We are living in weird and scary times, my friends. And if you’re feeling confused and anxious and like your head is in a cloud and you just want to run away and hide under a rock somewhere, you’re not alone.
In fact, you’re far from being alone. Experiencing a pandemic of this magnitude is unprecedented (for our generation, at least). Schools closing indefinitely is unprecedented. Quarantines and food running out and the stock markets crashing at the same time is unprecedented. The entire world is living in what feels like a scary movie.
It’s easy to panic. It’s probably easier to panic than to not. As someone who suffers from anxiety, trust me, I’m with you. But panicking isn’t going to help anyone. If anything, it just ignites our fight or flight response systems which weakens our immune systems, increasing our own chances of getting sick.
Two weeks ago, Anel was stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods while I was teasing him for overreacting. Until this week, when it landed in our own backyard, I was able to keep my anxiety at bay. But now that it’s here? It’s been really hard.
They closed the schools in our town and there have been lines to get into grocery stores and to check out. Amalia’s daycare will be closing soon and she’ll be home indefinitely. Anel will most likely be closing his studio which will cut out a huge portion of our family’s income. We haven’t personally been infected yet, but people in our community have.
When I heard the news about our schools, I had my first flash of panic. It was a very physical, visceral reaction, the way anxiety often manifests itself for me. Tears sprung to my eyes and my entire body tensed up including an intense knot in my chest. But I refused to let that panic take over. I have to stay strong and healthy for my family and in order to do that, I have to be as calm as possible.
So I’m trying to prioritize my mental health by doing a few things that have helped quell my anxiety at least a little bit. There is no way it’s going away completely during a time like this, but the more we can all do to stay calm and healthy the better. It’s only been two days but I wanted to share a few of the ways I’ve been dealing with that anxiety.
Plan ahead: Preparation brings me comfort. Having control over something brings me comfort. Anel and I stocked up on snacks, dried goods (like pasta and brown rice), canned goods (like beans and crushed tomatoes) and frozen fruits and veggies. As someone who had to survive a war and lived on food rations for years because of it, he has been overly cautious which I’m now grateful for. We also bought toilet paper, diapers, wipes, and medicine to have on hand. The CDC has a great page on their site about planning ahead that I found quite helpful
Take things day by day: There is no point in guessing what is going to happen tomorrow or next week. None of us know. The only thing that we’re all pretty sure of is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. So prep as much as you can and then take everything else day by day. When I look at it from that perspective, I feel a little better.
Meditating: It’s no secret around here that I finally understand and appreciate the benefits of meditation. Tonight after we put Amalia down for bed, Anel asked if we could do a Headspace meditation together to get grounded and just chill the f out. Those ten minutes got us out of our heads and back to reality, even if only for a bit. If you don’t have time for that, come back to the breath. Take 30 seconds to close your eyes with one hand over your heart and another over your belly and breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. This small moment of mindfulness can make big waves.
Not drinking: I know I know… but hear me out! I recently set a rule for myself about alcohol: only have a glass of wine or a cocktail when I’m celebrating or in a good mood. For example, if I’m out with friends or on a date night or having a dinner party. The other side of that rule is to never drink alcohol when I’m feeling bad. Like many women, I would often turn to a glass of Pinot Noir after a rough day, but I’ve replaced that with Kava tea and the longer-term effects have been pretty staggering. Even one glass of wine makes me feel yucky the next day and it actually increases my anxiety symptoms in the long run.
Writing: When I get anxious about something, it helps me to write it down. I’m here doing it publicly but I encourage you to journal about your feelings. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, in this case) is more therapeutic than you may think. Let your mind just flow, don’t think about what you’re writing. It’s just for you. Sometimes getting fears out onto the paper helps to process them.
Have positive conversations: Most conversations I’ve had in the last week, whether in the checkout line at the grocery store, at school pick up, or on a phone call, have centered around the Coronavirus. I would feel more and more drained after each depressing chat so I made a rule to try to have more positive conversations. Yes, obviously we all need to talk about the fallout and the fears we’re experiencing but try to pepper in what you’re doing to make things better. How are you preparing? What are you doing to keep yourself and your family healthy and happy? Although it can seem impossible, look for the positive in the situation. It helps.
Do something that makes you happy: We’ve been reading Amalia extra books at night so we can get extra snuggles. We are planning to watch a stand-up comedy tonight. Little moments like this calm us down and can turn around even the most intense anxiety for me. It’s all about taking a step out of the mess for a moment.
Follow CDC guidelines: This isn’t necessarily for anxiety but please wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, stay home if you’re sick, cover your coughs and sneezes, and clean frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home.
I’m sending you all love and light and prayers for good health today and always! You’re not alone. We’re all in it together.