I’ve sworn I wouldn’t write anymore about living and dealing with anxiety.
It (the subject) really doesn’t fit into my business plan, and I have work up to my eyeballs that I struggle to get done because I’m a stay-at-home / work-at-home mom to two small kids, and now that we are baby-sitter-less in the current virus situation, I get about 2 work hours per day – 3 if I can convince myself to get out of bed early (which I don’t often).
So, it’s not really diligent for me to just sit down and write whatever I want, but today, I’m going to. I’m going to write about how to manage anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic, specifically.
Because it’s not THAT different than managing any anxiety.
Last night I didn’t sleep well, following my first full-on panic attack in years, and this morning my son is thrashing around in his bed with a stuffy nose.
He’s clearly uncomfortable and getting sick – despite the fact that we have not left the house in 23 days. (Like, WHERE has he got a bug from?!)
Of course, it’s probably not Corona, but it IS just one more thing on the big pile of things that have been adding to my anxiety lately, and today I am faced with a choice:
Do I let anxiety and panic take over and drag me down into the pit, or do I take control of what I can control – and rise above it?
Today, I feel like what I can share might benefit someone – anyone – and that is a good enough reason to write.
I feel like what I can remind myself of might benefit ME, and that’s a good enough reason to write.
I’ve lived with crippling anxiety for all of my adult life, and most of my teen-dom. Two+ decades of anxiety.
And – for the most part – in the second decade, I have lived WELL with anxiety.
No, not every day.
And there have been other days where the waves of anxiety have washed over me again and again – and letting the minutes pass was all I could do.
But that’s no way to live.
And I’m not going to let another day die wasted in worry.
Right now, when I look at posts on Facebook or watch the news or listen to the sounds of my friend’s voices – I see that I’m not alone in my fears… I see a world trying to live under the crashing waves of anxiety.
Collectively holding their breath, totally unsure of how to even function with the new pressing anxiety they live under.
(Maybe you’re thinking it’s not that bad – but if you’re unaffected by the current world situation, congratulations! Why are you reading this?)
Today I want to share some of the very solid and effective coping mechanisms I’ve learned over the years for getting through the days – even enjoying the days – when anxiety is a constant companion.
Today I will choose to take hold of these things – things that I am very capable of doing – and I will not allow my anxiety to overtake me.
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
FOCUS ON WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL
We struggle with anxiety when we feel like we are losing control – we don’t realize that most control is an illusion anyway… but we can choose to focus on the things that ARE within our control.
This means we can choose to do things that we know can keep our family relatively safe – we can stay the heck at home, we can wash our hands, and we can take vitamin C and cut back on sugar to keep our immune systems strong.
(Will this prevent Coronavirus? Not likely! But faced with having to fight off a very nasty virus, would you rather go in with a strong immune system or a weak one? Unless you are over 80 years old, if you get Corona, there is more than a 99% chance that you will recover. ESPECIALLY if you have a strong immune system.)
We can also take it a step farther and we can be grateful that we are at home, that our kids are with us at home.
It is within our control what we choose to DO with our days at home, and how we choose to allow ourselves to think.
It is within our control what media we consume – and how much we consume.
GET OFF FACEBOOK/ SOCIAL MEDIA
Just do it.
Don’t “think” about getting off.
Don’t TALK about getting off – do it.
If you have no self-control, have a friend you trust or your spouse change your password for you.
Delete the app from your phone.
Numerous studies have proven over time that the use of Facebook is negatively associated with well-being IN GENERAL, and in times when 90% of the posts are pure anxiety-fuel, you’re not your best friend OR ANYONE ELSES by being on there and posting pandemic related things.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a bad day worse by reading an article posted to Facebook – an article that I never would have read otherwise.
Just stay away.
(Fun fact, you could get up to 2.5 hours of your day back by getting off Facebook. I KNOW.)
That said, I know you’ve already spent countless hours consuming articles, posts, newscasts, podcasts, you-tube videos sharing “facts” and opinions on this pandemic.
We all have.
And it’s easy to forget that NONE of us has the whole story here.
It’s good to be informed, but it’s also good to remember that aside from first-hand accounts – and MAYBE even then in some cases, everything you hear should be taken with a grain of salt.
There is not a single media outlet (this includes newscasts) without an agenda.
And not all agendas are the same.
Most are for-profit, some are political and when it comes to the internet, anyone can write anything they want.
I can write WHATEVER I WANT here on this page – there is no one policing it (and thank God for freedom of speech). I also know how to drive traffic to what I write. I can GET people to read this. You’re reading this.
And I’m a teeny tiny speck in the ocean of the internet voices that can drive traffic to what they write – TO MAKE MONEY – or to push an agenda.
A newspaper in Atlanta published recently that an 11-year-old boy died of COVID-19.
CBS ran panic-inducing footage of an Italian hospital and made it look like it was New York. They called this an”editing error” (and I call total BS. Again, I know exactly how to make people read what I’m writing. And so do they.)
Now, before I get a bunch of hate mail claiming I’m downplaying the virus, I’m in NO WAY saying that the virus isn’t real, that we don’t need to practice social distancing, and I’m not even suggesting that you DISbelieve everything you read.
I’m just suggesting that allowing ourselves to fall into a pit of devastating anxiety without knowing the whole truth (which we can’t) isn’t a wise thing to do.
LOOK AT HISTORY
One of the things that causes the most anxiety is fear of the unknown.
And certainly, our future feels very unknown right now. However, horrible things like this HAVE happened in the past, and the world has come through on the other side.
Not only that, we can see from history that RARELY have the worst predictions come to pass.
(I’m no history expert, so I had to do some research on past predictions for outcomes of terrible diseases.)
This article was really great, and this part in particular:
When hysteria is rife, we might try some history. In 1997 we were told that bird flu could kill millions worldwide. Thankfully, it did not. In 1999 European Union scientists warned that BSE “could kill 500,000 people”. In total, 177 Britons died of vCJD. The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported by as having “a 25% chance of killings tens of millions” and being “worse than Aids”. In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared “the first pandemic of the 21st century”, the scares in 2003, 2004 and 2005 having failed to meet their body counts.
Then, in 2009, pigs replaced birds. The BBC announced that swine flu “could really explode”. The chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, declared that “65,000 could die”. He spent £560m on a Tamiflu and Relenza stockpile, which soon deteriorated. The Council of Europe’s health committee chairman described the hyping of the 2009 pandemic as “one of the great medical scandals of the century”. These scenarios could have all come to pass of course – but they represent the direr end of the scale of predictions.
At no point in history – except perhaps recent history – has there been perfect peace on earth and no threat to health or happiness.
However, life moves forward, the next generation finds a way.
LIST THE POSITIVES
What we are often doing when falling into a pit of anxiety – even subconsciously – is listing out the negatives and allowing them to be a narrative that runs in our heads all day long.
If you ACTIVELY make a list of the GOOD in your life, and change the “feed” in your head, you can make very positive changes to your mental health.
This is called cognitive-behavioral therapy, and it’s about taking control of your thoughts.
Replacing bad thoughts with good thoughts, basically, if we want to dumb it down.
It’s generally done with a therapist, but you can start right now by changing the narrative, and choosing to think about the positive things in your life.
You are SAFE in your comfortable home.
You have your kids with you.
You’re saving money because you can’t go out.
You have time you never had before – to do some of the things you’ve been meaning to do.
(I know these things won’t all be true for everyone, they’re just examples.)
I call this NOT FEEDING THE FEARS – and it’s one of the single most powerful things you can do for anxiety. There’s more to it than this, so read how to not feed your fears here.
KEEP YOURSELF BUSY
You might not be quite sure what to do with yourself if you’re suddenly social media-free, possibly job free, definitely social life free.
Here’s something really amazing about this time we’ve been presented with at home:
WE CAN DO ANYTHING WE WANT!
Sure, it’s ok to have a bad day, to give yourself grace and not have high expectations of productivity.
But keeping yourself busy isn’t about productivity anyway. It’s about distraction.
If what you’ve been doing is sitting on the couch watching the news while sinking further into despair, or scrolling on your phone while begging your kids to “just give you ten minutes” and that hasn’t been good for you, maybe it’s time to try something else.
- Learn a new hobby.
- Take up an old hobby.
- Start working out (exercise is REALLY great for anxiety + depression, in fact).
- Start a side hustle. (There are tons of things you can do from home for money. Blogging, for example.)
- Clean out your closet.
- Do something with all the photographs in those boxes.
- Deep clean the bathroom + the kitchen.
- And the porch + the playroom.
- Phone your grandma. Ask her about her childhood.
- Bake cookies.
- Eat the cookies.
- Build a fort with your kids.
- Make playdough.
- Have a sleepover in the living room – on a Tuesday. (No one has to get up early for school! Make memories.)
- Have a “date night at home” – ask your spouse these fun questions for married couples – and get to know them better.
No – not to the park.
But if you can go out into your yard, that’s great.
Just be in the sunshine.
Take your kids outside, and let THEM be in the sunshine.
TALK TO SOMEONE
Connecting with other people can help you remember you’re not alone, and we really ARE all in this together.
But major, big, huge caveat here:
If you’re drowning in your own anxiety around this pandemic, DO NOT talk to other people who are also drowning about it.
You need to find someone who looks at it a little differently than you do, who can share another – hopefully, more positive – perspective, or someone who can just listen to you… without joining in and bringing you down farther.
HAVE A GLASS OF WINE – BUT ONLY ONE
I think a glass of wine is a GREAT way to take the edge off a tiny bit of anxiety.
I do it all the time.
So have a glass of wine.
(I’m 1000% not a medical professional. And I’m sure this statement proves that. But I’ll still go ahead and say talk to your doctor about ANYTHING related to your mental health, ALWAYS. Especially if you find yourself turning to alcohol to manage your anxiety.)
Be aware that heavy drinking can CAUSE increased anxiety, and what feels better for a couple of hours can be like pouring gasoline on a fire in the long run.
Our bodies are VERY affected by what we put into them.
Things that can make anxiety worse very quickly include alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.
If your anxiety is becoming unmanageable, cut back on all three.
Don’t expect immediate results, but it CAN really help over time.
This is bigger than you.
You ARE NOT actually in control of the future.
And the future IS frightening sometimes.
But God is bigger than the pandemic, and God is in control.
Even when it doesn’t seem like it.
(And I don’t say this as though it’s easy. I’m not one of those Christians who can just say “oh trust in God, it will be ok!” No… as a Christian, I have struggled EXCEPTIONALLY with anxiety, and trusting God. Here’s what I have to say on being a Christian with anxiety, and trusting God when it’s hard.)
TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME
Be present in your day.
Do things with your kids, keep yourself busy TODAY and handle tomorrow, tomorrow.
It won’t be so bad, you’ll see.