As we continue through 2020, I realized we could use a blog post on addressing anxiety with some reliable and easy to use tips.
This has been such a stressful time for most people. I’ve had patients who had been able to forgo treatments since 2017 come back now because the stress of Covid set them on edge again.
Usually, when we have a crisis in our life it is related to one or two areas of our life; finances, health, family, or job stress. Covid is impacting many parts of our lives at once. People are worried about their personal health, the health of their families, losing their job, being unable to do their job because of childcare needs, being stuck at home with loved ones (which can get old quickly), and the frustration of watching a divisive national and local response to the virus. This last part is particularly important because during other stressful times and tragedies most people feel a sense of communion and fellowship with their friends and neighbors and during this I’ve seen a distinct breakdown of that important sense of community.
In the first part of the year, I saw anxiety levels rise because of the breakdown of routine and structure in our day-to-day activities. I was encouraging people to try and find routines and create a structure even as they adjusted to being under stay-at-home orders. Then, I watched the sadness as events and plans had to be canceled and the stress of continuing to go through this experience ground down us down. As the months stretch on, I’m seeing the effects of continued isolation and the anguish from suspended activities and relationships.
I want to offer some coping strategies for Covid now and for anxiety at any time.
The first technique is just a verbal trick; creating separation between yourself and a situation through the use of changing how you say things. For example, speaking of yourself in the third person helps to create an emotional separation between you and the situation. So instead of saying, “I’m dealing with a lot of things right now and I have a lot of choices.” I would say “Dr. Wells is going through this and Dr. Wells has a lot of choices.” This may seem silly at first, but looking at things this way takes a lot of the emotion out of a situation and allows more a clear-headed view of the situation.
It’s possible to also create the separation by putting yourself in a group. So instead of saying “I am dealing with this right now.” You would say, “We are dealing with this right now.” That way the pressure isn’t focused on you alone and it is always easier and more comfortable to feel like a part of a community and less alone.
Staying in the present helps prevent panic attacks and lowers stress. Very often, when we’re having anxiety or depression it turns out that we are thinking about a horrible future or a terrifying past. If we stay in the present, and focus on the present, there usually isn’t anything painful or horrific in the actual moment you are in.
Body work is a great way to keep the focus on the present because it gives you a focal point and a tether. Body work encompasses getting a massage, tapping, havening and EMDR. If these are all new terms to you, I would invite you to google or YouTube them and try them out for yourselves. They may seem hokey at first but they are definitely effective ways to remind yourself of the present moment, and the physical sensations can be very relaxing just by themselves.
Havening is a relatively new technique. It involves rubbing your hands together, rubbing your arms, and rubbing your face in a very stylized manner to create a sense of calm. All people do these motions subconsciously in all cultures. But through intentional havening we can ritualize these and fall back on them consciously.
Tapping is a little bit more conspicuous than havening but it’s a very powerful way to tap (pun intended) into the energy in the body and create quick relaxation and give a small distance between thoughts and actions.
This pandemic will end.
It looks increasingly like all of our lives will be different when the pandemic finally ends. But it will end. And we’ll get back to a new normal. We’ll be able to spend more time with friends and loved ones. We’ll be able to travel. We’ll be able to shop, and work, and celebrate in ways that we can’t now.
Try some of these techniques to reduce stress and anxiety. Maybe practice a few until they become healthy habits. And remember that (someday) the pandemic will end.
About Me, Dr Allison Wells: I started Lone Star Infusion, here in Houston, to provide ketamine infusions for depression, anxiety, PTSD, CRPS and other mood disorders and pain conditions. I am a licensed, board-certified anesthesiologist. I am super passionate about being a partner in helping people feel their best with evidence-based medicine.
An Important Disclaimer: The information in this and other blog posts represents my informed opinion or the opinion of others, and does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon to make decisions regarding medical care. To address the specific details of your medical conditions and treatments please speak with your doctors.