Friends, these are unprecedented times we are living in and it seems like a nightmare. Add to that, the uncertainty and so many unknowns and you have a recipe for high anxiety.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Anxiety (panic attacks) can often mimic a heart attack because they share similar symptoms: increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, an intense feeling of fear and sweating.
Worrying is a way of coping with anxiety. However, worrying has never and will never solve any situation or crisis.
Our level of anxiety is going to be directly proportionate to what we focus on. And whatever we focus on, expands.
There has never been a more critical time to take care of our overall health and well being. This includes tending to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
When it comes to anxiety, increasing awareness about the difference between what we can and cannot control is key. The following is a list of suggestions – things we can do that will make a difference in our healing process:
- Slow down. Slow everything down. This is an opportunity to practice being in the present moment. “Give us this day, our daily bread.”
- Avoid negative coping. Overeating and overdrinking might feel good in the moment, but in general won’t reduce your stress level and actually will make you feel worse.
- Eat together and eat well-balanced meals. Just because Lent is over and just because we are quarantined does not mean we need to binge on food. Practice good self care when it comes to food. Gather around the dinner table together.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. The temptation to binge on any substance is huge at this time but remember the gratification is short lived and only prolongs the healing process. Excessiveness may actually trigger panic attacks and aggravate anxiety even more.
- Exercise daily. Take brisk walks or bike rides. Any movement to help you feel good and maintain your health. Energy begets energy!
- Take deep breaths. Take 6 full seconds to inhale, hold for 4 seconds and then take 6 full seconds to exhale slowly. Oxygen to the brain decreases anxiety.
- Do not judge your feelings. You may have a lot of faith and yet still feel scared. This does not make you less of a person, less of a Christian. Jesus longs to meet us in our emotions – right where we are.
- Give of yourself. Pope Benedict XVI said “One receives one’s life precisely when one offers it as a gift.” Find ways to volunteer in your community.
- Be creative. Journal, paint, draw, or dive into any activity that helps bring expression to what you’re feeling.
- Give yourself permission to feel joy. Find ways to laugh, dance, sing and play together. This will even boost your immune system!
- Make eye contact. We take this for granted. Looking into each other’s eyes communicates that I care about you and what you have to say is important.
- Identify what triggers your anxiety. Everything has a source. What is it for you? A particular relationship, your work, a family stressor? Once you identify triggers, you can begin to take small steps toward healing in each area.
- Talk to someone. Vulnerability is a sign of courage. Do not pretend you have it all together when you don’t. Life is not a dress rehearsal. If you need support, reach out to family or friends – someone you trust. If you need professional help, therapists and physicians now offer telemedicine.
- Avoid binge watching the news. Research shows an increase in anxiety and depression in those who binge watch the news. Stay informed but set limits.
- Forgive old hurts. Holding on to unforgiveness directly impacts both physical and emotional health in a negative way. With so much uncertainty, now is an opportune time for empathy and mercy. You will not regret it.
- Pray. Silence is good medicine. We are bombarded with information on a daily basis. Make a daily habit. Put it in your calendar as an appointment and keep it. At least 15 minutes daily. Prayer decreases anxiety, depression, and anger.
It seems the whole world has been given a retreat. How often we’ve complained in the past that “time flies.” Now we have the precious gift of time. What will we do with this time? Will we create something new or stay stuck in our negative thoughts?
Focusing on the past or the future is a source of anxiety. All we have is the present moment.
We can choose to focus on the here and now. This virus is just a part of our story but as Christians and Catholics we know how the Story ends. In this Holy Easter Season, our HOPE is in the Lord who says to each one of us now in this moment, “Behold, I make all things new.” – Revelation 21:5
Iklas Bashi, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Life Coach, Speaker and Writer and Founder of The Glorious Unfolding, LLC private practice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She offers private, confidential video conference sessions via doxy.me.