Dear Anxiety: I would appreciate it if you took a vacation to somewhere else for a while. The world is in crisis and I do not have time to deal with you. Wait, no one can travel. We are staying at home. I guess we need to figure this out together, because you have nowhere to go. Your Friend, Me
I tell people the day I made friends with my anxiety is the day things got easier. Please do not mistake that for saying things are easy, because living with anxiety is never easy. By admitting that it is here to stay and I need to cope, I look for ways to deal with my often overwhelming feelings. With this plan, I consider myself a high functioning member of the anxiety club. Things are different now. A national pandemic, a world health crisis, school canceled, and an executive stay at home order – these are not normal stimuli for an already supercharged system. My dear friend Anxiety and I need some new plans.
Admit it is OK to not be OK
I have anxiety and I am struggling. I give myself permission to not be OK. We are living in unprecedented times. Our current living situation is not our norm. Normal and routine is what keeps me balanced. The result – I am not sleeping well, feel overwhelmed, overly agitated, exhausted, and my mind is running on fast forward. Being angry with myself for not coping during a crisis benefits NO ONE. Instead admit to yourself and the people around you that things are not OK. Say the words, today I am struggling and I need. Instead of fighting against the feelings lean in for a minute and try to understand what is going on inside your body and mind.
Start with the Small Things
Time to start with some small things that make life feel normal, spark joy, and bring subtle feelings of peace. There are no rules in this process. Ask the question – what do I need right now? The answer can be anything. I started with “I need the curtains and blinds to be open”. Every room needs to be filled with as much natural light as we can get in Michigan in March. My bed is made with all the fancy pillows, so that when I walk into my room it looks put together and peaceful. Making my bed is not normally important to me, but right now it gives me peace. LONG HOT SHOWERS. Ten minute showers before rushing to do the next thing are not the prescription right now. I will stand in the shower until the hot water runs out if I need to that day.
Find Some Bigger Things
We are supposed to stay at home. Got it! So what do you like to do at home that you normally have no time to do because you are rushing around with an over packed schedule? It can be anything. Read a book. Start a new craft project. Learn a new language. Watch a show you missed from 10 years ago on Netflix. I have quite a few projects that have been on my list FOREVER. A stack of books is also sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. There are no rules. The objective is to give your mind and body a place to focus its energy. I am not suggesting that being productive is a must for survival. Far from it! Your focus can be on puzzles and coloring. Redirect the energy away from the anxiety and onto anything else.
A Plug for Movement
I am not an athlete. There is no history of athletic greatness spanning any number of sports in my life. I did run track in middle school and have always wanted to be a runner. So last summer I decided I would find a way to put running into my life. The unexpected side effect is a mega decrease in my anxiety symptoms. I found movement of any kind, but especially running, is a mega boost to my overall calm. If you are suffering from anxiety, give movement a try. Any kind of movement will do – walk, run, bike, dance, yoga, rollerblade, skate board, skip, hop, jump, and the list goes on. Give your body 10 minutes a day of some kind of movement and see how it effects your mind a week later. You might be surprised at the results.
We need to stay home, but we do not need to disconnect. We live in a time filled with communication technology. Call, text, e-mail, and video chat with the important people in your life. Stay connected to the people you love. I will use my daughter, a complete social butterfly , as an example. In the last 10 days she has “virtually” played Legos and Roblox with her BFF. How you may ask? They get on a video chat and place their tablets next to what they are doing. Then they talk as they play. Virtual play date! It helps her feel connected while staying at home. If connecting through social media gives you joy – DO IT! No rules, no judgement, just find a way to connect with people during our physical isolation.
It’s OK to Need More
Are you already on prescription meds for your anxiety? Do you feel like they are working? If the answer is YES and then NO, call your doctor. What works during normal life may not be enough during periods of high stress. That does not make you weak it makes you human. There are also many natural alternatives you can try in addition to your regular medications. In our house we have Valerian Root, Magnesium, and CBD Oil. If you have always managed your anxiety just fine with no medicinal help and now you feel like you are drowning – CALL YOUR DOCTOR! Please give yourself permission and grace to ask for help. We all need help some times, there is no need to handle things alone.
My friend anxiety and I are attempting to find a new normal; a space where we can live together in harmony. I cannot kick her out, there is no place for her to go. Small steps turn into bigger steps and eventually I will find a place of peace and calm in this difficult time. Then when things change again, we will start over and take new small steps. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Dear Anxiety: Today we are going to focus on writing, because it gives us joy. The weather is supposed to be warm. We should go for a run. Maybe later we can read a book or do a puzzle. Let’s stay busy. I know we are overwhelmed and agitated right now. But we can get through it. We got this. One day at a time! Your Friend, Me.