If you’re experiencing a spike in anxiety right now, one of the first things you can do is to cut yourself some slack. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and entire cities and even some countries are on lockdown.
For most of us, uncertainty is the worst part. We grapple with fears of getting sick and anxiety about economic conditions. And it’s all completely natural given the circumstances.
But there is a difference between recognizing fear and anxiety as natural and succumbing to them. And it’s a good idea to recognize that anxiety is more than a casual nuisance. There are connections between anxiety and addiction and suicide that offer a reason to take even the smallest concerns seriously.
So, let’s explore a few ways we can all lower our anxiety in order to get through this pandemic.
Limit your news consumption
A 2007 International Journal of Behavioral Medicine study shows that watching the news increased anxiety and total mood disruption (TMD) in all participants. The findings demonstrate that watching the news on television consistently triggers negative feelings. But there is a silver lining. One group was able to mitigate the stressful effects of watching the news by practicing relaxation techniques directly afterward.
And while a study like this may make you want to shut down news completely, that’s not an ideal solution — especially with how quickly the world is changing around us. Instead, consider limiting your news consumption and choose your news sources wisely.
Reframe your situation towards the positive
We can look at the stay-at-home orders as an inconvenience, or we can reframe them towards something more positive. Think of it as a time to focus on yourself and your family. In these times where many of us are forced to slow down, our thoughts and worries pick up the slack and accelerate. But if you make a conscious effort to think of one positive outcome each day, your attitude may begin to turn around.
Maintain a routine
It’s so easy to hit snooze when you don’t have a clock to punch at work. But if you really want to lower anxiety, keep as close to your routine as possible. If you let your day get away from you, it’s likely to cause even more anxiety. If you start by reframing this time as a gift, this will be a lot easier. You’ll want to make the most of each moment.
But as part of your routine, be sure to shower and get out of your pajamas. Looking (and smelling) good will help normalize each day for you.
Tidy up your home
When the world around is completely uncertain, we can help lower anxiety by focusing on the things we can control.
A Current Psychology study found an association between clutter and a person’s likelihood to procrastinate. And clutter problems led to an overall dissatisfaction with life in older adults.
But we don’t need a study to tell us that we feel better in a cleaner space. Clutter and mess can be a visual representation of our to-do lists and make us feel overwhelmed. When you first wake up and see laundry piles that need to be put away and two weeks of mail to be sorted, your subconscious to-do list feels overwhelming before you even think about brewing a pot of coffee.
In this pandemic, we need all the help we can get. So, it may be a good idea to prioritize tidying up each day.
Create something to look forward to
If you find yourself with additional time during this period of quarantine, consider spending some of it doing the things you enjoy. Think about the ways you spent your time before life got in the way. Maybe you’d play guitar or oil-paint a landscape. Or, maybe those are things you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Now is the time. Think of this as a wakeup call for us all to spend time on things we enjoy with people we love. There’s more to life than work.
Dial-in for assistance
Maybe you’ve always thought about therapy or maybe it’s a new consideration. Many people are finding it difficult to cope with the isolation and anxiety that so many of us are faced with in these times. And, now more than ever, you can get help from the comfort of your own home. Most therapists are available through tele-help methods that comply with HIPPA standards.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, know that you’re not alone. We can get through this if we can recognize when we need help and reach out for it.