Things look a bit different today than they did just a month ago. Many places have had to shut their doors, the grocery store feels tense, and vitamin C has flown off the shelves. It’s like suddenly vitamins sound like a good idea.
In the middle of all this social distancing, an old friend paid me a visit. I’m talking about anxiety…so “friend” is a loose term. Between panic buying, news reports, and nervous conversations among strangers, everywhere and anywhere I look, all I seem to hear about the pandemic. A lot happening in the world right now. Regardless of narratives, the exhausting fear and stress and anxiety this last month have weighed heavily on me. I know I’m not the only one.
I’m believing this to be a season. I don’t know the duration or length of time this all will stretch over, but I have faith that it’s a season.
The thing about anxiety is that it does not abide by a six-foot rule. It can hit hard and it can hit fast. If I’m not intentionally playing the offense towards it, well, I have a long day ahead of me. Let’s face it, nobody wants to spend 30+ish days (based on the most recent Stay at Home Order in Florida) crippled by anxiety. The reality is that there are many things I cannot control during this season. There are many things you cannot control during this season. BUT there ARE some things we can control.
Here are some ways to help manage anxiety and promote peace, even during a pandemic.
FINDING PEACE IN A PANDEMIC
Feel your feelings without judgment.
This is a strange time. Whatever and however you feel in this- your emotions are valid. Allow yourself space to actually feel your feelings- the good, the bad, and the ugly. What is happening in our world right now may even feel traumatic. Maybe you’re heartbroken because you’re separated from seeing family. Perhaps you’re disappointed and upset that a baby shower, party, or special celebration got canceled. Or maybe you’re among those who have lost loved ones during this.
Wherever you’re at, don’t judge your feelings when you have them. Too often we are ashamed for feeling a certain way. It’s okay to feel uncertain in uncertain times. It might be helpful to journal or call a trusted friend to talk. If you need professional guidance in processing your emotions or managing them, you may be able to find a counselor that offers virtual meetings.
Consume with caution.
Don’t tune into C.N.N. all day (constantly negative news). Turn off the television. If the fear it’s causing is louder than your faith, at least mute the volume. Maybe social media has become an anxiety trigger. It’s like everything time you open the app, you’re bombarded with new numbers that are closer to home. Those updates from far-away friends bring an unfamiliar sense of expectation- will someone you know have gotten sick?
The phone isn’t going to sprout legs and walk away from you. You have to choose to set it down for a little while. Turn on Airplane mode, unsubscribe from receiving notifications, or just set it down and walk away.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep up with updates, especially ones involving the area you or your family is in.
Know when enough is enough and proactively protect your mental health. Try not to allow everything else happening in the external world to overrule your internal world.
You won’t miss much if you turn off the news for an hour. The numbers are going to rise until they start to fall. Missing an hour of news does not have the power to change that. What it does have the power to change is your mental health.
Word to the wise- don’t let your phone or the news be the first thing you consume in the morning. Seriously.
Move your body.
Physical activity, like aerobic exercise, has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, improve sleep, elevate and stabilize mood, and stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
The gym might be closed but that doesn’t mean you can’t work out. Just because your usual options are limited (like the gym being closed) doesn’t mean you don’t have any opinions at all.
Many resources are offering free online classes and groups amidst the current events. Pull out those old weights and lace up your sneakers. Grab the jump rope or hula-hoop. Set out the soccer cones in the yard. Look up at-home workouts on Youtube. Get on that exercise machine you spent money on but only used for a week. Do squats while holding your toddler, the extra case of water you bought, even a couple of cans of baked beans (I’ve literally done this).
If you’re working from home, especially on a screen, take a ten-minute break every 50 minutes. Stand up, stretch, step outside, water the plants, drink a cup of water. Do something that gets you out of a stagnant position and gets some blood circulating.
Nourishing your physical body is important during every season, not just this one. Consume as much variety of whole foods as possible. They’re the best resource for nutrients, vitamins, and minerals our bodies need to support our immune system and function optimally. For extra support, supplement with vitamins and minerals of choice.
Nows a great time to consider the gut-brain connection. What you eat is what fuels your body. Food can also influence mood. If you feel like junk, eating junk won’t help much. Also, drink water- and lots of it! When you’re stuck at home for long periods, it’s easy to forget to drink water.
Speaking of food, let’s talk about grocery shopping real quick. Due to canceled and postponed work, I’ve had to be even more mindful of our grocery budget. I shop organic when I can. To prioritize spending, I use these tips to shop organic on a budget. Just wanted to share in case it helps.
It’s also important to nourish your mind. Knock out that book list and learn something new. Listen to a podcast or your favorite sermon. Stream uplifting music and melodies or even an audiobook.
Never neglect to nourish your spirit. This may look different for everyone but here’s what works for me: Reading and meditating on scriptures, flooding my home with worship, and praying and interceding on my walks.
Remember that comparison is still the thief of joy.
This is a strange time and everyone is doing the best they can. I mean, maybe not the people that are still hitting up the beach with friends. Don’t be like those guys.
Don’t compare yourself to the mom that looks like she’s rockin’ this whole work-and-school-from-home deal.
You don’t know if she’s up at night, plagued with fear that her immuno-compromised kids get sick or her spouse brings home the virus from the night-shift.
Don’t compare yourself to the people that look put-together when it’s 4 pm and you’re still in pajama pants- ain’t nobody stopping some folks from having fresh nails! You don’t know if getting their nails done at the salon was their one me-time treat. Now they’re finding ways to DIY it.
Let the kids have extra screen time. Put chocolate chips in the smoothie. Stay in your PJS’s if you want. Get dolled up and strut around the driveway within a cocktail dress. Do what feels right during this time. Don’t compare what works for you with what works for others.
During difficult seasons, it to see any good. When there’s a lot of bad stuff, you have to actively seek out the good stuff.
After you rise in the morning, take a few minutes to speak out loud at least three things you are grateful for.
Acknowledge whatever these are and feel the gratitude in your chest. Repeat these in the evening before bed or speak out three new things. Starting and ending your day with gratitude doesn’t solve all your problems, but it can help take some attention off of them and onto life-giving things.
These are all reminders I’ve had to give myself during this season. For about a week, I was a hot mess. I felt like the anxiety was already taking control and my husband
I don’t have a medical cure. I can’t congregate with my community in person. I don’t know how long this will be or how many will be directly impacted. But I’ll be darn sure I’m going to have peace during the storm. Those waves won’t overtake me. Don’t let them overtake you either, friend.
We are in this together.