I have totally lost count of how many times I have said to my boys to be careful or stop doing something "because we CAN'T go to the hospital right now!" The anxiety that we are all living with right now because of Covid-19 is very real, and it also will look different person to person, home to home, community to community. We are in our bubble, safe at home, but for me the anxiety is overwhelming with the idea of leaving our space. Getting groceries is already hard when you have a chronic illness, but now it is like an Olympic event. The other day when I had to go to get prescriptions from a new pharmacy I was so anxious I felt sick. We were not sure if this place had a drive thru, and the idea of actually having to physically go in was totally overwhelming. As I pulled up and saw the sign on this older building saying they did in fact have a drive thru, I was so relieved and then felt a wave of guilt for my anxiety over the whole thing. But that was not very fair to myself. What we are going through right now is unprecedented and we need to give a lot of grace not only to others but to ourselves.
Anxiety, for me, is like a bee buzzing around whispering scary things into my mind. I constantly worry about falling down the stairs, so much so that I have to count the steps as I go down to distract myself in a focused way. I worry about my boys. I worry about my husband. I worry. It took me a long time to realize that it was more than just a nagging feeling once in a while, but full blown anxiety. There were so many of the signs/symptoms - excessive worry, irrational fears,trouble sleeping, even panic attacks - but I didn't want to admit it to myself that this has been plaguing me for a very long time. Now, I am much more mindful of my emotions and I have tools to help me navigate the murky waters.
There are many ways to help with anxiety, but here are a few specific things I do to help cope with my anxiety...
This may seem simple, but it is the thing that helps me the most. My faith is very important to me, and often when I am feeling my most anxious I am also disconnected in some way in my faith. Focusing too much on the external things and no pouring my worry out to God makes me feel trapped, isolated and uneasy. Refocusing on my faith helps me feel calm and makes my steps forward more manageable.
I will tell you right now, I am a very inconsistent journal keeper. I want to do it everyday, but it just doesn't happen. My handwriting is absolutely terrible when I am not feeling well, so no surprise why I don't/can't journal daily. However, when my anxiety is high I write, I make lists, focus on gratitude and set out purposeful intentions to focus on. It helps calm that bee and makes me focus on the honey instead of the stings.
I know this one is not for everyone, but hear me out. When I can organize a space it helps me feel like I am in control. Feeling out of control and worrying is the main root of most of my anxiety. So, when I can use my mind and body to do something productive it shifts my mood and thoughts in a more positive direction.
When I am having a full blown anxiety attack, the only thing that can start to bring things back under control is to focus on breathing. I have to sit, calm down and let the deep, slow breaths bring my body back to reality. If my breath is out of control, so is my body.
My anxiety drives me into a lonely space that can also make you feel crazy for your own feelings, which is hard and unfair. Opening up to my husband or a friend helps validate what I am feeling and makes me feel less alone and crazy. It also allows others to know what is hard for you and then they are more likely to check in when they know you are going through triggering chapters in life.