With the mounting concerns over COVID-19, our anxiety levels rise, and community panic may lead to increased buying, safety concerns, and general fear of the unknown. It can be hard to find your calm when all of this is swirling around and within you. The following are some suggestions to help you slow down racing thoughts, calm your heartbeat, and find some peace.
They say knowledge is power, and this is true, until it turns to overconsumption. There is so much information coming so fast and from multiple sources; it can be hard to stop engaging. Misinformation leads to undue worry. Pick one or two reputable information sources that you trust. When you hear news from an outside source, such as a friend or family member, ask them where they learned it. Then, fact check it against your trusted sources. You may also wish to set a time limit for your daily exploration of the topic. If you find your worry getting too big, contact your primary care provider to discuss your concerns and address any specific health questions you have. They know you and your health history, and they’re best equipped to craft a personalized plan for success.
2. Worry Breaks
A small amount of anxiety is normal, and even healthy for our survival. Anxiety is our body’s alert system to feeling unsafe in our environment. Take a moment to pay attention to what your worry is about, as it can provide useful information in how best to address it. For example, when you see a bear in the woods you become alert to your surroundings to keep you safe. This is healthy worry. If your worry feels unproductive or unhelpful, give yourself permission to set down your worry and engage in typical activities such as going for a walk, reading a book, or playing with your dog. The worry will be there to pick back up if you need to, and you might find that your worry has decreased somewhat when/if you return to it.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present to your current moment. Think of tuning into your senses when doing an activity such as washing the dishes. Notice the temperature of the water, notice the scent of the soap, view the bubbles swirl and pop, and hear the sound of the scrub brush again the dish. Mindfulness activities help ground us, provide opportunities to slow down with intention and increase our calm. Additional activities include meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. You can find audio and video of all these activities on the internet to assist you.
4. Positive Focus
Lastly, we tend to focus our attention on the negative or the deficit before us. Instead, try and flip the negative into a positive. Shifting our focus can enhance our outlook, calm racing thoughts, and remind ourselves about all the things to be grateful for amidst the chaos. If you have children, you can turn this into a game and help them focus on the positive: pick a word as your challenge word (no, don’t, stop, can’t) every time someone says that word try and find a way to flip it into a positive. For example, instead of “don’t sneeze into your hands”, say “do sneeze into your elbow.” This helps everyone stay positive and keep moving forward.
This is a scary and stressful time, and with these strategies you can help reduce the feelings of overwhelm and regain control. As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.” May you find your beautiful path to walk that brings you internal calm and a sense of peace.
Written by Colleen Crockford, MSW, LICSW, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s Human Animal Bond Social Worker