Droplet of water - staying calm during the pandemic

Overcoming Anxiety in The Time of Pandemic

Let’s begin by looking at what we mean by the word anxiety.

Anxiety is the emotional/physical response that occurs when our thoughts attach to fear. There are times when fearful thoughts serve us and are adaptive. Currently, these thoughts may help us maintain vigilance in keeping our distance from others and being hygienically scrupulous.

Yet there are thoughts that don’t serve us as they seek out fear. These are often thoughts that seek certainty and demand to know the future. The future is called the future because it obviously isn’t knowable. But if your thoughts demand to know what can’t be known, the result is anxiety.

Our thoughts wage war with uncertainty. And uncertainty always wins. The pandemic provokes an extreme of uncertainty. The more you need to know the future the more anxious you will feel. It’s that simple.

We cannot know when the coronavirus will retreat, whether there will there be a second wave or all the ways in which the virus might be transmitted. There is a limit to what we can currently know. The more your mind demands certainty, the greater the fear, distress and anxiety.

Exercise:

Reflect on what anxious thoughts you have based upon the unknown of the future?

Ask yourself right now:

“What is causing me distress and anxiety? Does it have something to do with my fear of uncertainty, of what could go wrong in the future?”

New thinking:

I’m ok right now in this moment. If I stay focused in the moment, this moment will unfold into the next moment and become the future that I’m so apprehensive about. Keep your thought in the present and release your need to know the future.
Create a healthy and resilient future by staying focused in the present.

Capture the fearful thought, see it and release it. Think of this like the concept of catch and release that people may employ when they fish.

Remember, reality is actually uncertain and the pandemic in particular presents extreme uncertainty. This is why anxiety is so ramped up. Paradoxically, we must accept uncertainty.

Accepting uncertainty allows you to remain present in the moment. Unless you or a loved one are in danger or ill in this moment, keep your thoughts in the present. When your thought wanders off fearfully to the future, it evokes anxiety.

As I explained in my TEDx talk, Breaking Free from Anxiety, training your mind to accept uncertainty and remain present in the moment frees you from distress.

Exercise:

See your fearful thought.
Say to yourself it’s just a thought.

I don’t need to become the thought.
Set your intention to keep your thoughts focused in the present.

Of course, there are many other challenges that may be causing anxiety. Financial concerns, loss of freedom, isolation, enduring conflicted relationship, and managing children in containment are just a few. We’ll be discussing these in upcoming articles and podcasts.

In the meantime, remember the pandemic will pass. As George Harrison sang, “All things must pass.
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In these daunting times, emotional and psychological resilience are invaluable. To that end I’ve launched a pandemic support network from which I’ll be sharing articles, podcasts, videos and most importantly the launch of live Zoom conferences in which up to 1,000 people can participate. Please join us.

Subscribe to my mailing list, and keep your pulse on crucial coping strategies and tips through my articles, podcasts, videos, and support forum. You can grow stronger than ever through this pandemic as you turn crisis into opportunity.

Join Mel’s pandemic support network for articles, podcasts and live zoom conferences.


Mel Schwartz, Psychotherapist in Westport CT, podcast 024 staying psychologically resilient during the coronavirus pandemicListen To The Latest Podcast

The Possibility Podcast Episode 24
In this special episode, Paul Samuel Dolman, host of the What Matters Most podcast and the author of several memoirs and other works, joins Mel as they share approaches for staying healthy on all levels as the coronavirus (covid-19) crisis impacts all of humanity.

Mel shares his techniques for sustaining a vigilance of mind, through which we don’t succumb to fear. The coronavirus ushers in frightening new realities, yet underneath this crisis new opportunities emerge for our growth. Remember that opportunity is always the flip side of crisis.  Trying to ward off uncertainty only induces greater fear. Learning to remain present in the moment is within our power.

The challenges we face through isolation and sheltering in place no longer allow us the distractions to which we’ve  become acclimated. However, the challenges of this pandemic provide us the opportunity to develop deeper levels of connectedness with those we shelter with- and others, from a distance.

Thankfully, the internet allows us this connectivity. We seem now to really be all as one; separation appears truly a myth. The homeless person may ultimately impact the health of the billionaire. We must utilize this connectivity to deepen our sense of humanity, with compassion and empathy.

Staying Psychologically and Emotionally Resilient Through the Pandemic

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