7 Ways to Manage Anxiety During COVID
There is no doubt COVID-19 has significantly impacted all of our lives. It has brought challenges we never thought we would face and has forced us to find new ways to do our jobs, sustain our relationships, and function in our day-to-day lives. There is no doubt this pandemic has taken an emotional toll on all of us, particularly those living with anxiety. And while we are still in the midst of uncertain times, there are ways we can better manage our anxiety and restore a sense of well-being.
Keep a Routine
Establishing a consistent routine that involves regular meals, exercise, and sleep is critical to regulating our moods and managing anxiety. But the pandemic interrupted many of our previously established routines. And if you have yet to create new one, now is the time. Having a new routine helps us remember that life is continuing on. Daily routines can also support us in feeling more grounded, purposeful, and resilient.
Maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones and friends is always essential to mental health and well-being. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made it difficult to connect with others in some ways in which we were previously accustomed. This has left many of us feeling lonely or isolated. But we can still pick up the phone, send a text, or get on a video call. The more we can connect with others, whether to share worries and fears, or just have a good laugh, can make a huge difference.
Focus on the Here and Now
The virus has brought a lot of uncertainty, and uncertainty triggers anxiety. It is easy to get caught in a cycle of anxious thoughts – all those “what-ifs” about what the future might bring. Unfortunately, this just compounds the anxiety. Concentrating on the present moment by focusing on what is happening right now, rather what might happen in the future is essential to managing anxiety. Of course, this is easier said than done. But our brains are trainable, and the more we can notice when our thoughts wander from the present moment and bring them back to the present moment, the easier it becomes. Some ways to come back to the present moment include:
COVID-19 has made our worlds smaller. Seeing friends, going to our favorite restaurants, or visiting family are all things that look very different these days. Working from home, which perhaps felt novel in the beginning, just feels mundane now. And any sort of travel, whether for business or pleasure, has certainly come to a halt. The monotony of the days can leave us feeling restless, anxious, and unmotivated. Thus, it is vital to find ways to “shake things up”. Instead of scrolling endlessly through social media feeds or mindlessly playing that phone game for hours, try using technology in a different way - by traveling virtually. After the pandemic hit, countless museums, national parks, and zoos created virtual tours for people to take from the safety of their homes. These virtual tours can help break up the monotony of the day and keep our minds stimulated, even if we are stuck on the couch. Check out this list of virtual tours, or do a quick internet search to find what might interest you.
During challenging times, it can be tough to notice the good stuff. However, finding ways to be grateful can really boost our ability to cope. Practicing gratitude increases the “feel-good” hormones in the brain – serotonin and dopamine, and has been shown to improve immunity and an overall sense of wellbeing. There are many ways to bring more gratitude into our lives:
Practice News Distancing
For months, every newspaper, social media platform, and tv station has been flooded with coverage about the pandemic. While staying up-to-date and informed is important, there is such a thing as too much information. Being inundated with any information, especially that which is stressful in nature, can be overwhelming. So, just as we are practicing social distancing, we also need to be practicing “news distancing”. Try designating certain times throughout the day to “unplug” from news and social media. Or try “unplugging” altogether for a day or two (you could designate a trusted friend or loved one to share news updates as necessary).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your anxiety, remember, it is OK to ask for help. Mental health support is more accessible than ever, with many therapists offering telehealth sessions remotely, either via phone or videoconference.
Welcome to Zen Institute!
4 weeks vs. Months and Years of mental health treatment
The greatest tragedy in humankind is not being abandoned by your loved ones, but that you abandoned yourself!
When you doubt yourself and put other people’s needs before yours, and when you engage in self-destructive behavior, you have abandoned yourself!
This is the reason why I created my signature therapy, “Inner Twin.”
My job is to remind you of the truth. The truth is that you are absolutely powerful beyond measure, and whatever you want in your life, you can make it happen! No one can take that power
away from you!
Unfortunately, in the current mental health system, you may spend tons of money, and years in therapy and not get the results you desire!
Indeed, it is time for a big revolution in the mental health world!
At Zen Institute, we can help you achieve your desired outcome in as little as four weeks!
The variety of clients who have completed our program includes people who had never received psychotherapy treatment and people who had been in treatment for years.
The feedback we have received since day one, which was 12 years ago has always been the same:
“I can’t believe it works!”
“It needs to be made available to everyone in this world!”
We utilize the shortest amount of treatment time (4 weeks) to produce the most amazing desired outcome!
Since we opened up Zen Institute, the feedback from our alumni is that 100% of them would recommend their loved ones to come for treatment!
Here is what makes our treatment different from others:
#1. Inner twin therapy: It is indeed the missing link in traditional therapy – The powerful foundation of self-healing work!
Once you connect to your authentic self, your higher self, and tap into your inner power, you will be able to build this solid self-confidence, that will always stay with you no matter what is happening around you!
#2. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): Learn about the combination of Eastern and Western philosophy, change your thoughts; change your life!
#3. Dialectical Behavior Therapy: (DBT): it is focused on Mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
#4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: (EMDR) This is a very powerful treatment modality that can help you let go of unresolved issues and past traumas!
This program is uniquely tailored for your individual needs, which cannot be achieved in treatment that is mainly geared towards group work.
Over the years, we have been asked to open up Zen Institute branches in New York City and San Francisco.
As we continue to serve the world, our goal is to offer this program to everyone who is in pain and suffering!
Indeed, you are not here to compete; you are here to connect! You are not here to suffer; you are here to celebrate! Celebrate the fact that you are absolutely powerful beyond measure!
The Secret of Happiness
After suffering from severe anxiety, depression, trauma, and addiction for 30 years of my life, just a few years ago, I figured out the secret of happiness!
I’ve read thousands of books, and I’ve done 17 years of professional work as a psychotherapist. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for… to share the secret of happiness with you! Are you ready to hear about it?
Everything in this world falls into two categories: Things under my control and things not under my control. Do you agree?
There are five things that are outside of our control! What are they? Other people’s thoughts, other people’s feelings, other people’s behaviors, the past, and the future. For example, maybe someone puts you down, someone gets upset with you, someone does something that hurts you, and you unconsciously get stuck in the things that happened in the past or the things you imagine that might happen in the future.
Now, look back at the last 12 months. How much time and energy have you spent trying to control those five things that are absolutely outside of your control? Now, take a look… How much time do you have left to control the things that are absolutely under your control? I bet not much!
The truth is that you have the power to choose! You can choose to focus on things under your control or not under your control. No one can point a gun at you and say that you have to focus on the things that are absolutely outside of your control. Even a prisoner gets to choose to focus on the things that are under his or her control and live a happy life!
So, the question is, why are we trying to control the things that are absolutely outside of our control? It might be because we do it out of unconscious habit. The consequence is that we are going to be frustrated, angry, and feeling completely powerless all the time!
Make a commitment today: Don’t waste your time and energy focusing on the things that are outside of your control! You might ask, “What do I do when I recognize something that bothers me that is one of those five things? My answer is, “Let go.”
How do we let go? Here are two pieces of advice for you...
1. Live your life like water:
Why water? Water is the strongest and softest substance in the world, you can never use a knife and cut the liquid form of water in half, you will never see water going upstream by itself, yet water always finds its way out! Water will never have a head-on collision with someone. Water is humble, gentle, and wise. Let me ask you, what are you made of? Yes! Water! 73% of the body weight of an infant is water. Live your life like water, accept the reality, and love what is. It’s a guarantee that you will live a life that is happy and peaceful.
2. Be present:
The definition of Zen is that “There is no reality outside of here and now.” When you spend the current moment stuck in the past or the future, your life is slipping away right in front of you. I remember in 1988 when I saw my mom lying on a hospital bed, paralyzed from a stroke. I realized that there was not much difference between my mom and me. Physically she was paralyzed from head to toe, and all she could do was blink her eyes. Emotionally and spiritually, I was paralyzed because I couldn’t help but keep going to the past and the future, and the consequence of that was feeling completely helpless and powerless. This eye-opening experience inspired me to create this tool to help you be present. I call it “3 boxes”.
Imagine there are three boxes in front of you. On the left, the box represents the past, on the right the box represents the future, and the box in the middle represents here and now.
If you want to experience shame and guilt, which box do you focus on? The past! If you want to experience fear, which box do you focus on? The future! If you want to experience love, peace, and joy, which box do you focus on? Yes, the answer is Here and Now! Just that simple!
In reality, the past is done, you can’t go back to fix it no matter how remorseful you are. The future is not here, but you can scare yourself to death by thinking about the worst scenario and all kinds of “what ifs.” You will end up being paralyzed by this kind of neurotic fear. This neurotic FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”!
If you use this moment and focus on your past and/or your future, you are creating a life that is delusional because “There is no reality outside of here and now.” So, why would you create a life that is delusional? Why would you choose to spend time being paralyzed? Do you have the power to choose to be present? Yes! Absolutely yes!
The untrained mind will constantly take you to the past and the future. That is why it is very difficult for us to stay present. Here is a simple exercise you can do to stay present: Identify everything in your surroundings in a very quick fashion. You will notice that your anxiety goes down, simply because at the moment no one is attacking you, your house is not on fire, you are OK exactly where you are!
Over the years, I have searched for the secret of happiness, and I have discovered that the secret of happiness is linked to living a meaningful life. With everything I have learned in my life, my conclusion for the meaning of life is: All of us are here on the earth to learn the following three things: love, forgive and create. We are here to learn how to love ourselves and others, forgive ourselves and others, and to take full responsibility to create a life just the way we want it!
Now that we have chosen not to waste our time focusing on the things that are outside of our control, we get to focus on the things that are absolutely under our control. What are the things that will bring us happiness? Love, forgive, and create the life just the way we want it!
In closing, I would like to share with you my favorite quote: “Love is that I am everything, wisdom is that I am nothing, between the two, my life moves…”
Blessings to you!
Turn off the WORRY switch!
“My name is Wen, I am a recovering Worryholic!” I used to be a 24/7 worrier. If I had nothing to worry about, I would invent something to worry about. If you can relate to me, this blog is for you!
In 1992, I got my first job in America working in a group home in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. One day, at about 2am, I was asked to go to the market to get $300 worth of groceries. After I reviewed the grocery list, I started to have a panic attack. Sitting alone in a huge empty van, my palms were sweaty, my heart was pounding and my knees were shaky. I had no clue what “Q-tips”, “Jell-O” and “Kleenex” were. I looked them up in my Chinese-English dictionary. Nothing showed up. All I remember was that horrible sinking feeling in my stomach, “I am going to be fired…” “I won’t be able to pay my rent, my gas, and my food…” “I will be homeless…”
After 15 minutes of panicking, I decided to face my fear. I turned on the engine and took off. As I arrived at the grocery store, I was greeted by three very friendly staff. I let them know that I was a foreign student, and I had no clue what the things on the grocery list were. The staff was extremely helpful and within 20 minutes they brought me three full carts of groceries. They even loaded the things into the van for me. Mission completed without fail. This experience taught me to put my worry aside, focus on what IS under my control, and let the Universe take care of the rest.
The law of attraction means that whatever we focus on, we attract more of it into our lives. The more worrying we do, the more fear we will experience. If success means more love and abundance, failure means more fear and losses, and who in the world wants to fail and attract more fear into their lives?
We are creatures of habit. Unfortunately, many of us have developed a very bad habit called worrying. A lot of times, we zoom in and worry about things that have not even happened. We are paralyzed by worrying. It eventually becomes anxiety, depression and all kinds of addictive behaviors.
Here is an example: As I was driving on a highway, I saw a car broke down on the side of the road. I immediately started to think, “what if my car breaks down...bla, bla, bla…” Instead of living in the present and doing something about the funky noise my car was making, I was consumed by my worry that my car would break down. Sure enough, in just a couple of days, my car broke down! What happened was a picture of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Worrying is a waste of time and energy. The question is, how do we turn off the WORRY switch? When you are worrying, you are trying to control what is going to happen in the future. Since the future is not here, how can you control something that does not exist? If every second that you got stuck in the future box, it cost you $1,000 how much money could you afford to lose? In reality, your life is more valuable than $1,000 a second. No amount of money can buy the time you have lost worrying.
As a human being, you are wired to win! You can manifest anything you want in your life. All you need to do is to turn off the WORRY switch! The definition of Zen is: “There is no reality outside of here and now.” When you decide NOT to live in the future box, you are turning off the WORRY switch! When that happens, you open up a world of possibilities. You are creating an opportunity to live a life that is full of love, peace and joy!
“You have wings. Learn to use them and fly!” ~ Rumi
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Letting go is for winners!
Let go! It’s easier said than done, we all know that.
On my way home today, while driving by the intersection of two main streets, I saw someone abruptly pull her car in front of another driver. Instead of letting it go, the other driver was screaming at the top of his lungs, cussing at her with foul language and gestures. To protest this injustice, he intentionally parked his car at 120 degrees occupying two lanes at the traffic light.
Our default is automatically set for reaction. Most of time it is compulsive reaction vs calm response. The consequence of not being able to let go is to continue to be trapped in endless pain and suffering.
Letting go is the only way for us to march forward! In other words, letting go is the spirit of surrender.
A lot of people have difficulty understanding what “Surrender” really means! I will use a story about the boxing champion Muhammad Ali to illustrate what surrender really means.
Ali invented a very famous technique called “Rope-a-dope”. In the beginning of the fight, he would cover his head up in a defensive position and let his opponent punch him over and over. He would stay very close to the rope, and then bounce back from the rope, once his opponent punched him for a while and used up his energy, then Ali would wait until just the right moment, and give his opponent “Bang” a big punch in his face!
This is the power of surrender, winning by letting go! Does surrender mean to “Turn a blind eye to it?" No! Does surrender mean to “Wave the little white flag and admit that I am defeated?” No!
Surrender means to temporarily let go of the current situation, focus on the right timing and take action that is 100% under your control! For example, maybe you don’t like the fact that your job sucks. Instead of complaining about it, you continue to show up for work, tolerate the current situation, be the best employee you can be. Meanwhile you are taking action and applying other jobs that are better suited for you! You are creating a win-win situation!
This is why practicing “Surrender” is the quickest way to get to wherever you want to be! You will never be stuck or become a victim of your current situation!
Be like Ali, my friend! You can let go and march forward, because YOU are the champion!
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DBT at Zen Institute
From EMDR to meditation, I did so much and was able to finally let go of many things that not only haunted me, but kept me in a prison which was only constructed by me. When anxiety attacks happened, I had an array of techniques you (Wen Chi) taught me to use which helped tremendously!" ~Trevor S.~
What is DBT?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking, and substance abuse. This approach works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help avoid undesired reactions. DBT assumes that people are doing the best they can but are either lacking the skills or are influenced by positive or negative reinforcement that interferes with their ability to function appropriately.
DBT combines standard cognitive behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice.*
Who can benefit from DBT?
Although DBT was originally created for individuals with borderline-personality disorder, it has significantly evolved, proving valuable for a much wider range of people struggling with a variety of mental health and relationship concerns. DBT is often used with individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, codependency, and alcohol/drug abuse, to name a few.
If you are still unsure if you could benefit from DBT, perhaps ask yourself this question – Do I have behaviors or ways of thinking that are potentially becoming harmful to my wellbeing?
If you answered yes, or even maybe, then incorporating DBT skills could absolutely be a great approach to providing some relief. Essentially, if you want to improve your quality of life and connections with others, you are a good fit for DBT group!
What will I learn about in DBT group at Zen Institute?
Learning DBT is like learning a new language. Yet, Zen Institute has created a DBT group that is focused on simplicity and effectiveness. The groups are small, to promote safety, trust, and open discussion. Participants are taught one skill at a time. Each skill is coordinated with a worksheet to reinforce the material. Participants are encouraged to share life experiences and learn from each other.
The group is divided into the four major modules of DBT:
Mindfulness will challenge you to accept negative thoughts, feelings, or situations as they are, rather than concentrating on how you might want them to be. Mindfulness is a great tool to help you stay in the present and be non-judgmental toward yourself and others.
2. Emotion Regulation
Emotion regulation will help you identify and understand the functions of your emotions, and provide you with tools to process overwhelming emotions and channel them into positive action.
3. Distress Tolerance
Distress tolerance provides you with tools for self soothing and coping with crisis situations in a positive way.
4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
The interpersonal effectiveness module will teach you how to get what you want in your relationships. You will learn to speak up your truth, set healthy boundaries, and create loving relationships.
DBT is a unique style of group therapy. The tools learned in DBT group can serve you for a lifetime.
This post was contributed by:
Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC
Staff Therapist, Zen Institute
*Source: Wikipedia contributors. "Dialectical behavior therapy." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 May. 2015. Web. 18 Jun. 2015.
Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC