5 Tangible Ways to Lower Your COVID-19 Anxiety
In this unprecedented time of uncertainty and fear, we could all use some extra resources to help us and our families stay as calm, centered and healthy as possible.
It's easy to get swept up in the panic, especially for those of us who already run anxious, but in order for our immune systems and our spirits to stay strong, we need to double down on our efforts not to... because, as we all know, stress and anxiety lower the immune system.
So, let's collectively make a pact to be as intentional as possible about reminding Anxiety that she's NOT in charge.
Here are 5 tangible things you can do to lower your anxiety if it has gone off the rails:
1. Find voices of reason. This podcast interview with Jack Kornfield had an immediate calming effect on me. His comforting words of wisdom told through his lived experience provided a helpful antidote to the fear-inducing headlines we're being bombarded with.
Dr. Katiraei of Wholistic Kids and Families is an extremely knowledgeable, wise and experienced doctor who offers practical advice and proactive strategies you can take to keep your family healthy. This blog post is full of invaluable information on COVID-19 and he has several other informative articles on his blog that are worth checking out.
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is a British physician, author, television presenter and podcaster whose mission is to help people "feel better and live more." He's up on the latest research and has a level-headed, positive outlook. In this helpful and calming interview, he talks with behavioral neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Dr. Judson Brewer about ways to manage anxiety in the face of this global pandemic.
2. Daily loving kindness meditations. Under normal circumstances, I do this every night at bedtime with my kids and again before I fall asleep. But, for the last week, I've been doing it several times throughout the day as well.
It goes like this: Close your eyes, focus on your breath and repeat this mantra- may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I live with ease.
Do it as many times as you'd like and then extend it to family, friends, and anyone who is suffering. Not only does it calm the nervous system, it's also a beautiful way to send compassion to yourself and others.
3. Bring your attention to what you're doing. I've been doing this one A LOT over the past few days. As soon as you notice yourself going into an anxiety thought sprial, take a breath, acknowledge what you're feeling anxious about, breathe it out and then shift your focus to the here and now by narrating what you're doing.
If you're washing the dishes, literally start narrating in your head- "I'm scrubbing a plate, I'm putting the plate in the dishwasher, I'm picking up a spoon, I'm holding it under the warm water, now I'm putting it in the dishwasher..."
It may sound a bit hokey, but it works wonders in terms of interrupting the anixety spiral, bringing your attention to the present moment and calming your nervous system. Continue the narration as long as you need to in order to break your anxiety loop.
4. Let go of what you can't control and focus solely on what you can. When you find yourself thinking about any of the following: whether others are following rules of social distancing, the actions of others, predicting what will happen, the amount of toilet paper/supplies at the store, how others are reacting and other people's motives and/or beliefs, take these steps:
Notice the worry.
Find where it's centered in your body (are your shoulders tight, is your stomach uneasy, is your breathing shallow?).
Breathe into the place(s) you feel tension.
Picture the tension as a black cloud.
See the black cloud moving up and out of your body.
Say out loud, "I release my tension and worry."
Make a mental list of the things that ARE in your control: your attitude, how you're going to follow the CDC recommendations, finding fun things to do at home, limiting social media and news exposure, your own social distancing, and self-care activities.
Focus on those things!
5. Move your body! Exercise is one of the best ways to lower stress and anxiety. Get outside for a run or a walk, take a family bike ride or a hike, join in one of @sir_twitch_alot's dance parties, do an online yoga class, download a workout app or join an online workout group like this one led by the amazingly fit mama of two, Carly Fleigler.
Not only does exercise lower your stress and anxiety levels, it also keeps your lymph moving and boosts your immune system.
Tip for all of us new homeschooling moms: Kill two birds with one stone by taking 15 minute "P.E." exercise breaks throughout the "school" day with your kids. You'll get a few quick workouts in and they'll get the vestibular and proprioceptive input they need in order to stay regulated.
The entire world is collectively experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety. Of course it's completely valid and understandable, BUT, it's not going to do any of us any good if we succumb to it.
More than ever, we need to focus our energy on taking care of ourselves and our families- staying calm and managing our stress hormones is paramount to staying healthy. Given the circumstances, it's impossible to keep Anxiety away, but when she starts speaking up, it IS possible to use some of these tools to quiet her down.
For additional calming strategies, CLICK HERE.
I'll end with these words of encouragement from Jack Kornfield,
"We have the opportunity, even in difficult times, to let our spirit shine."
You are not alone. And we will get through this.
Additional Corona Virus Resources:
Supplements to help boost immune system
Interview with Dr. Peter Hotez on what you need to know about COVID-19
How to talk to your child about COVID-19
As always, leave your thoughts and/or questions below. And CLICK HERE to schedule a free 30-minute call if you need more support.