Humanity is currently facing a threat that is putting our lives at risk, and we are forced to adjust to a way of living that’s different from what we have been used to for such a long time.
The moment the COVID-19 virus entered our society, our lives were put at risk, and we were forced to adjust to drastic changes to decrease our odds of getting infected and infecting others.
These changes include detaching ourselves from the outside world, being separated from our loved ones indefinitely, depriving ourselves of giving and receiving the gift of physical affection, and even losing our jobs that put food on our tables, to name a few. On top of these changes that make you worry about yourself, you are also worried about the impact that this pandemic will have on a broader scale, like how it would affect our society and economy once it’s over.
During this time of isolation, there’s a high probability that we will become obsessed with our feelings of fear and worry because of this new way of life…the “new normal.” These negative emotions and thoughts will eventually take a toll on our mental health. They will bring about extremely high levels of anxiety within us, which could ultimately lead to even worse mental health issues.
We are caught in a great dilemma because the measures that we are taking to protect ourselves from the virus, also poses a threat to our mental wellbeing. But the good news is, unlike this unknown virus that has no cure or vaccine yet, there’s already a lot of helpful ways and techniques that are proven effective in combatting and managing feelings of constant anxiety and worry.
As someone who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it allows me to share the different coping mechanisms and exercises that have been helping me get through this time of considerable uncertainty.
But first, let me give you tips that will help you recalibrate your thoughts and give you a more positive perspective on how to approach anxiety:
1. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious. The situation calls for it.
To solve a problem, it needs to be identified. The good thing about acknowledging the fact that you are feeling anxious about the crisis means that you are already one step closer to overcoming anxiety.
Human as we are, it is reasonable to feel certain emotions when placed in certain situations. It is how we are programmed to respond. Feeling anxious in a time of crisis is as healthy as feeling happy in a time of victory. You might tend to detest yourself for having such negative emotions, but beating yourself up for it will only make things worse for you.
Rid yourself of that blame that you put on yourself. The real enemy here is the cause of your anxiety and not yourself. Feeling of anxiousness is not an indication that you lack courage, but rather an opportunity to bring out the courage in you to fight it.
Anxiety is also not always harmful. A healthy amount of stress could also be right for us. The beautiful thing about emotion is it drives us to act.
For instance, if we don’t feel any fear of getting infected, we will not take precautionary measures to protect ourselves from getting the disease. The absence of worry and anxiety will, therefore, lead us to put ourselves at risk of being exposed to the virus.
Use your worrying thoughts as a positive motivation for you to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones, rather than letting it stop you from functioning and going about your daily activities at home.
2. Accept that a lot of things are beyond our control.
Most of the time, anxiety stems from the lack of assurance that things will turn out the way we want them to in the future. But the reality is, what will happen in the future is not for us to decide. It’s not even a guarantee that it will come.
Yes, we can do things to increase our chances for a better future, but always put into account that there are external factors beyond our control that will not precisely lead us to the outcome that we desire.
Accepting this limitation will help us have balanced expectations and would prepare us in case the future would not turn out the way we want it to. Being open to possible disappointments could decrease your present feelings of anxiousness.
3. Know that everything is temporary.
Another way to improve your perspective is by acknowledging that everything (even this health crisis) is temporary. The situation you’re in right now will not be the same tomorrow, and it could only go two ways: it would either become better or become worse.
Either way, everything that will happen to you next (whether good or bad) will also be temporary. No amount of overthinking can stop new challenges, circumstances, and victories from coming your way.
Life is just a process of changing and adapting. Take it one day at a time, do what you can do, and trust the process. Tomorrow will always be different from today.
4. Anxiety is a constant battle.
Do not be frustrated if the feeling of anxiety reoccurs after you have dealt with it. Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s just how anxiety (and all other emotions, for that matter) works. It will keep on coming back each time a situation calls for it.
But since it’s a battle, it only means that you will always get a chance at winning, though losses are bound to happen every now and then. Coping with anxiety is a skill. And just like any other skill, it gets better with practice.
Each bout will better equip you for the next one.
Aside from a positive perspective, you also have to explore concrete ways to rid yourself of anxiety while you are in quarantine. Here are a few of the things I have been doing recently that helped me cope with negative emotions, which might also work for you:
5. Find a healthy distraction.
During moments of extreme anxiety, we have the tendency to stop our usual activities and end up pacing back and forth nervously and overthinking and repeating irrational future scenarios in our heads.
This will only lead to panic and other irrational behaviors. The only way to overcome this is to divert your focus. You have to find a distraction that would relieve your mind of such negativity.
Some of these diversions include watching movies, reading books, cleaning, and organizing, discovering a new hobby, learning a new skill, trying new recipes, and a lot more. Just make sure to do something that you are actually interested in or passionate about so that it doesn’t feel forced.
Take this opportunity to do the things that you put off doing back when your days were “normal.” Explore different areas of your house. Maybe you’ll find books that you bought but never had the time to read, or a closet that you have always wanted to organize; or photographs, and documents that you were planning to make a catalog of.
There are a lot of things we set aside in the past because we were so busy with our lives in the outside world. Now that we are forced to slow down, this is a good chance to do them.
6. Withdraw a bit from social media.
This has proven to be very effective for me. In these critical times, one of the major sources of anxiety is the excessive information we read online, mostly on social media. Like COVID-19, anxiety is also infectious.
If your friends on social media vent out their fears and worries, it is highly likely that you will get “infected” with the same feelings and you can spread it to others as well. You could also see a lot of rants, sad stories, and insensitive jokes on Twitter and Facebook.
This exposure to too much negativity can be very overwhelming and unhealthy for you. Try to withdraw from that environment for a bit. If you can’t completely quit social media, try making a new account and don’t add friends.
Just simply follow pages that spread positivity and make you feel good. Trust me, it will make a huge difference.
7. Filter your news.
I wouldn’t recommend that you completely avoid news just so you can enjoy the bliss from not knowing. It is still important to be updated. However, you have to filter the news articles that you will peruse.
Focus only on useful information that will help you make informed decisions such as quarantine policies, essential businesses that are open in your area, and new laws that address the current crisis.
You don’t have to know the daily death tolls and case scores. That would simply heighten your anxiety level. Avoid overly dramatic news, fake news, and conspiracy theories.
Paying attention to such destructive information only gives money to businesses and media networks that thrive by spreading fear and panic.
You can filter the information you receive by only visiting websites of credible news and media networks as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) to get updated.
Also, avoid checking the news every two minutes. Set a schedule if you must.
Not only can exercising strengthen your immune system, but it also helps your body to release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin to improve your overall mood. If you are in a gloomy mood, you are more prone to anxiety and other mental health issues.
Exercise could also pump blood to your brain to help you think clearly. Episodes of anxiety usually happen when our brain is clouded by irrational thoughts.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hardcore workout routine. If you are not a big fan of exercising, simple physical activities such as walking around in your backyard could be beneficial enough.
There are a lot of simple exercise routines you can watch for free in online video-streaming websites and you can follow it at your own pace.
9. Engage in conversation.
I disapprove of the term “social distancing.” We are continually being advised to stay at home and observe social distancing, so we are very familiar with the time. However, this is a misnomer that can easily be misunderstood as cutting all socialization with other people, when, in fact, what they want us to observe is simply “physical distancing.”
Another leading cause of our anxiety nowadays is our fear that our time in isolation would severely affect our relationship with other people. Thankfully, technology provides us with different means to maintain our connection with our dear friends and loved ones.
If you have access to tools such as the internet and mobile devices, take advantage of it by keeping in touch with them. This is very helpful, especially for those who are alone during the quarantine. The lack of human interaction gives us feelings of lonesomeness, and the idle time just provides us the opportunity to entertain ideas that leave us in a constant state of worry.
Try to maintain contact with a network of people who can support you in this time, even by just merely sharing light conversations with you now and then. Try also to maneuver the conversation away from topics that are related to the COVID-19 crisis.
It is better if you overtly express that you don’t want to talk about it so that they will also make an effort to refrain from doing so. Chances are, they also want to avoid the topic.
There are a lot of other ways to improve your perspective when dealing with anxiety, as well as other concrete steps to battle anxiety. The key is to try all possible ways and know which ones work best for you.
Battling anxiety, especially during these fearful times, is not easy for anybody. But you have to remember that you are not alone in dealing with this and it is possible to overcome it.
It’s not the feeling of anxiousness that matters here, but how you approach and manage it so that it doesn’t control how you live your life. You are stronger than you think. You have the power within you to take control of your thoughts and feelings; you just need to unlock it.