The poet Kahlil Gibran once said that “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” Situations beyond our control inevitably arise but how we face them determines much about our happiness, outlook, and future. Especially because—as intertwined human beings—our emotions wield influence and can cause physical pain, lingering stiffness, and other anxiety-induced problems. But there are a few simple ways to maintain balance during tempestuous times.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) explains that “Most people feel anxious or scared sometimes, but if it’s affecting your life there are things you can try that may help…Anxiety can cause many different symptoms. It might affect how you feel physically, mentally and how you behave. It’s not always easy to recognize when anxiety is the reason you’re feeling or acting differently.”
They describe physical symptoms like faster or irregular heartbeat, headaches, chest pains, loss of appetite, and lightheadedness or dizziness. Mentally you may find yourself weepy, tense, nervous, or unable to sleep. You may struggle with relationships, have difficulty focusing on work, or be unable to enjoy time off.
Unsure if what you feel is normal, workaday stress, or larger anxiety issues? Try the NHS online mood self-assessment quiz. Then consider taking a few minutes every day to work on your mental health. Think of it as going to the gym for your mind, spirit, and emotions. But without the silly, stretchy pants.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers a list of easy coping strategies. Some may read as eye-rolling-ly simple but they make a tremendous difference in mental and emotional mood. These include: taking time-outs, eating well-balanced meals, limiting alcohol and caffeine, getting enough sleep and daily exercise. Also vital are slow deep breaths when things feel out of control, looking for humor wherever it may be, and accepting that you cannot control everything. But, and perhaps most importantly, talk to someone when you feel overwhelmed. Whether family, friend, or mental health professional, you don’t have to go it alone.
During this time of Coronavirus-fueled isolation, fears of the unknown affect us all. Even if you’ve never dealt with strong anxiety and depression before, it’s now part of the daily dialog. Globally, this virus has us separated, quarantined, and faced with a seemingly endless barrage of information, misinformation, and social media. The closure of offices, stores, schools, and gathering spaces is jarring to all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles.
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation suggests ways to stay mentally healthy during the outbreak. “Most importantly, know that being anxious in this time is a completely normal response to stress…We have faced other difficult times in the past and with proper care we will get through this too.”
Their researchers remind us that “Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation…With all of the technology we have at our fingertips, make use of your social network to not be isolated.” If physically healthy enough, exercise. Even a simply walk will manage stress levels and work as an instant mood-booster.
Like the ADAA, they also suggest maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and limiting alcohol. But then—instead of saying ‘no’ to everything—they add some rather unexpected advice. “Consume the news in moderation. While it is important to stay informed and up to date on the latest information about the Coronavirus, too much information adds to our stress levels. The repetitive nature of the news reports is not good for our mental health. Once you are informed, turn off the news and read a book, watch a good television show or feel-good movie. Now would be an excellent time to ask friends for recommendations of series to watch on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, etc.”
But self-care won’t conquer all pain and anxiety, especially if your access to medical care has been cut off. Doctors are needed on the front lines so many non-emergency surgeries and appointments are postponed indefinitely. In the meantime, clinics and physicians are working via phone and video chat to keep patients thriving until everyday life resumes. Look for your providers, like Longview’s outpatient Pacific Surgical Center, on Facebook or social media for frequent updates.
Gibran acknowledged that “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” Step back from the chaos and do your best to find a measure of peace within.