Anxiety has increased greatly and overwhelmed many who are trying to survive Covid. Here are six practical ways for you to cope and perhaps even come through this season stronger with greater resilience.
- Relax/Breathe: When you are feeling under attack your autonomic nervous system kicks in with the “fight or flight response”. This sympathetic system sends blood flow from the vital organs out to the larger muscles of your arms and legs, increasing heart rate and respiratory rate. The increased emergency energy aids you in fighting or taking flight when in danger. The problem is this system can become over sensitized to danger, as if “fight or flight” is needed even when it is not. This can fatigue the body, trigger racing thoughts, sensations of panic as you feel your heart pounding and experience hyper ventilation (gasping short shallow breaths). “Fight or flight” has been turned on but is without an off switch. Here is where we need to turn on the “Relaxation response” or what is called the “parasympathetic” part of the autonomic nervous system. Lower diaphramatic breathing or “belly breathing” can turn the on switch for the relaxation response. When this is activated “fight or flight” will shut down. Learning this form of breathing will bring calm to the body and also help the mind relax more at the same time. You can try this lying down with a book on your tummy, your hand on the book. Inflate your lower diaphragm over the count of three causing the book and your hand to rise as you breathe air in through your nose. Put your other hand on your chest for feedback trying to keep the upper diaphragm from filling. Only the lower diaphragm should inflate. Slowly release the air allowing the tummy to deflate over the same count of three. Keep practicing this breathing pattern in and out lying down, sitting, standing, and even walking. This will calm you physically and help de- escalate anxiety.
- Focus: During this covid period you may have found yourself less mindful of the “here and now”, more distracted by the past and worried about the future. Thinking ahead in fearful anticipation will alert your autonomic system to turn on “fight or flight”! Try to focus on what you can control today and not allow the imagination to recreate the past or anticipate the “what if” scenarios of the future. Separate your concern from worry, addressing todays concerns as best as you can.
- Exercise: During covid physical exercise is vital. You can walk, bike, work out, clean your house, plant your gardens, practice your sport, exercising where you can. Exercise helps relieve anxiety and increases the likelihood of better sleep.
- Produce: Stay productive in your day. If you are not working from home find projects to do around your home. Starting and finishing concrete projects increases your sense of accomplishment. This puts you in control of things in a situation where so much seems out of your control. Take a course online to acquire new sills or sharpen the skills you already have. Learn new recipes and try them out with family members. Leverage your anxiety by channeling it into a desired outcomes. The feeling of self-empowerment will de-escalate anxiety. Make lemonade out of the lemons in this season.
- Connect: Stay connected with family and friends. This season furnishes an opportunity to appreciate people you love and care about. Spending quality time together will help reduce anxiety in the “here and now”. Relational support strengthens bonds and reduces your sense of isolation and aloneness. Check in on extended family and friends to see how they are doing? How can you make a difference reaching out to someone else? Spiritually connect with your creator in conversation and prayer. Divine appointments may occur through making yourself available to serve others.
- Nurture: This covid season offers a time and space to reflect on your own soul. What is most important to you? What is your higher purpose? Who are you really? Are you a human doing or a human being? Music, reading, prayer, meditation, self-reflection, journaling, hobbies, all of these can extend the tent pegs of your soul and deepen your inner person. You can nurture your own soul and become a stronger, more balanced, peaceful, purpose filled, person.