“I woke up sweating, with my heart pounding and feeling like I was going to pass out.
I don’t remember what I was dreaming about, but just had a sense of something chasing me,” said a good friend who is usually calm and collected in the face of crisis. All of humanity is, for the first time in history, facing a common threat, in which there are so many unknowns., leading to a collective anxiety around the world,
We are on information overload about the Coronavirus, with 24 hour news (most of it grim), social media (some of it wrong, and a portion of it absurd). We have an obsessive need to know what is going on.
This barrage of information serves to tell our nervous systems to be on high alert. It is no different than when we were living in caves, needing to be alert to the saber tooth tiger. Our alarm system serves to protect us from danger, and in our brain sends stress hormones throughout our body in preparation for fight, flight or freeze. Once the threat has passed, our bodies are meant to relax, allowing us to return to a state of calm.
Given that we have a constantly changing landscape, with new information telling us that the danger of the Coronavirus is increasing daily, it is no wonder that most of us are experiencing anxiety in varying degrees on a daily basis.
So, I suggest the following tips to help deal with whatever anxiety you might be facing. While anxiety is a common experience, different people experience it in different ways. Some strategies will work for you, and others will not. Take what you like and leave the rest!
The first suggestion is to acknowledge and even embrace this truth within ourselves.
One of my favourite books is Matt Kahn’s book: “Whatever Arises, Love That.” Somehow, when we acknowledge, embrace and love our shadow side, it loses its power over us. On the other hand, whether we are dealing with our shadow or the Coronavirus, when we try to push it away, ignore it, or use a spiritual bypass, it only grows bigger, uglier, and more frightening.
The second suggestion is to give the Coronavirus a name, and imagine what it looks like.
This helps us to have a bit of fun with our anxiety, shifting us out of fear. I call my anxiety Fred. He is, of course kind of prickly, and looks quite a bit like the pictures we see of the coronavirus! He’s a dirty rascal, sort of like a rat that we recoil from if we see it rummaging through our garbage. It’s nothing personal, it’s just trying to survive. Our only responsibility is to protect ourselves and do whatever we can to eradicate it from our lives, and certainly from our homes and communities. Seriously, though, the truth is that we are constantly surrounded by danger, we just don’t usually focus on it. Mass shootings, shark attacks, the opioid crisis are just a few that come to mind.
This leads to my third suggestion: accept what is. Day by day, we learn a little more about the Coronavirus. Twelve days ago, I decided to quarantine myself except for the three times a day when I need to walk the dog. I was careful to not touch my face and to wash my hands thoroughly as soon as I came in. About day two I realized that I need to be vigilant about keeping six feet between me and others. About day six I realized that I need to use rubber gloves when I use the elevator and open the doors to my condo, and to wash all handles and light switches with a bleach solution every time I return. About day eight, I began to take extra precautions with the generous deliveries of groceries from friends, placing everything immediately into the sink and washing all packages and fresh fruits and vegetables with a bleach solution. On day nine, I accepted that I need to remove my clothes and have a shower when I come back into my home. Bit by bit, I have become more aware and accepting of taking whatever action necessary to protect myself and my husband from the virus.
My fourth suggestion is to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
While it is important to educate each other about safe practices to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus, I notice that my anxiety becomes elevated when I see that other people are not respecting the need for social distancing. Our condo looks onto a beautiful beach, which became overly crowded last week. I could not even walk on the sidewalk in front of our condo because people were not respecting safe distancing. It took me a few days of ranting and complaining about why people were being so stupid, until I realized that I have to accept where my powerless lies, and focus on where I actually have power, which brings me to my fifth suggestion:
Recognize where our power lies.
There is so much about the Coronavirus that makes us feel powerless. This sense of powerlessness heightens our anxiety, as we feel like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery. Yet, we actually have a lot of power to keep ourselves safe, to design our day as we please, to keep our body, minds and spirits healthy. One of the ways to do this is to put some structure and routine into our day. I suggest writing out our day plan, including what time we wake up, shower, eat, exercise, work, etc. Writing this out gives us a sense of power over our own little corner of the world.
I will be sending out more suggestions for dealing with the Coronavirus later in the week. In the meantime, please write back, share how you manage your anxiety, and I will include your ideas in a future blog.
I am sending all of you so much love as we collectively walk through this time. We will get through it together, we will come out of it stronger, wiser and with a greater sense of care for our world. May we all be a blessing in this time and always.