In these unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic, we all share similar feelings: anxiety, worry, confusion, and even panic. These feelings are completely normal because, as we already know from living our previously “normal”, everyday life, there is one thing that our powerful brain is not well-equipped to handle, and that is uncertainty. It frightens us not to know what is going to happen. In these times of the coronavirus pandemic, it is only natural that uncertainty is magnified and so are our fears.
Acknowledge and accept the new normal
The first step to managing stress and anxiety is to acknowledge that it exists and accept reality exactly as it is today, at this moment. The pandemic is a fact and it affects all of us. Denying it or resisting it is a waste of valuable energy that we need to preserve and direct in ways to cope. Human experience is a messy bundle of contrasts; good and bad, light and darkness, joy and sorrow. We are presently experiencing the dark but let us remind ourselves that this is the fact: we are caught in the midst of a pandemic. Once we accept the situation we can focus our energy and resources to improve it. In this case help flatten the curve by keeping healthy, staying home, manage the logistics, support others. We can even think of ways of harnessing the crisis and find the upsides. There can be light even in the darkest moment.
Create new habits to alleviate negative feelings
Having accepted the situation, the second step is to alleviate our feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and even panic by generating calm and peaceful feelings from within that will reinforce our sense of control and create a sense of certainty. Mastering our feelings is mastering our thoughts because thoughts create feelings and not the other way around. If we can generate negative feelings we can also generate positive feelings. Mastering our thinking while navigating uncharted waters involves creating new habits and modifying existing. Here are some examples:
Regulate the time spent listening to the news and in social media. Listening to bad news and sad stories all the time does little to help create a positive mindset. On the contrary, it adds to the anxiety. Listen to the news in moderation to keep informed from a couple of reliable sources.
Write down your anxious or negative thoughts using pen and paper. Acknowledge that they are the product of your own thinking. Throw the paper away and get rid of these thoughts. Take a few minutes to decide what you want to think instead. Ponder on the thought and notice the feeling it creates in your body. Keep thinking the positive thought throughout your day.
Practice gratitude. Thinking about the positive aspects of our life and our accomplishments creates a sense of confidence which is reassuring and empowering and an antidote to fear and anxiety. Here is a couple of examples on how to do this:
- Writing down daily 3 things that have made you happy today. Write different things every day.
-Thinking of 3 things that you are thankful for during the 20 seconds of hand-washing instead of counting to 20.
Practice meditation or breathing exercises. Practicing meditation or breathing relaxes the brain and disables the flight or fight mode of the brain. There are plenty free meditation programs in you tube that you can choose from.
Yoga. Yoga helps both the body and the mind. If you are a beginner there are many free programs in you tube to start your yoga journey. Restorative yoga is another option especially if you are locked in your home. It restores your energy and you can do it on your own because it is static.
Stop complaining and take 100% responsibility of our actions We always have a choice in how to handle the situation. Being conscious of our decision-making process is empowering and creates a sense of control therefore calming fear and reducing anxiety and worry.
Harness the crisis and make the best of the upsides
Having gained control over our fears we can proceed to the third step and direct our focus and energy to making the most and best of our time at home. The Chinese have the same word for crisis and opportunity. In our modern era of coaching and self-development, Napoleon Hill taught us: “Every negative event has within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Let us explore some potential opportunities that the crisis is presenting us with while staying at home.
Exercise – this is more of a challenge because we are confined at home BUT we can get out and walk in nature (picking an isolated path and always keeping a safe distance from others)
Nature – Having the time to immerse in nature in springtime is a blessing and we should all take advantage of it (taking of course all the necessary precautions for staying safe).
Social connectedness – at the time of self-isolation or staying home we are acutely reminded how much we value our friends and family. We can have audio and video calls and stay connected.
Contribution – We can support those more vulnerable or in worst situations that we are. Let us ask ourselves what can I do today to help? Then we can enjoy the feeling of being useful too.
New habits or secret dreams – This is the time that you can take up something you have always wanted to do like cooking, journaling, writing a book, learn a language, start yoga, practice meditation and so many others
Be creative and daring. This too shall pass!