With what I’ve read in the news, seen in stores, and experienced in my own life, I know my anxiety is at an all time high. Last Saturday i went to target to buy Lysol spray; my oldest had been diagnosed with strep throat. What I saw was mind blowing: empty shelf after empty shelf with a sign saying target was limiting disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and other disinfectants to 6 per customer. While I was there, the whole store sold out of hand sanitizer! And that was before president Trump declared a state of emergency and all the bread, tissue, and toilet paper disappeared. With such unprecedented actions, we surely all are scared. And then with social distancing in place, we might be limited in comfort we usually receive from friends, family, and church-most churches are going to streaming services for now. So what can we do to limit our panic pandemic? Here are some tips:
- Find other ways to engage with community. Maybe you have a Group FaceTime with friends instead of going out together, set up regular phone calls, or just reach out with a text to one friend. Whatever the method, connection is critical to our health, so find ways to heal through community.
- TIP your physiology. This is a skill borrowed from the distress tolerance skills in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and it’s meant to short circuited the anxiety circuit that’s red hot in your brain-like pressing control alt delete to override your computer-this forces a reset in your brain. T is for temperature: do something to rapidly shift your temperature like a cold shower, hot bath, stand in front of the freezer, hold an ice cube til it melts, anything to bring rapid temperature change. I is for Intense Brief Exercise: do a minute plank, 5-10 jumping jacks, run up and down the stairs-something brief that gets your heart rate up and shifts your blood flow internally. And P is for Progressive Muscle Relaxation: you can go from head to toe tightening one part of your body and then relaxing it, or you can simply take deep breaths, this will help calm your nervous system.
- Take 3-10 deep breaths, long deep belly-rising breaths. This can actually do the same thing internally as taking Xanax because it forces your body to oxygenate you’re body, lower breathing rates, lower your blood pressure, lower cortisol rates, and bring up norepinephrine-all things that lower our anxiety response .
- Do something to make you laugh. Laughter really can be the best medicine by increasing endorphins and lifting your mood. Find a funny show, look up funny memes, or choose your favorite standup comedian to combat anxiety.
- Exercise. Exercise naturally boosts our mood and our immunity!
- Practice mindfulness. The key to true mindfulness is to Observe and Describe the present moment without judgment. Maybe you simply sit and observe and describe the fear you are experiencing without judging yourself (hint: if you label yourself or others i.e. “this is stupid, silly, ridiculous”) or if you are “should-ing” or “ought-ing” yourself i.e. “I shouldn’t feel this way, I ought to be doing this or that”. Simply observe and describe the thoughts and feelings you are having. You can take a mindful walk or use an app to assist mike Calm, Headspace, or Stop Breathe and Think.
- And, most importantly, remember God is in Control. He promises never to leave us or forsake us, he promises to not give us more than He can handle through us, and no illness, no life event, no loss can shake Him from His throne!