The outbreak and subsequent isolation that Amanda experienced from the Coronavirus was devastating. She was stressed out to the max without her usual coping mechanism of spending time with friends. Her job ended abruptly with no promise of resuming anytime soon, her car loan was due, her rent was due, and her family lived in another state. She felt discouraged, alone, overwhelmed, and highly anxious.
Even though HR told her she still had a place in the company, any income adjustment could be disastrous. She was having regular anxiety attacks, some of which escalated to panic over what was to come of her future. She struggled to picture what all of this meant to her daily life. The more she thought, the more anxious she got. So, she turned to drinking alcohol.
But that didn’t work either. Hungover the next day, Amanda decided that it was time to make a change. Since she was limited in where she could go, Amanda made a list of healthier ways for coping with her anxiety. Here it is.
- Meditate. Do a 5-minute mini-meditation. Start by closing your eyes, take some deep breaths and see your thoughts as floating in and out of your head. Don’t allow anyone thought to stay for an extended period of time. By meditating it is easier to train your conscious and subconscious mind to filter out negative ideas that lead to nervousness.
- Pause. Sometimes anxiety is triggered when we are doing too many things at a time. Instead, pause and focus on doing only one task and allowing everything else to be put aside for the moment. Eliminating the extra endeavors gives your brain a chance to relax and not get wrapped up in tension.
- Slow down. Whatever you are doing, do it a bit slower. It is important not to rush and overwhelm yourself. In our busy, get-it-done-now society, anxiety can be a reminder to slow down and enjoy the journey.
- Breathe. Taking deep belly breaths often alleviates the intensity of an anxious moment. To do this breathe in through the nose for a count of four, hold for four, and breathe out of the mouth in four counts. Forcing your body to have control of airflow can effectively conquer a spur of the moment panic episode and keep you grounded.
- Aware. Anxiety is often a warning signal trying to let us know that something is not quite right. Instead of completely removing the anxiety, become hyper-aware of your surroundings and how you feel within them, looking for what might be out of place. If there is something you can identify is causing the discomfort, trust your instincts and keep your distance.
- Distract. Saying, “I’m not going to be anxious,” will only make you more anxious. As long as you are giving it attention, it will thrive. A better option is to shift your thoughts to something completely mindless – like how your feet feel in the shoes you are wearing. With the concentration rearticulated there is nothing left to feed your anxiety.
- Counter. Your physical body doesn’t know the difference between being anxious or excited. One way to use this to your advantage is to counter the anxiety by saying, “I’m so excited!” This will keep your brain from traveling down an anxious spiral and grant you the opportunity to regain control.
- Focus. If you are focusing on something close by that starts to stress you out, switch your eye to something in the distance. Just changing the subject of your thoughts for a few minutes can eliminate that amplifying stress and reduce anxiety.
- Stretch. Anxiety often lives in your body even if you might not notice it. Take a second to become aware of where you store the anxiety in your body and stretch out that area. This allows you to release any negative pressure harboring in your body. This is a great time to take up yoga.
- Get out. Nature is the great reset button of sensory overload, which frequently occurs to those who spend too much time inside. Go outdoors for a few minutes and look at a tree, some grass, a pond, or a couple of flowers. Any pent-up, nervous energy will find a happy liberation in the fresh air.
- Drink. One of the quickest ways to reduce anxiety is to drink something icy, very quickly (non-alcoholic). The brain freeze will force your mind to concentrate on warming up instead of being anxious. A tall glass of ice water, for example, will reinvigorate your body while stopping anxiety in its tracks.
- Watch. Take a moment to watch something out of your control such as a bird flying by, a squirrel climbing up a tree or the ripples in a pond. Inside, you can watch a fan spin, see the blinking lights on an electronic device, or watch water coming from a faucet. The simplicity of observing an everyday occurrence you cannot dictate will help equalize any stress you may feel from not being able to control your own situation.
- Feel. Sometimes anxiety is masking other feelings you may not be addressing. Instead of focusing on the anxiety, become aware of what other feelings are present that could be causing your apprehension. Uncovering the true source is a long-term solution to ending the agitation.
- Accept. Don’t fight the anxiety, accept it. Feeling anxious is normal, healthy, and even productive at times. See the anxiety as just a thing that can come, and then go just as easily. Permitting the anxiety to run its course often enables you to recover from it twice as fast and move on.
- Gratitude. In a moment of intense anxiety, being grateful for something can reduce the stress. Be thankful for the basic or small things that you enjoy, such as the sun shining, a beautiful picture, or a safe home. Letting the little joys of life have more precedence automatically minimizes anxiety in general and benefits your overall attitude.
By systemically dealing with her anxiety, Amanda was able to keep her cortisol levels within normal parameters despite her job uncertainty. Not long after and much to her delight, the quarantine was lifted and she began to feel more confident and back to her old self again.