Anxiety — Quarantine Edition

TRIGGER WARNING: This article may be triggering to some readers. COVID-19, anxiety, and traumatic topics are discussed. Reader discretion is advised.

DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Everything I talk about in this article is from my own experience. If you are experiencing any health concerns, mentally or physically, contact your primary care physician or health care provider for professional assistance.

My sister and I were talking the other day ~safely in quarantine~ about the fear we face of getting sick. For those who know me personally, it’s not abnormal to find me stressing about my health. I’ve always been one to overanalyze every little thing about how my body is functioning. If it’s not at one-hundo % then I am s t r e s s e d. If someone’s anxiety causes them to bite their nails, in comparison, mine causes me to obsess over my body function. My sister, though, isn’t one to get very anxious about that. She is usually pretty chill when it comes to being sick, so I know when she gets scared that this is serious for everyone, not just me.

If I’m being totally honest, I haven’t been feeling my 100%. I usually get sick every Spring. (By the way, HAPPY SPRING! ALLERGY SZN, YEEHAW!) Because of that, I’ve been nit-picking about how my body is functioning. I keep reminding myself that if I continue to tell myself “I am sick,” then you bet your ass I will get sick. But, as you anxious folks know, stopping this habit is way easier said than done.

I could give you one hundred reasons I am feeling anxious. Currently, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has changed almost every aspect of our lives and that’s some stress-inducing ish. In the midst of this pandemic, my many fears that I have been constantly working to overcome have resurfaced; my fears of death, others dying, not being of optimal health, things I can’t control, etc. It’s clear to me now that I’m not alone in this, which is a comfort that we can all feel.

What I do know is this: the stress that anxiety induces can actually cause sickness. Therefore, I think it’s important for everyone (since we’re all in this together) that we do our best to ease our anxieties so we can be there for ourselves and others. Even when it’s at its most debilitating, we have to try. I find myself in the middle of a movie when I start to think about my breathing. I start to think so deeply about my breathing that it makes it hard to breathe. I don’t want to continue letting my anxiety control me, so I’ve taken the steps to find out what alleviates it for me. What has helped me is this concept my mentor teaches in his classes: my anxiety is an umbrella feeling for the other emotions I’m actually feeling. Under the anxiety is a bunch of other emotions that bottle together and create some type of hell. Thoughts are just thoughts. We can choose to give them power over us or to let them go.

There are a few things that have helped me immensely in easing my anxieties. From personal experience, therapy, discussing with friends, and research, here are a few things that have helped me get through the toughest times. Take what works for you.

Choose What You Know

I know this sounds whack. But, I know a lot of my current anxieties come from the things I’m seeing and reading. I talked to my therapist about this and she told me about this thing called “disaster porn.” Basically, we are attracted to reading and focusing on negative news. The only thing we see on the news right now is about COVID-19 and it is rarely ever positive. For my own sanity, I have decided to not look at the news daily. If there is anything I need to know, the information will reach me. I don’t see this as choosing to be ignorant; if you know the severity of the situation, choosing not to hear about it at every moment of every day is OK. On the other hand, some people find comfort in knowing more about the crisis than less. That’s OK too! That is still you choosing what you want to know. In crazy times like this, it’s important we take care of ourselves in the ways that we individually need. Choose the information you take in depending on the information you know could be triggering to you.

Meditate

Yeah, I said it. Meditating consistently, including when you’re not feeling anxious, has many benefits to your health and well-being. It alleviates stress and less stress = less anxiety. Meditation promotes self-awareness, emotional health, clarity, and so much more. Even just ten minutes a day makes the world of a difference. I try to meditate for ten to fifteen minutes after my morning workout. Every time I don’t meditate I notice the rest of my day is scattered and anxiety-ridden. It’s recommended you meditate twice a day, in the morning and at night, but take baby steps people. If silence isn’t for you, there are many guided meditations you can find online. The Calm app is a great app I used for a while when I was first beginning to practice meditation. Now, when I find silence to be unbearable, I find meditation music helps me focus. The Peaceful Meditation playlist on Spotify is my go-to. Take it from me, I know those of you who have never tried meditating might think it’s all fruity and nutty. But, I promise you it’s not. If your anxiety is holding you back, where’s the harm in trying something new?

Talk to someone

I used to be so proud of being a Lone Wolf. I would constantly brag about how “I only need myself” and “I don’t cry” (ha!). Well, that may have been true when life was easy-breezy and I wasn’t responsible for SHIT. Now that I’m awake and life is as real as it gets, I realize how important it is to have people you trust — people who you can talk to about anything with. Someone, whether it’s your therapist, a friend, your partner, whomever that will listen to you wholeheartedly without judgment. I’m lucky to not only have a bomb therapist, but I have chosen to surround myself with people who can be there for me as I am there for them. Reach out to these people and talk. Speak with unfiltered honesty. Even just speaking your anxieties aloud can help you realize things for yourself. You may also find that through sharing your struggles with someone that they may be going through something similar. Listen, talk, and share. We are in this together baby!!!

Journal

Ahhhh, the ol’ journal. I have a love/hate relationship with it. Honestly, I personally have yet to experience progress through journaling because I only do it when I am feeling down. Like meditation, the benefits of journaling only surface through consistency. Journaling is a great way to spill your feelings and thoughts onto paper without needing someone there to talk it out with. Some of us like to keep that side of ourselves private and that is totally fine. Journaling about what your thinking, feeling, seeing, experiencing, etc. relieves some of the anxiety that may be bottled up inside. But, like I said, consistency is when you will feel the progress. Ten minutes of free journaling once a day will allow you to put your anxious thoughts onto paper and allow you to be present with yourself and others at this moment. As of right now, I’m committing to journaling consistently. Only 10 minutes a day. I can’t make any excuses for myself anymore because ~quaratine~.

Here’s a little journal prompt to try out. When you feel anxious, ask yourself these questions and give yourself detailed answers. Don’t stop answering until there is nothing else to say.

  1. What feeling(s) do you think are under this anxiety? (i.e. sadness, anger)
  2. What situations or scenarios are creating these feelings? Basically, what fears are driving this anxiety?
  3. Have these situations or scenarios actually happened or is it a prediction of a future you have created?
  4. If these situations have happened in the past, ask yourself how it’s affected you. Write it down. Your fears and feelings are valid. Allow them to be here with you. Don’t mask them.
    • Then, comfort yourself with “because something has happened in the past doesn’t mean that it will happen again.” We can choose what thoughts we give energy to. Choose kindly!
  5. If these situations have not happened, can you acknowledge what is true at this moment? Write it down.
    • Then, write a mantra that will help bring you feelings of ease and comfort. For me, this is my current mantra: you are safe, you are mindful, and you are valuable as you are. Say this mantra out loud when you wake up in the morning and whenever it arises in you. You’ll be surprised how much it helps!

Exercise Your Body & Mind

Instead of letting our minds control your bodies, let’s work on finding the harmony between the two. Rather than obsessing over the news, social media, and other ways of distracting yourself from this very moment, get up and move. Stand up every hour and move. Stretch, walk, run, exercise, dance — whatever your body can do! Physical activity produces endorphins that help alleviate anxiety, help you sleep, and benefit your all-around wellness. The benefits of exercising are comparable to meditation, actually. I know when I’m feeling pent up, moving my body releases what I’m holding onto so tightly. Quarantining myself has made me restless, to say the least. I’ve found dancing to be a great way for me to keep my blood pumpin’ and exercise my creative muscle. Doodling, reading, learning a new skill, cooking fun things, or playing games are also beneficial activities to try out. Exercise your mind when your body needs a break. Try to do at least one conscious thing every day during this quarantine. But, if none of these tickle your pickle…

Just Be.

If the information is just too much…

If the pressure to accomplish something with this free time is overwhelming…

If you can’t manage to get your mind to just focus…

Then choose to just be. There might be a bigger reason that the world has been forced to slow down. There might be a reason you were forced to slow down. Take in your surroundings. Sit on your balcony and breathe in the fresh air. Maybe take this time to do what you want to do. Be who you want to be.

If any of you need someone to talk to or just someone to listen, I am here. You can email, message, or reach out in any way. The greatest thing to come out of this mess is unity in crisis. Let’s choose to carry that unity with us when all of this settles. Take care, friends. <3

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