Want to know how to reduce anxiety during this uncertain time. Here is the top ten list of things you can do to feel better during COVID-19.
1. (Social) Media Distancing
We all know that we are supposed to distance ourselves from other people during this uncertain time. This practice is to preserve your physical health. If you want to preserve your mental health this is the number one anxiety reduction strategy to use. Why? Watching the news and scrolling for stories of COVID-19 will induce anxiety and stress you out. Minute by minute you will be putting all the bad news of the day into your brain. If you remember when 911 occurred studies showed that children thought the Twin Towers were falling over and over again because they kept seeing images of the destruction on the news. Media creates a loop of negativity. Break that loop. Try some good news for a change. Read positive stories that lift you up each day. Doing so will help your brain stay in a healthy place and help you deal with the reality of a quarantine lifestyle.
2. Flip Flop Worry to Reduce Anxiety
It is a choice, to worry or not to worry. Don’t get me wrong, if your brain is dysregulated and stuck in the anxiety pattern it may be running the show. This will make it much more difficult to make the decision not to worry. If you are stuck in a worry loop and cannot control it, it is time for a Home Brain Map to assess how stuck your brain is and learn how to improve it. I digress.
When a worrying thought comes into your mind, you can do one of two things. First, you can replace it with a positive thought. For example, if you worry that you will be stuck in your house forever, you can appreciate having more downtime and less travel. Secondly, you can discount the worry thought by taking away its power. “I will be stuck in my house forever.” Knowing that is not true and that you can go for a walk right now, takes the negative juice out of the worry.
3. Focus on Reality of Odds
Focusing on the reality of the odds of you or a loved one getting COVID-19 can help keep fear at bay. A new study out of China shows that focusing on COVID-19 is one of the major factors for an increase in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (up 35.1%), depressive symptoms (up 20.1%), and sleep disturbances (18.2% increase). So, when you focus on the facts that healthy people are not proven to get COVID-19 and are at even less risk of serious health issues, your brain can relax into a calmer and more focused mode.
4. Avoid Being Incited to Reduce Anxiety
Incited is my term for the act of letting someone else get you all hot and bothered about something. Usually, this is a thing that you are trying not to be irritated about. Most times the other person is ramping up the energy in the information and it may not even have the level of ramification as they portray. Let me explain. My husband walks into our home and tells me that he just heard that our 5 kids will likely be going back to school full-time and will have to wear masks for 8 hours straight. He knows that the idea bothers me and that I will not allow this to happen. Thus, the inciting begins. I can either go down the rabbit hole of what is “likely” to happen or I can walk away and wait to hear what IS happening. I focus on what is happening and what I have control of within the situation. What do I have control of? I am the captain of my actions, thoughts, and attitudes. There is where my power lies. I can avoid being incited by others and stay true to my own course of action. Sometimes this is despite other people’s words and actions and many times it is in spite of them. Alas, I can stay calm.
5. Focus on Purpose and Productivity (Not COVID-19)
If I am not spending my time and energy focusing on COVID-19 then what am I doing instead. I vowed to come out of this time a better version of myself, not worse. When you stress out about COVID-19 you inadvertently ramp your brain’s energy up to High Beta, anxiety speed. In turn, you exhaust your system and use more Theta slow speed. Thus, the downward spiral begins. So, instead, I focus on my purpose, controlling my brain and teaching you how to control yours.
Let me tell you what specifically I focus on. I have mastered home brain mapping so I can bring it to the world, ramped up my home neurofeedback and coaching practice making it easier for people to get control of their brains at home, I became certified as a Sexual Recovery Coach, started a podcast, aptly named Control Your Brain, made a lot of YouTube videos, learned how to box using the Fight Camp app (I am actually getting pretty good so watch out), learned how to make a new drink the Charleston Light Dragoon Punch, took a break from drinking, went to the neighborhood pool with my kids every day, and so much more. Some people are irritated with me for not thinking about COVID-19. I feel fine about it. I wear my mask when I go out, I practice social distancing, and help others cope through my positive energy. This is how I do my part. It can be the way you do your part too.
When you focus on your purpose it keeps your brain’s energy in the middle using Alpha and Low Beta for calm focus. This helps you feel safer and more relaxed and helps others to feel the same because brains attune to each other. That is how you can help the world right now.
6. Self-Care as Way to Reduce Anxiety
This be can be as simple as going for a walk or getting your haircut. Be sure to engage in one self-care activity to reduce anxiety during this strange and uncertain time. Each day take note of the thing that you did for yourself so you begin to notice that you are indeed being taken care of right now. If you got a manicure, went golfing, or talked with your life coach and feel more confident, check it off the list.
7. Do Not Exceed Guidelines for Wellness
Yes, it is important to comply with CDC guidelines but do not let fear take those measures to excessive lengths. There is no need to wear your mask in your car when no one else is around. You are safe there. Let yourself feel the safety of your home and your private spaces because it will bring your High Beta down so that you have greater resiliency when you return into the world wearing your mask. Going into public spaces will inevitably ramp up your High Beta and make it more challenging to stay calm and focused.
8. Stick to a Sense of Normalcy
Your old routine may have fallen apart. Thus, it is time for a new routine. As cliché as it sounds, it is time to create a new normal. In my house my children now sleep until noon. They used to get up for school at 6 am. My youngest would leave the house first. I never liked them having to wake up and be at school so early. So now, I let them sleep. Seamus has grown 2 feet since quarantine started. I seriously think he needed a boat load of sleep in order to grow. But, now they get up at noon, eat breakfast (ha), do their chores, work out, get outside for movement, play video games, hang out with me and have dinner, play more video games, and go to bed. It is a wonderful life. The new routine is more relaxed, but a routine all the same. We have already created our new routine for the on-line school year. I have changed all my appointment times to the afternoon. We will do school from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm. I will be completely available to help and assist (setting us up for success, hopefully), and then the routine will persist as outline before. The routine itself matters less than the fact that you have a routine.
9. Be Kind and Have Faith
This too shall pass. You know the saying. It is true. Faith is what will bring you and others peace during this challenging time. Kindness is a gift to yourself and others. Science shows that when you engage in a Random Act of Kindness (RAKE) it increases your Alpha medium speed in your brain and increases others’ as well. So, be kind to yourself, extend grace to others, and have faith that we will move through this time.
10. Get Help to Reduce Anxiety If You Need It
So many people feel shame if they need help. Let me give you a spoiler alert. We all need help sometimes. I prefer a proactive approach to help. I always have a person (or two or three) that I am working with to help me stay calm and focused in my life. I work with coaches, mentors, and I am a member of groups that give me the support that I need. You can do that too.
During COVID-19 you may need even more help than before. That is OK. Let me repeat. It is OK to need help, actually, it is a strength to say “I need help”. Get the right help, whether that be a coach, a therapist, or a friend.