Anxiety is in the air … We feel it everywhere we go. Anxiety intrudes our houses as we turn on the news, or try to figure out why our wifi is crashing for the second time again on a video work call. It is within our families as our relatives talk politics, or how we navigate how we will have Thanksgiving without our elderly relatives and extended family. We have had anxiety as we think about the outcome of the election, and the direction our country is going into the winter months.
According to the Census Bureau, 1/3rd of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression amid the Coronavirus pandemic. And that number just represents the people that filled out the survey and admitted they were anxious. This tells us that we are not alone in our anxiety.
But what can we do about it?
Control What We Can Control
I think the best thing to focus on right
now is what a friend and I were discussing: to control what we can control. By focusing on the things in our lives that we have a handle on and feel good about, our lives feel less chaotic. If we can control the little things in our lives like our schedule, getting our work done on time, helping our kids stay engaged in school, and connecting with our friends in creative ways, we feel like we have accomplished something. These small steps are attainable and ladder up to the feeling, if not the reality, that you can shape how your life runs, even if in a narrow sense.
Create Calm and Mindful Minutes
But you cannot control so much physically around you, especially when your husband, wife, or children are in such close proximity! Thinking about something calm is incredibly helpful, taking you out of your physical space and into your “head space”. Sitting in a calming place and visualizing a place that brings you peace is incredibly therapeutic. As you think of this place, try to not only picture what it looks like, but also what it smells like and what you are hearing when you are there. Is it warm? Is it cold? How does it make your body feel? By doing this, your anxiety level will instantly lower and you will be able to have a clearer sense of focus.
By creating mini-breaks of mindful minutes throughout the day, you can lower your anxiety before it builds up and causes you to store it in your body and affect your physical and mental health. Visualization or deep breathing can be done in just one minute. Try the simple breathing exercise of taking 5 deep breaths in your nose and out your mouth 5 times. This will lower your cortisol levels and give you a sense of grounding that will help your anxiety.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, there is always talk about giving thanks. I know this year it might be harder for many people to think of things they are thankful for when the pandemic has caused so many challenges, grief, and losses. However, many studies have shown that anxiety and depression are lessened when people have thought about what they are thankful for in their lives, specifically and sincerely. It may be hard at first, but try and write down on a piece of paper or in the notes on your phone 3 things you are grateful for every day. Thinking about the positive things in your life – yes, we all have those positive influences – like your family, friends, activities you enjoy, or the things that bring you joy and a smile in your downtime, can help your mind and body relax.
I believe if you asked many of your friends, family and neighbors what their anxiety levelisrightnowfroma1to10 with 10 being the worst, they would be close to a 10. However, as the months go on in the pandemic, we must take control of our mental health and be open to new coping strategies to lower our stress so that it does not have long term effects on our health, and relationships.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions at email@example.com.
Heather Zuckerman, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Garrison. She specializes in life transitions and the issues that accompany them. For more information go towww.heatherzuckerman.com., Instagram: @ heathertherapy, and Facebook: Heather Zuckerman Therapy.