Turning on the television, devastating news is common. Listening to the radio, voices echo the same sentiment. Hoping for a reprieve or positive news for your day, you login to your social media of choice. Post upon post upon post, you see horrors. The dark side of today’s connected life is we are unable to avoid the onslaught of images and posts in our newsfeed. Whether it is violence, a health crisis or terrorism, we live in an uncertain time. It is emotionally draining for a relatively healthy person. However, for those afflicted with mental illness, especially anxiety, reading the news or opening Facebook is a land mine waiting to happen. It can be debilitating as we absorb that hopeless, precarious emotion into ourselves. Personally, there are days I cannot leave my house due to the state of the world. We live in a 24/7 news cycle which leaves us so very vulnerable to succumbing to our anxiety disorders. I am a mother and anything about children, no matter their age or gender, and I cannot even finish the headline. Short of living on a deserted island without communication from the outside world, I have developed strategies for managing my anxiety when I am so uncertain.
Ask Questions: When you encounter an issue that deeply affects you and in turn your anxiety, ask questions. Is it an imminent danger? Is it triggering me in some manner? Is it born of anxiety or anger or fear? By taking a moment to determine the root cause of why I am reacting, it allows me to move on to my next step.
Action: Sometimes I react due to the simple horrific nature of the news. I am angry that actions so terrible occur. Perhaps I am disgusted. My root cause may be a personal connection I feel, such as a mother/woman/daughter, etc. Actions allow us to channel our anxiety. Let’s say my anxiety stems from reacting to a victim of domestic violence. I can volunteer at local shelters, donate needed items, call my local government to encourage legislation for victims. If I ask myself, “what can I do?” and there is a way, however small, to help, it has truly helped my panic attacks because I am making a difference.
Take a Break: Turn off your phone. Log out of Facebook. Turn off the TV. Clean the kitchen. Close your eyes, think of what is calming and do it. Distracting your mind allows us to recharge. Anxiety is physically draining. The pain from it is very real. Soaking in a warm bath can help alleviate it as well as encourage relaxation.
Minimize: If it is feasible, minimize or eliminate the source of the anxiety. This means many different things for many different people. Personally, I have to log out of social media, avoid reading the news and minimize any exposures to triggers. Turning on great music, exercising and expressing that panic into physical energy is a great release.
Go to Bed: I used to think I was a super human superhero with dark circles under my eyes as my own personal cape to prove I could do it all. All I did was become a strained, exhausted shell of myself. Sleep is physically necessary to live and there’s no trophy for burning the candle at both ends. Make sleep an important priority.
Be Safe, but Be Sane: Wear your seatbelt, take vitamins, wear sunscreen and be vigilant to protect yourself to maximize your life. I have less anxiety and fewer panic attacks if I am prepared. It’s one less thing to worry about. Yet, as that adage goes, “accept the things you cannot change.” Have emergency kits in your car and your home. Go to the doctor for your annual wellness exams. Drive the speed limit. Make sure your kids are healthy and safe. However, I had to accept the ambiguity of life.
There are still days when my fear wins and I cannot leave my home. There are days where my medicine is working, it’s a beautiful morning and I go for a run. I struggle everyday with anxiety and what works for me may not work for you. All I can say with any certainty in this world is you’re not alone.
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