I often think of how nice it would be if life were easier.
I know I’m not alone. For the majority of us, life often throws more at us than we’d like given a choice. These days, mammoth societal problems feel beyond our control as we worry about the health and safety of our friends, family, neighbors and fellow humans. We worry about the future for our children, the survival of our livelihoods and anxiously wonder what new reality might be barreling our way if we let our guard down. This is life in times of high anxiety. How do we pull ourselves back from panic?
Let’s start by acknowledging what triggers feelings of anxiety, depression and fear. It may be tuning into the local or global news pool, hearing of friends and family suffering or seeing a stack of unpaid bills piling up on a countertop. Feelings of incompetence and helplessness–in a novel time for which we have little reference–are common right now. Knowing that so many others are in the same boat saddens me but also creates a newfound kinship, too. There couldn’t be a better time to acknowledge that we are all having strong feelings about life and experiencing them through our own prism. All feelings are valid, it’s how we move through them that’s important so we don’t get stuck in a place we don’t want to live in.
Bringing fears to the forefront of your mind and rolling them around is uncomfortable and exhausting. How to diffuse their power? Consider expressing them out loud to a close ally. Sometimes just realizing you aren’t going through this alone can help restabilize your mind. Educate yourself on possible solutions. Oftentimes making a decision can help unstick us. Whether or not the right choice is made is largely irrelevant, it’s a step towards leaving that problem behind and empowering our intuition for choosing what feels right.
What we really know is true is what is happening right now in the present moment. All educated guesses about what is coming towards us are just that...guesses. So consider focusing on what is within your power to control.
Take a breath and think through your toolbox to what has helped you calm your mind in the past. Dig into your well of compassion and empathy. Often taking some kind of action will help, whether it’s lending a hand to someone else or finding a moment to nurture yourself with a nap, a book, a dance party or a walk. Action will help you feel back in control. I find when I’m doing projects with my hands, I’m able to quiet my worrying mind and focus on that one task, whether it’s pulling weeds or following a recipe. When favorite self-care activities become unavailable (classes, socializing, hugging) we have to rise to becoming our most creative selves.
Accept that sometimes avoidance will be the tool you need, you may need to put worries on a shelf, both figuratively and literally, to take their power away. Last year, I took a five-week news and social media break. Music was the antidote I used when I felt the impulse to tune back into what was happening in the world outside my closest friends and family. This break helped me identify how the immediacy of information in modern times–that is mostly beyond our control–can be debilitating and constricting to our psyches. Today, I keep my time staying informed to a minimum, only in the morning and not before bed. I’ll take breaks from time to time and allow myself to only listen to music, storytelling, podcasts and rich conversations with my friends and family. Try it. It’s rejuvenating. An inexpensive spa retreat for your mind.
It may feel like everyone is counting on you to stabilize your family, job, business, children’s education and so much more. Start with forgiving yourself for not being all things to all people. We are our very best when we are authentic. Carve out some time everyday to do something just for yourself. Feel the struggle of being human and find your personal path forward with compassion. Stay awake and don’t numb yourself to the sting traumatic events cause our psyches. Fight isolation at every turn, be brave, be vulnerable and most of all be kind to yourself.
Need more help?
A mental health professional is a great option to provide ongoing trained support. You can also find some additional resources from virtual therapy, crisis hotlines lines to support groups here.