“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose” ―
Learning how to cope and manage your fears might be your best use of time right now.
Don't worry. Be happy. This is easier said than done these days. There are many implications from the pandemic that give cause for concern. It is almost impossible to be worry free right now. Financial stress, strains on personal relationships, in addition to worries about health and safety can be overwhelming. It is unsettling to be unsure about what the future holds, when life will resume as it used to be, or if that idea is even realistic. The unknown feels daunting and creates fears.
Uncertainty also brings up triggers from the past that can contribute to anxiety.
We each have our unique experiences that shape our view of the world. In times of crisis, everything becomes more magnified and our beliefs, which were formed from our personal experiences, effect how we think and react. A cycle of "what if's" with terrible scenarios bring on negative thoughts and fears that can become debilitating. Holding onto this cycle may create a false sense of security because, to some degree, it creates a belief of effecting the outcome; when actually the opposite is true. Worry never changed a single event or solved a single problem, and it never will. Learning to let go of your fears is attainable with consistent effort.
Stopping the Cycle
Over time the mind creates thought patterns that support the cycle of worrying. The good news is that you can do the opposite to retrain your mind to think more positively and minimize the effects of the fears that come with your thoughts. In Cognitive Beahvioral Therapy, the focus is on changing thoughts, because feelings and behaviors are effected by them. For example, if your thought is that your spouse will contract the virus if he/she goes to work, you will likely feel fear or anger and your behavior might be to withdraw from your spouse, or become angry and possibly start an argument about it. If you change your thought to be more empowering- i.e. he/she is taking precautions to be as safe as possible while continuing to work, then your feelings will be more calm and your behavior will change as well. Most of the time the "what ifs" that we create don't even come to fruition and we fret for no reason. Your thoughts are the leaders of your mental health; your feelings and behaviors follow them. Challenging the validity of negative thoughts and reframing or replacing them to be more positive is a helpful and calming habit to develop! It just takes conscious practice.
There are several ways to stop the cycle of worry. A combination of practices is ideal.
1. Focusing on what you are grateful for, what is going well, and what you can control sets a foundation for success.
2. Remind yourself that you have power over your own attitude and effort.
3. Being present/mindful of each moment and stopping the habit of projecting or catastrophizing keeps the body and mind more relaxed and calm.
4. Exercise and/or fresh air is an energy and mood booster as well.
Taking control over anxiety is possible if you practice these ideas regularly and make it part of your day to meditate and or practice yoga. You have the time. Set the intention of taking care of yourself, your thoughts and your mental and physical health.
5. Regular sleep patterns also keeps the body in better tune to handle stress.
6. Proper nutrition is another important factor because it effects your energy and overall health. Planning and preparing healthy meals is very empowering and feels good in your mind, your body and your soul.
Taking care of yourself may take the place of a full time job right now, but it is a valuable use of time. Strive to do one or two things a day for your personal care.
Start by taking some slow, deep cleansing breaths until you feel relaxed. Add another calmimg practice if you have the energy.
You do not have to implement all of these habits at once, but every single thing you do to create a more calm mindset to ease your worry will help you feel better! Your pattern of worrying developed over time and so it will take some time to change it. Keep at it and you will notice a difference.
If your worry is overwhelming, and you are struggling to stop the cycle, it is imporatnt to talk to someone who will listen to you. Call a friend, therapist, call Crisis hotline @ 866-4CRISIS, or Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor (24/7 support via text). If you feel I can help you, please don't hesitate to contact me. You are not alone!