Sometimes anxiety is beneficial. At the right time and in the right amounts, anxiety helps us prepare for important, potentially dangerous matters, and keeps us out of harm’s way.
But how much anxiety is enough or necessary for the circumstances in which we find ourselves today? Right now, it seems all bets are off and there are no easy answers. Our schools are closed, most of us are working from home, sports are postponed, and we’ve had to learn a new term, “social-distancing.”
If we think of anxiety in logical terms as an emotion of preparation or protection, we can thank our very early ancestors for its presence in our lives today. They survived because they were diligent to danger and that capacity lives in us today. We are wired to be aware of and respond to potential danger and we have a tendency to pay more attention to those things – it’s referred to as negativity bias. Because of this bias, we luckily don’t fall asleep when we’re driving or forget to prepare for tests or presentations. However, some of us have a heightened tendency to pay special attention to the negative (dangerous) and ignore the good things around us.
Isn’t COVID-19 a perfect example of this? It’s so easy to look on social media and find information that will scare the pants off of you. Because we are working from home and not in school, there’s ample time to read this information (some fact-based, some not so much). Any coping strategies that are normally effective are easily forgotten. So, remember to seek information from credible sources. Social media might be great for kitten videos and funny memes, but maybe not for scientific facts on which we are going to base our behaviors and mitigate fears.
Here is a good source for best practices:
For many right now, these ideas and suggestions may not alleviate your anxiety. You may be worrying about the stock market, security of your employment, and other things over which you have no control. What I encourage my clients to do and that I find so important right now is to try and focus on today, maybe even this very moment. Try not to look too far ahead. Take a deep breath. Take a few deep breaths. Look around at what is going on NOW.
Keep in touch with loved ones to maintain your connections even if you can’t see them in person. We are blessed with technology that allows us to video chat with people, use social media to experience what others are experiencing, and feel that sense of togetherness that we may be craving.
Take a walk, get outside, breathe in some fresh air, take a break from work and online classes. So much better for us than bingeing television shows and movies for sixteen hours a day!
This has been such an adjustment for everyone all over the world, hasn’t it? This is unprecedented and we are all struggling with this new normal. For me, the working from home hasn’t been a change since my full-time job often finds me working from home for days at a time. But it was difficult to transition from seeing my in-person clients to my HIPAA compliant online therapy/telehealth platform because they mean so much to me and I miss our sessions. We will continue to connect with one another in this format until it is safe for everyone to be back in person again. This is something we can do together for the greater good of our community as we confront this new threat.
If you are struggling, you don’t have to go it alone.