These are very worrying times and uncertainty and fear make for a potent mix of negative emotions.
If I can offer advice it is going to be very simple, but these simple things, if done consistently will help you keep sane when otherwise we may begin to feel unhinged.
Take time each hour to BREATHE. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4. Do this for 2 minutes at least.
No this doesn’t take away the world situation, no this doesn’t solve problems, but a series of small steps will increase your capacity to cope mentally with everything that is going on and help you recognise what helps you in times of stress and quite simply, teach you to fit your own oxygen mask first. Breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system which will be firing on all cylinders at the moment as the threat response kicks in. It is only natural that you are feeling this way, life feels scary and uncertain, but a state of panic and anxiety will not help us make good decisions, problem solve, write shopping lists or all the things we as humans need to do each day. From a state of calm, good things will happen. We will think clearly and continue living, make plans with and for our family and hold on to a sense of control, however small that may be. Notice the difference after 2 minutes of slow steady breathing, not a miracle change, but a slight change, a little more calm than before, or at least an inkling of calm. Each time you do this, you reset the sympathetic nervous system to stop it firing up and getting ready for action.
- Notice where you are at emotionally.
Yesterday, no matter what I did I could not switch off the anxiety in my body, I tried to breathe, I turned off the news, I did yoga for ten mins, no change, then I did yoga for 30 mins, had a bath, refrained from watching the news. I did everything, but I just felt on edge all day. I have learned that some days are just like that, I feel flooded and yuck and just cant get myself together. But here is the crucial bit, instead of beating myself up and being unkind to myself, I just accept it, I have an early night and tomorrow is another day. Hey presto, I feel a bit different today, I’m not exactly firing on all cylinders wonder woman, but today is going better. I actually think that all the good stuff I put in yesterday has actually done some good and true to form, has sunk in a day later for me (I’m always a bit slow!!). I take each moment at a time and take the pressure off thriving and sometimes just strive and survive.
- Limit news to once a day. Or once every two days.
It is difficult to strike a balance because we do want to be informed, however we are being flooded with news, worry, fear, confusion, upset, even the words “deaths”, “bans” “quarantine” this vocabulary floods us with panic and doom. The discussions, the statistics, and the discussions we go on to have in turn lead to a high level of information and associated fear flooding our minds. It is quite simply over-riding our system and tolerance to stress. All of this information will be raising your anxiety and for those already struggling with anxiety it may just become overwhelming. We are trying to strike the balance between having information that helps us better deal with the difficulties and predict as best we can how life will pan out, and being overwhelmed with the information. Everything in moderation.
Turn off the news. Don’t leave it running for hours. And if it is getting too much explain to your loved ones that this is the case, can they watch it upstairs or online so you can get yourself back to a calmer place. Only you are responsible for keeping yourself in a calm state of mind, so try to figure out how to achieve that.
- Take pleasure, find joy and fun.
You are not ignoring the situation by having a laugh or a joke, it is a human response to use humour to distract from painful and worrying emotions. More than ever, watch funny excerpts on social media, dig out an old tv series, dig out old board games, reconnect with your family, get talking, sharing ideas, get outside and walk (at safe distances) and up the nice stuff to buffer the negative stuff. Sit outside and listen to the birds, play nice music, talk on the phone, set up a virtual coffee gathering on skype of an evening or throughout the day if you are at home. Get creative and inventive.
Remember you are incredibly resourceful , you are human, and we are born to survive!