Dealing With Fear & Anxiety In the Age of Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has led to increased fear and anxiety for a variety of reasons. It is important to discuss these emotions & learn how to cope.
Picture this, it’s December 31st, 2019, you are surrounded by your friends and family counting down the minutes to the new year. You are so excited to work through your resolutions and achieve the ambitious goals that you set for the coming year–
Now fast forward just a couple of months… It’s now March and your whole world has been rocked. You’ve had to kiss your vision of 2020 goodbye and completely change your day to day routine to welcome our new friend, COVID-19.
We have all been affected by this pandemic in one way or another. Some of us have lost our jobs while others have businesses to run and must homeschool at the same time. Some of us have elderly parents who we worry about being impacted by the virus and some of us are immunocompromised ourselves and not sure what to do. For a lot of us, the sheer fact that our lives changed on a dime is what is ultimately taking a toll. Regardless of the scenario that you identify with most, it is inevitable that this pandemic has instilled in us both fear & anxiety and it is crucial that we understand how to deal with these emotions.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to a perceived threat. Anxiety is generally regarding something that has not yet occurred, but we are apprehensive about. Oftentimes, Anxiety stems from uncertainty as it is in these circumstances that our minds will wander to worst case scenarios.
What is fear?
Though similar to anxiety, fear has a main differentiator–it is the body’s response to a definite threat. Where anxiety may come up before an anticipated stressful event, fear occurs when you are directly met with what your brain interprets as danger.
How are the two emotions interrelated?
Both fear and anxiety trigger the fight or flight response which may lead to physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, chest pain, changes in temperature, dizziness, sweating, disassociation, ringing in ears, nausea & numbness.
Experiencing anxiety and fear in certain situations is totally normal and sometimes can even be helpful as it triggers the release of hormones which can prepare us for a stressful event. In most cases, however, where the fear or anxiety is not beneficial, these emotional responses can be quite debilitating and get in the way of our lives.
Dealing with Fear & Anxiety
When dealing with fear and anxiety It is important to focus primarily on things that you can control. The pandemic has generated so much uncertainty that it can be extremely challenging to not get in your head and think of the worst possible outcomes.
It is important to understand that worrying about things out of your control will lead to an endless loop of anxiety. Instead, aim to re-channel that energy into productive activities that will increase your mindfulness allowing you to gain presence and accept what it as opposed to worry about what is to come.
Things you can do to minimize the effects of fear and anxiety
1. Breath work
Breath work refers to breathing techniques in which you alter your breathing to follow certain patterns. The purpose of breath work is to decrease stress and increase self awareness. When practiced on a regular basis breath work can have immense benefits.
Journaling is a great tool to practice mindfulness and decrease stress and anxiety. There are many journaling methods that you can follow but when starting out, gratitude journaling can be a great way to start shifting your mindset and allowing you to become more present and positive. Start by writing 3-5 things you are grateful for each day and notice your perception change.
Exercise is arguably the most important thing for your mind body & soul. Perhaps you don’t have access to a gym or don’t feel comfortable going to one with the current state of the world, that is totally fine! Set a goal to walk for 30 minutes everyday or follow a YouTube workout video 3-5 times per week. Not only will this boost your personal health, but you will release more endorphins and notice your mood shift.
4. Seek out professional help
As a compliment to all the great self development work you are doing on your own, it can be highly beneficial to seek out professional help. There are a variety of professionals that can be great with helping you get your mental health on track. Some of these include a social worker, a psychotherapist, a life coach, a councillor, or a psychologist. Each of these professionals use a unique method to tackle their client’s mental health and it is important that you do the research to ensure you are seeking the professional that is right for you.
Navigating the waters of a global pandemic is not second nature to any of us and it is important that we all remind ourselves of that. Remember that you can not control what happens to you, but you can control that way that you react. Always practice self care and seek out help when you need it.