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.
We are happy to announce our new 3 week Mental Detox series. This week we are discussing forgiveness.
Week 1: Be Forgiving
Week 2: Be Present
Week 3: Be Connected
To forgive is to set a prisoner free! No one wants to be a prisoner. The reality is that many of us are living our lives just like a prisoner serving a life sentence. We are trapped in the past, dwelling on the mistakes we have made, or the abuse others have done to us.
Do you recall the mental movie you have played over and over in your head? It only makes you feel bad, yet you just don’t seem to be able stop it. So why do we torture ourselves like this? How do we set ourselves free once and for all?
Ready for the answer? Forgiveness.
People have told me that they can’t forgive because somehow it makes what happened to them acceptable. Forgiveness does not mean what happened to you was ok, nor to forget about it. Indeed, not only do you remember what happened, you also have the courage to process the feelings and body sensations that are associated with it. As a result of that, you are no longer a victim who is bonded with the perpetrator. “When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.”**
For those of you who can’t stop beating yourself up for your mistakes, practicing forgiveness will serve you as a reset button, and allow you to learn a lesson from them! Everyone makes mistakes, big and small. Yet ALL of us deserve to be forgiven, including yourself! The beauty of being human beings is that we have unlimited ability to improve ourselves! Without forgiveness, we will continue to get stuck at square one.
When you choose not to forgive, the anger and resentment becomes like a venom, circulating in your body, day in and day out eating you up. Eventually you will get very sick physically, mentally or spiritually. Forgiveness is the first step for your mental detox.
For me, the most difficult thing to forgive was the sexual abuse that happened when I was a little girl. It took me many years to finally admit and process what had happened. I chose to forgive my perpetrators, not for them, but for me. What I realized is that forgiveness in fact comes with an amazing sense of inner peace.
Do you want to live a life that is light and free? Forgiveness is the key. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was me!” **
** “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you!” ~ Lewis B Smedes
** “When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.” ~ Bernard Meltzer
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“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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Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC