Times like these make it easier for our thoughts to unravel. One thing may lead to another, and next thing you know, you’re drowning in your own thoughts, and it’s getting harder to breathe.
When humanity is being rammed into isolation and health threats are as tall as the stack of bills, our minds can get the best of us.
Anxiety is a sneaky little thing, and if we leave ourselves unchecked, negative thoughts can easily creep its way into our mental, spiritual, and emotional wellness.
After I did all the reading and research I could on how to cope with anxiety during the pandemic, I was able to break it down into 5 self-help tips:
1. Pause and breathe.
I know what you might be thinking, this is an overrated cure-all step that doesn’t really do anything. Well, don’t take my word for it. Take science’s! Controlling your breath is basically a way of telling your body to calm down, almost like a biological cheat code. As oxygen supply rises, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, and you slowly transition into a calmer state.
How to breathe:
The average person takes 12-20 breaths per minute. According to study, speeding it down to 6 breaths per minute can significantly affect your heart rate.
2. Acknowledge what you are feeling.
Numbness is not when you don’t feel anything; it’s when you feel too much of everything. Just because you’re choosing not to go through the ups and downs of your emotions doesn’t mean they aren’t there. You and I know too well that feelings don’t vanish. Addressing our emotions properly is one of the many ways we can sustain our mental wellness.
How to properly address our emotions:
The most crucial step is knowing where your thoughts are stemming from. Our mind is like a garden if we don’t check on it now and then, weeds, which are negative thoughts, may fill it. For example, you might be thinking a lot about the virus and possibly contracting it. What if I catch the virus or what if someone I love catches it? This fear is not entirely uncalled for, but it can escalate and turn ugly in seconds. To keep that from happening, try asking yourself: Where is the fear coming from, and what factors affecting my fear are in my control? For this particular problem, washing your hands and wearing a mask is a good start.
3. Control your news consumption.
Staying informed is of paramount importance. But how much news do we really need and how much of it is actually doing more harm than good?
How to control our news consumption:
Set a time. Planning how and when you read news means strategically reducing factors that may increase your anxiety. 10 to 15 minutes of reading relevant news articles every day should be more than enough.
Pro-tip: Never read the news (or use your phone) first thing in the morning.
Consider your sources. Stick to trustworthy news sources. News is only news if it’s credible, other than it’s pure hearsay. You don’t need it.
4. Set a daily routine (AND STICK TO IT).
Psychiatrist Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, in a recent documentary, emphasized how important it is to regain some sense of control in our lives by creating a predictable world for ourselves. That way, we get to balance the increasing uncertainty of the outside world with the certainty in our own little bubble.
How to set up a routine:
If you’ve read my blogs before, I always mention the importance of little things when it comes to big progress. Your schedule doesn’t have to be an extravagant checklist of To-Dos. For example, instead of opening your phone the first second you wake up, now you wait for 30 seconds. Or, perhaps you’re the type who needs an hour before actually getting up. Now, you can cut it back to 30 minutes.
5. Shift the focus away from yourself from time to time.
We all have our own problems to deal with—whether it’s about the pandemic or something else entirely and I know this must sound like one of those sappy sentiments, but hear me out. There are always people out there who might just need a little bit of your sunlight. It helps to know that we are not truly alone in this world. Plus, it activates the reward system in our brains, thus, producing happy hormones.
How to shift the focus away from ourselves:
There are plenty of ways to do this; taking care of plants is one. And you can always get creative, or you could reach out to people you love. Just because we’re physically isolating ourselves, doesn’t mean we have to emotionally isolate as well. Start small.
What I do every day for 5 minutes is scour the internet for wholesome posts and videos that I can share with my grandparents.
There are plenty of ways to achieve this, and let me tell you; it’s totally worth it.
How have you been holding up?
Author’s note: P.s You can always shoot me an email. 🙂