Stress & Anxiety Management 101: COVID-19 Series
COVID-19 sure does have our anxiety high and stress unmanageable, but I think it's interesting how gaining more unrestricted (undefined) time in life has greatly increased our level of stress and anxiety.
It should be opposite right?
Fear of losing time should be greater than the fear of gaining it. But I can only suspect that we are not afraid of death because it is inevitable, and that we fear gaining time because no precedent has been set for that.
For the sake of clarity, when I say gaining time, I mean gaining time in your day to use at your disposal without obligation.
In hindsight, many of us were essentially robots marching to the rules of work, life and cultural (American) expectations. We go to work, go to school, go home, manage your house, take care of your families needs, etc. all while (if you happen to have it down to a science) ensuring that you maintain self care.
I believe it has been easy to allow COVID-19 to disrupt our positive thoughts and redirect our energy to focus on all the negative aspects of this pandemic. For example, we're now focused on the fact that we can't go outside, versus focusing on the relationships we could be establishing or rebuilding while we are inside.
And just to be clear, despite all that I have said, what I am not saying is that you shouldn't anticipate the fear and anxiety that comes with ensuring that your family and loved ones are safe and healthy. It's to be expected, so it's important that we realize and accept that we should not worry about things that are out of our immediate control.
And that's what brings us here. I've created this post to provide tools you and your family could use to redirect focus on the negative aspects of this pandemic, to promote more self awareness and drastically reduce anxiety and stress.
1. EMBRACE THE UNEXPECTED
It goes without saying that many of us did not anticipate this so we are not prepared. Hell the American government didn't properly prepare us for this so how could we be? But regardless to the American government's short comings, we should always make sure to maintain a sense of anticipation for the unknown.
One of the most valued lessons I've learned in my adulthood is that you shouldn't be 100% certain. Simply because it's merely a fact that lack of preparation for the unexpected lends to great disappointment.
And that is tough to accept, especially for people with great faith who tend to be confused with the fact that just because we pray for something it doesn't meant that's what will or is meant to be. Or even that experiencing something negative was pointless (without cause).
As a spiritual being I've learned there is a lesson in everything and I came to accept that I don't have the power to solely will things into existence. And I know that goes against a lot of teachings but hear me out...
I accept that I only have power over myself, to ensure that I am prepared and that I am ready, so when praying I relinquish requesting God for acts or deeds, and I simply ask that he prepare me (mentally to accept) his will. I too ask for peace while anticipating that his will be done. Whatever that outcome may be, which in and of itself can be very scary because I may not necessarily desire the outcome. But what I'm doing is allowing myself to be prepared for (anticipate) whatever it is that he will do. Which is applicable while enduring this pandemic.
If we stop praying for desired outcomes and assuming we know how this will turn out because we're too scared to acknowledge the fear of the unknown, and just sit back, redirect our focus on what is and wait for God to move; I can guarantee we'd all be a lot less stressed and anxious.
2. CONFRONT FEAR
The easiest things are not always the best for us, and that is especially true because we can't grow in environments of habit and complacency. However, that's essentially what our world promotes, therefore we crave normalcy (redundancy) and stability.
The problem occurs when stability and normalcy are threatened (or negatively impacted). And like a turtle to his shell, we wish to default to our safe place. A place where we don’t have to anticipate harm.
The shell (safe place) we've culturally created (and maintain) is an environment where we are allowed to be scared to move forward and feel OK to fear new experiences or new things.
We can play God in our shell, we move and go where we please (while protected) so we don't have to acknowledge fear of undesired outcomes (lack of control).
Learning how to confront fear is the best way to learn how to accept the realities of your past, and help you see clearer the patterns of behavior in your present so that you can change them for the better in your future.
If you refuse to confront your fears, you'll exist in a life that's sheltered and engulfed by fear.
3. DAILY TONE SETTING & POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
Habits in general are developed through mental and emotional attachment to an act or experience, and the repetition of said act/experience.
On a very basic level, if we attach the same mental and emotional attachment to being positive and expecting positive outcomes as we do to believing that drinking or smoking calms our nerves, we'll eventually develop more positive habits.
And when the positive outweighs the negative, guess which you focus on more?
That's right, you naturally become more positive, which allows for negativity to bounce off of you without much thought.
Especially considering anxiety is 100% mental. Many of us don't realize how much something as simple as having control over your breathing and positive self talk can mitigate a full blown anxiety attack.
For the skeptics, I actually practice both and it works for me. So if you try it, it could very well work for you also.
The trick is to focus on my breathing first, keep reciting the opposite of my present fear in that moment and remind myself that I am OK.
Don't surprised at how effective it can be to establish a habit of focusing on positive matters. And in turn you'll minimizes and/or discourage a physically negative reaction (anxiety attack).
4. BE WILLING TO BE PRESENT
Nothing good ever came to someone who wasn't willing to try right?
Granted this is a very trying time for us all, it is very important that we are willing to be present in the moments we have been given.
Although not formally requested, we've been granted time to focus on ourselves, our spirits, our minds, our bodies, our families, etc. without interruption, so why not do that? Why not be present in the moments that are happening around us right now? Not engulfed in social media or trying to remember what you had when you could go outside...
Because honestly before you know it, this pandemic will be just another memory, a traumatic (if it's been that for you) experience that you can say you made it through. But when you get to the end of this, do you really want to be the person who says "I wish"? Regretting that you didn't spend the time in other ways you could have?
For me personally, reading and writing have taken a front row seat, next to work since I am blessed to still have a job. I've honestly been putting in the work, actively being present and paying attention to what's happening around me. I've had so much clarity, seeing the behavior of others and identifying those who God used to show me I deserve better.
I encourage you all to try this. Use these tools to dispel overthinking yourself to death with all the possible outcomes and anticipation of social freedom!
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