*Cathy Gibson, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, who leads a team of nine gifted professional counselors at Pinnacle Counseling Institute, shares practical ways to cope with the uncertainty and anxiety due to COVID-19.
Anxiety is a common part of dealing with unexpected and uncertain situations. It motivates us to listen to the news, follow advice from the CDC, and seek the resources we need. The problem starts when we become overly anxious, and that’s when anxiety becomes counterproductive.
Anxiety can cause us to become obsessed with information. We shut down, feel powerless and unmotivated, have negative coping patterns (overeating, using substances, compulsive behaviors), and hyper-focus on negative thoughts and outcomes.
You can create a daily routine that provides structure and security. You can do things like: get up at the same time, dress for work (even if you work from home), exercise, plan nutritious meals, stay connected with others, set goals, and go outside. Ask yourself, “What can I control now to make this a better day?”
Your thoughts help create your emotions and can increase or decrease your anxiety. When you imagine all of the worst-case scenarios, your anxiety increases. This type of worry is called negative forecasting. Consciously refocus your thoughts to the present moment. Ground yourself in your faith, the truth that God is in control, that he is with you, and will give you peace. This allows you to gain a more positive perspective. Ask yourself, “Am I okay, right now, in the present moment?” If the answer is no, find a way to be okay. If you are safe, healthy, fed, sheltered, and have something to be grateful for, you will be able to answer that question with a yes. Remind yourself that you are okay, right now, in the present moment.
Breathing allows you to manage the physical symptoms of being overly anxious. It stops the fight, flight, or freeze response of your brain to fear. When you start taking slow deep breaths, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, stress hormones stop being released, and oxygen returns to the logical part of your brain. Notice your body’s response to anxiety. Ask yourself if you need to breathe to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
What is important to you as a person? Is it learning, generosity, creativity, relationships, fun, community, leadership, adventure, security, spirituality, courage, or something else? Ask yourself what values are most important to you and find a way to practice them this week. Look to help someone, do something fun, renew a creative hobby or skill, read a book, garden, or check on an older neighbor. This will give you positive emotional energy and fulfillment.
Brain studies show that when you share your emotions with someone else who can listen and understand them, it reduces the intensity of the feeling you are experiencing. Find someone who is a good listener and share your specific fears and concerns. Ask yourself if you are holding your emotions in or reaching out to talk with someone. If you need a counselor to talk with and help you cope, contact us at 407.657.5800 for a phone, video, or in-person counseling session. Don’t go through this alone!