Like most of you, I’m discombobulated and worried. We are living in unprecedented times and conditions. None of us are exempt. For some of us, the concerns are immediate (Will I be able to make ends meet next month? Will I find toilet paper?) For others, the worries are projected “what ifs” (What if I or my elderly loved ones become ill? What if lose my job)? According to mental health professionals, COVID-19 related anxiety has spread faster than the virus itself. But we don’t have to live in this state. There are tools and practices to help us navigate this difficult time. My personal favorites right now are Gratitude, Compassion, Presence and Nature. They are definitely helping me stay sane and keep things in perspective.
So here’s how it works. When you are having a moment of intense fear or anxiety or catastrophic thinking, do this:
- Presence: Take 3 breaths to calm yourself down and bring you back to what is actually going on right now. After taking at least 3 breaths, question your worry. Have I actually lost my job? Am I actually out of money? Has a loved one actually contracted the virus? If not, recognize that these fears are “not happening now.” And if they are actually happening now, take three breaths anyway. They will calm you down and help you to manage your anxiety and plans more rationally.
- Gratitude. Be grateful for what you have right now – a roof over your head, food in the fridge, unlimited virtual access to learning, entertainment, social contact, research, etc. It’s easy to forget what we have when we are consumed with what don’t have or may not have down the road.
- Compassion. Take a minute to send compassion via a prayer, energy, a letter, a donation to someone less fortunate than you. Continuing to serve reminds us that we are all in this together and makes us feel better.
- Nature. Turn to mother nature. For the time being, we can safely be outdoors as long as we practice social distancing. Take advantage of it: movement, fresh air, the beauty of clouds, and budding spring flowers are still there to enjoy. Moving not only has been proven to alleviate depression and anxiety but it also provides a respite from the news.
Wishing us all health, gratitude, presence and compassion as we traverse this chapter together.