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7 Things that Help in Times of Anxiety.

April 3, 2020

 If you are experiencing anxiety, stress, fear and worry, you’re not alone. 

It’s a very natural response to the global pandemic. Even people with a high stress threshold and excellent coping techniques need to step up their game at the moment. 

We’re collectively living in uncertain times. The world as we know it has changed in many ways. No one knows how it will pan out or how long it will last for. And we’re not used to dealing with change and uncertainty on this level and scale. The result is anxiety. 

Fear causes part of that anxiety. Some people describe it as a vague form of grief for the future that was fairly certain (called ‘anticipatory grief’). It doesn’t really matter whether we call it grief for a future that is no longer certain or fear for the unknown. Right now, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s ok not to be ok.  

The real question is, how can we handle this situation in the best possible way? What’s the best way to approach this uncertainty in a way that helps us escape a path of endless worrying about things we can’t do anything about… again adding to the anxiety. 

So really, how do we break the cycle? What are the coping mechanisms we can use to navigate these times and come out the other end as robust as we can be? 

1. Stay active.

Physical exercise is not just great to stay fit. It’s also an amazing immune booster. Even better,  because it burns off cortisol, it helps us feel calmer in the middle of all the turmoil. 

Some ideas:

  • Get a move on that spring-clean. Not only will you end up with a clean house, having the feeling of some level of control will help the mind as well. 
  • Several exercise videos are popping up all over the internet. Whether it’s yoga or a cardio workout, there’s bound to be one that suits you. 
  • Have some fun play-time with the kids or the dog in the backyard. 

2. Soak up nature.

There is mounting research of the healing effect nature has on our minds and bodies. If you have the chance of venturing out in nature, make it a daily habit. It will bring structure to your day as well. Try some of these:

  • Have a massive garden clean-up and start growing some vegetables.
  • Bring nature inside: how about an indoor plant project?
  • If it’s safe to do so, spend some time on a local walking trail, the beach or in the woods. If not, check out some life-cams in nature. Some of them are mind-blowing. 

3. Focus on the present.

 Aaaah… Mindfulness. With a future that is all but certain, it helps to stay in the present. When the worry takes over, pay attention to what goes around you, your body, your mind.

  • Use one of the often used anxiety techniques: name 5 blue items in the room, count backward from 100, use breathing techniques. 
  • Try one of the many Mindfulness, Relaxation and Meditation apps.
  • Resist checking the news too often. After all, you can’t control the outcome. Instead, focus on the things you can do right now. 

4. Laugh.

Laughing feels good, boosts our immune system and helps us keep things in perspective.  Laughing with others strengthens relationships and, because laughter is contagious, we laugh more with others. 

  • Get the jokes cracking. Everywhere. Dad jokes are encouraged. 
  • Watch funny movies, or your favourite feel-good series. Read a funny book. 
  • Try laughing yoga; there are plenty of examples on YouTube.

5. Be kind.

As stressed as we all are right now, what we need most of all is to be kind to each other and ourselves. 

  • Check in on neighbours. A quick ‘How are you going?’ from across the fence could do miracles. 
  • Tensions can run high when everybody in the house need to live this close to each other for a longer stretch of time. Focus on the good, be kind and communicate in a positive way. Find ways to reach the middle ground.  
  • Video calls are life-savers right now. Especially the elderly can feel isolated. 

6. The glass is half-full.

Deliberately focus on the good things in your life: maybe you feel grateful to have some quality time together, maybe you get to finally do that one project you never found time for, maybe you’re grateful for the beautiful sunny day. Just always remember that every challenge is also an opportunity. 

  • Start a gratefulness jar and write 3 things big or small you feel grateful for each day. 
  • Express your emotions  in a way that gels with you: start a new painting, play some music, do a happiness dance, write a poem. 
  • Say ‘thank you’ and really mean it.

7. Stretch your mind.

What better time than now to learn something new? 

  • Read the book that has been sitting on your bookshelf for ages. 
  • Learn a new skill and take an online course. 
  • Many Musea and other tourist spots have free virtual tours at the moment. Indulge!

Remember, nothing lasts forever and this too will end. So let’s end with a Winston Churchill quote: 

‘It would be foolish to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be more foolish to lose heart and courage’

I can’t wait to see what good comes out of this!