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Tips for When Pandemic Anxiety Is Out of Control

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Here we are … almost one year later and we are still living the same “lifestyle” that we thought we only had to hold up for two weeks. I remember being overwhelmed about “two weeks!?!”  Little did I and everyone know that the COVID-19 virus would change our lives in so many ways. As an anxious person, mom and psychologist, this virus has taken my anxiety and caused it to skyrocket. So many things to feel anxious about:

  • Homeschooling
  • Virtual learning
  • Staying healthy
  • My children’s emotional well-being
  • My children’s academic well-being
  • My children’s physical well-being
  • Maintaining a balance between work and family – is there a balance?

This is just the tip of the iceberg for me and many other parents who are getting through day by day, and hoping that this world crisis will come to an end at some point. Our lives don’t look or feel the same. Masks, hand sanitizer, 6 feet, cross-ventilation, no handshaking, no hugging. What will our lives look like “after” and will it ever look or feel like we knew life to be? So many questions and so few answers.

Don’t Look for the Finish Line
For myself and so many of the teens, young adults, and parents with whom I work, our anxiety is high because we can’t anticipate the end of this pandemic. Not knowing is creating more uncertainty. We want to anticipate and predict what’s to come, but we can’t. Each day, the information we gain about the virus, our safety, the trajectory for vaccines, our children’s potential return to school is different and it varies. My advice: don’t look for the finish line. Look at the next day or two and create a plan for no more than two days ahead. Trying to project for two months from now or even next week, when chances are they are going to change anyway, will create more inner chaos and frustration.

Control What You Can Control
As anxious people we believe we can control. The truth of the matter is that we really don’t have any control. We never had control. But we like to think we do, and we act in ways to make us feel in control. Control is a what we do to manage our anxiety. There are so many things you can control, so why not shift your focus to those things rather than mulling on all the things you can’t?

You can control

  • What you eat
  • When you eat
  • What time you will go to bed
  • What time you will wake up
  • If and when you will take a walk or exercise
  • How much water you will drink today
  • What you may wish to prepare for dinner
  • Which show or movie to watch
  • Whether you will or will not re-arrange, paint or decorate a room in your space·
  • Whether you will read a book or listen to an Audible and for how long
  • How many times you will brush your teeth today and if you will floss too·
  • Which clothes you choose to wear
  • When you will get a haircut or dye your hair

Ground Yourself in the Present
When you’re feeling like your world is whirling out of your hands, ground yourself by focusing on what is on your list of priorities for the day, the things that truly need to get done – personally or professionally.

Focus on the present rather than allowing your thoughts to dwell in the areas where you don’t have answers, such as:

  • When will this pandemic be over?
  • Will my kids catch up academically after all of this lost time?
  • What will life look like after the pandemic is over?

Grounding yourself also means living in the present. Not the past or the future, but the present. It also means being patient and waiting. I don’t know about you, but I am not good at waiting – I’m a do-er, and likely, so are you. If you are having a hard time being in the present moment, try to find guided meditations or try tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique). Take a walk, write your thoughts down in a journal, listen to or read a book. Come back to the present and find what will bring you comfort at the moment.

The duration of this pandemic has created an array of emotions that we may have not experienced before. There is a large-scale element of residual anxiety that lingers in our everyday lives. Try not to absorb it and find ways for you and your family to find comfort and even thrive!

Photo credit: fizkes/Getty Images

Originally published: March 5, 2021
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