is predicted to last not months, but years.
We’re not writing that to be alarmist, but to help you see that if you’re feeling anxious about any aspect of this, for your own emotional and mental health, you need a good set of tools to manage it.
Anxiety disorder is no joke, so if you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to call on the help of a professional. But to ride this storm, we’ve put together a list of 10 tips and techniques to tackle the inevitable fear, and keep calm and stress-free. All are free and easy to incorporate into your daily life whatever your personal situation looks like.
1. Deep Breathing
Have you ever noticed that when panic starts to surge, your breathing becomes more shallow? Instead of breathing d-e-e-p into your belly, you tend to gasp up upwards, into your shoulders?
Yet this unconscious physical response to fear, panic, and anxiety only serves to worsen the symptoms of worry!
But breath IS spirit.
It’s our connection to the divine, to the sacred, and to surrender. So when you begin to get those pangs of angst, try really had to deepen your breath, to stretch it out and make each in-breath and out-breath last a little longer. As well as literally bringing more spirit into your body, increased oxygen will help your body to function optimally, processing stress hormones and allowing you to think and see more clearly.
2. Move Your Body
And talking of stress hormones – those old friends adrenaline and cortisol in particular – it’s vital that you don’t allow these to build up in your body unhindered. Movement is one of the best ways to release and overcome stress and anxious feelings.
If you can, get out of doors and immerse yourself in nature: Go for a hike or a run. If you do need to stay indoors, then simple yoga or a quick cardio workout can work wonders for removing energetic blocks and letting that stress move through, and out, of your body.
3. Avoid Avoiding Your Fear
Anxiety feels horrible! Affecting us all in slightly different ways, maybe for you it’s irritability and sweaty palms. Or maybe it’s insomnia and headaches…?
These symptoms (both emotional and physical) mean it’s tempting to zone out and try not to feel what you’re feeling.
But NOT dealing with this isn’t ever going to help you.
Avoidance may make you feel better momentarily, but long term, that anxiety is still lurking. So BE in it. As difficult as it may be at first, try to be in your fear, and fully feel it. Doing this will enable you to learn from it, receive the information it has for you, and then move through you.
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4. Identify Your Triggers, not Just your Symptoms
What is it that you’re actually worried about? Can you try to pinpoint exactly what the specific concern is?
You may just feel overwhelmed by the entire situation, but spending a little time narrowing it down can be incredibly useful. So whilst the idea of getting sick may be worrying you, can you dig into this worry a little more deeply?
- Is it the physical discomfort of being sick that you’re scared of?
- Or not being able to provide for your family if you’re incapacitated?
- OR is it the loss of earnings?
- Or letting down people you’ve made commitments to?
Use a journal to explore your anxiety triggers more fully…
5. Be Pro-active
Once you’ve identified some of your personal anxiety triggers, write a list of pro-active things you can do to help yourself should the worst-case scenario materialize. What can you do NOW, as coping mechanisms to relieve some of the potential pain later?
Be creative here!
- Call up a few friends, and ask them to support you and your family (shopping, childcare, daily check-ins) if you need it? And can YOU offer this to anybody else?
- Batch cook some meals and freeze them?
- Talk to your employer about working from home?
- Create Skype playdates for the kids so they can see their friends.
- Research your financial options as thoroughly as you can.
Part of this kind of pro-active work to reduce the impact of your personal triggers is, yes, to prepare. But it also serves to soothe your nervous system – by doing something, you are limiting the element of surprise and unexpectedness. And this in itself is a powerful coping mechanism.
Anxiety thrives via the unexpected
For this reason, keeping a daily rhythm going can really help to anchor you into your life, regardless of what is thrown into your path.
Try to wake at the same time each morning. Eat regularly. Get some fresh air each day and have set chunks of time for working, exercising and relaxing.
When you know what’s coming next in your personal world, you’re more likely to feel in control. Meaning you’re less likely to let panic, enter into fight or flight mode, or let anxious feelings take over.
7. Supplement with Herbs
There are plenty of powerful, natural remedies available to combat the effect of fear and anxiety. Some you’ll likely already have in your kitchen or garden, such as Chamomile, lavender and lemon balm (just because they don’t come in tablet form, don’t discount their power!)
Others are also adaptogens, meaning they help to regulate the production and flow of hormones. So unlike the blanket effect of most medications, they work with your own body’s systems. Examples of these that are good for de-stressing, relaxation and fighting fear include ginseng, ashwagandha, and licorice root.
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8. Focus on Something Else
… and if you’ve been sitting in your discomfort, examining your triggers, and figuring out some practical action points, it’s still okay to do something entirely different!
Shift your focus, be creative, chat with a friend, read that long novel that’s been on your bedside table since forever… let your anxiety slip away by giving your mind something entirely different to focus on (and no, scrolling social media doesn’t really count).
9. Connect With a Friend
There’s hardly anything that beats chatting to a good friend, for turning down the dial on worry and anxiety.
Don’t delay. If you are starting to catastrophize, or your worry is getting out of hand, pick up the phone. Overcome it with a friend.
And one more remedy to overcome juuuust about anything is good old fashioned laughter. So stick on some stand-up, or your favorite comedy and shut the world away with some giggle therapy…
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