If you are experiencing increased anxiety recently due to coronavirus pandemic, then you are not alone. There has been a sudden shift in our lives, and given the uncertainty, it is entirely reasonable to feel anxious. We are facing a global crisis concerning health, finances, job security while being socially distant from our loved ones. The current pandemic is an unusual situation for most of us, and inclination towards heightened worry or fear of the unknown is likely. So the question is, how do we navigate through this pandemic? How do we keep it together when it is painful to breathe, or when muscles feel stiff, or when the mix of irritation and anger arises out of nowhere? In a nutshell, although the current times seem like a nightmare, what are the ways to feel less anxious or worried?
One of the hopeful ways to look at the current times is by seeing it as an opportunity to work towards the presence of anxiety in our lives and relationships and building coping skills to be better than before. Anxiety is not a bad thing. It helps us from danger and keeps us alert. It is a part of our survival instinct, and all living beings have it. It has an adaptive function, so it is a natural and appropriate response to danger. However, too much or too little of it can interfere with our ability to adapt to a new situation and function appropriately. The most important thing to remember about the anxiety is that the more we try to avoid it, the more overwhelming it becomes. It becomes intense because the interpretation of avoidance is expressed as a confirmation of danger by our brains, so more we try to push away the thought of anxiety, more our physiological system becomes alert and activated. So, the most effective way of controlling the anxiety in the current pandemic is to embrace it and transform how we react to the feeling of it. The feeling of fear is uncomfortable and hard to accept. Still, when we recognize our signals from the body being alert, maybe we should tolerate it a bit better. Following techniques may help reduce anxiety in the current times:
- Be attentive towards your bodily signals. When our mind has a lot to process, it is difficult to slow down and notice the surroundings. Try to experience your surroundings using all your five senses. For example, when you are eating your favorite food, smell it, feel the texture, slowly taste it, and enjoy it.
- Try to stay in the moment by being open, accepting, and conscious about everything around you and what you do now.
- Accept how you are feeling and yourself. Be compassionate towards yourself and practice to treat yourself the same way you would treat your close friend or your loved ones.
- Breathing is beneficial, and it helps a lot when our mind is clouded by negative thoughts. At that very moment, take sit, close your eyes, and try focusing on deep breathing as it goes in and out of your body.
- Mindfulness can also improve breathing and slowing down of the body. Once a day, just lie on your back and extend your legs with the palm facing up. Close your eyes and focus your attention slowly towards each part of your body from head to toe. Be conscious of any emotion or sensation you feel while focusing on each part of the body. This technique of concentrated breathing can also be done while sitting down or slowly walking in a quiet place.
- Feeling of safety is vital when you feel anxious or panicked. It is understandable that amid current times, it is difficult. Still, our perceptions and mindset can affect our feelings of safety a lot. Just remind yourself you are your safety net, and if something happens, you can handle it.
Ultimately acceptance and realization are the key components that will help you to make real, meaningful, and lasting changes in your response towards anxiety. Making your mind quiet and digging a bit deeper into your inner calm would help reduce your anxiety and fear.
Author: Dr.Krutika Gohil (Neuropsychologist/Cognitive Neurophysiologist)