This past year to year and a half — has been a ride…. One of the questions that I have heard most often is How to manage anxiety during Covid? — Here are some things to keep in mind to answer that question…
To understand why, we must understand anxiety itself as the root of the problem.
Anxiety is a feeling that was much more helpful to us in, say, the caveman days. We needed anxiety for it’s fight, flight, or freeze response it produced in the limbic system 🧠. It produced an instant chemical response (The release of Adrenalin and cortisol to name a few) that kept us protected from dangerous predators 🐅🦁🐻and, quite frankly, kept us alive! Our society evolved to be much safer and we have largely not needed to rely on this protective anxiety response. Until now.
Faced with this global pandemic, we as a society are stuck in our limbic system. It’s not just our brains telling us we are in a life or death situation, it’s everyone and everything around us! Here’s the problem- our reactive fight, flight, or freeze is a great short term response to immediate threat. It is NOT a helpful response to long term, complicated systemic issues like covid-19. We are severely physically and emotionally harmed when we produce this type of chemical reaction for long periods of time. We can develop physical illness, depression, rage (ya’ll been on social media lately?), reactivity, poor coping etc. and then guess what happens? We create a PILE UP EFFECT in our own lives and in society as a whole and begin to view everything and everyone as a threat to our safety (which of course is not true or helpful). Pandemic, civil war, systemic unrest—sound familiar? So what is our individual role in mitigating this unhelpful response in ourselves and society? How do we manage anxiety during Covid?
It’s time to grab your surf board and learn to ride this wave!
1. watch yourself. Literally. Get used to noticing your thoughts, feelings, sensations, urges, memories, breath, and 5 senses. Watch without judgment or action. There is no bad time to do this, but of course, the more overwhelmed you are, the more crucial this skills becomes. This observing starts the process of activating our parasympathetic nervous system (calm down system), prefrontal cortex (responsible for logic and good judgment) and wise mind (opposite of reactive mind). It also begins to detach us from unhelpful internal processes.
2. Accept. All of it. You cannot change society, other people, or even your own automatic thoughts and feelings. So make some room for all that-it’s not going anywhere anyways so stop fighting it. Remember that what you are feeling and experiencing is NORMAL. You are not crazy. Be vulnerable with safe people if you need to remind yourself of this fact. Trust your higher power to take care of what you can’t.
3.Valued action. Take inventory of how often or whether you are acting on emotion vs values. Are your values telling you to debate that person on Facebook or is that your fear and reactive mind? We are guessing the ladder. What is best for you and your energy in the long run (given this is certainly a long run type of thing)? We imagine you value things like boundaries (we suggest with ALL media), kindness (even when someone else is in their limbic system), patience, grace, faith…. The list goes on. When we act on these things, we don’t get rid of the problem but we learn to live a fulfilling life in spite of it.
4. Engage in the present moment. If you decide your values tell you to get off social media and be with your family-be truly present and engaged in that. Pay attention to the way your child laughs or the lines that appear on your spouses face when they smile. Take slow bites of that take out Chinese, feel the warmth of the last bit of that summer sun as your family plays outside. It may sound cheesy but this is where anxiety, even anxiety during Covid, can’t exist.
How to manage anxiety during covid can be a journey but its a journey that can teach us a lot about handling our emotions well in all situations not just a global pandemic.