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So How Exactly Do You Manage Anxiety?

I think it is fair to say that no one ever expected COVID-19 to become as big as this. Like many, I was under the very naive impression that this would pass. You know, kind of like swine flu and ebola did. Well, clearly, I was wrong.

So here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic, potentially on the verge of the next Great Depression, and don’t exactly know what the coming months/year has in store. As we continue to ride this wave, I see more and more people share on social media about how they are having trouble sleeping, finding it hard to maintain consistency in their schedules, or simply experiencing more constant worry than ever before.

In recent weeks I have come to realize that many people are experiencing anxiety for the very first time. Having been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder almost ten years ago, I’m at the advantage of having had time to prepare and learn how to best manage my anxiety. Mind you, I never thought I would ever utilize these skills as I live through a pandemic.

I want to share these five basic steps that help me better manage my anxiety on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Identify the Anxiety
    When we are anxious it is normal to feel like we don’t know what we are anxious about. A lot of the times we just feel like everything is piling on top of one another and we can’t seem to control the emotional reaction to it all. This is where you need to reflect and dig a bit deeper to identify the true source of the anxiety.Grab a notebook and pen and seriously think this through. Think about when the anxiety began to creep in. What were you doing? Was it when you were watching the news and they were talking about the latest unemployment rates? Was it when you saw someone on social media comment about how quarantine was predicted to last several more weeks/months?Once you are able to jot a few items down, begin to dig at each one. If it was when you heard about the unemployment rates, think about why it has affected you in such a way. Are you one of those statistics? Are you concerned about your own job security? Dig until you feel like you have discovered the source and know that this may not be a quick process.
  2. Allow yourself to feel the emotions surrounding the anxiety.
    Once you have identified your anxieties give yourself the time to truly feel the emotions surround it all. It is ok to feel the sadness and the hurt that might be associated with the anxiety. This is part of the process of coming to terms with it. If you don’t let yourself feel what is naturally meant to be felt you will continue to build it all up.The key is to limit how much time you allow yourself to feel those emotions. This is a tough balance. You don’t want to get stuck in feeling overwhelmed with all the emotions, but at the same time you want to make sure you have given yourself sufficient time. This is where awareness and accountability come into play. Stay in check and be honest with yourself. You don’t want to let these feelings of anxiety linger and take control of you for days on end.
  3. Write Down What You Can Control and Focus on That
    Pick up that notebook and pen again. This time, write down what is within your control and what you can do about the worry and anxiety. For example, if you identified one of your anxieties as being rooted in your finances, make a note to build out a budget.You will find that taking actions in areas that you can control will help you become more at ease with your anxieties. Having a plan will help your mind better come to terms with the situation
  4. Establish Healthy Practices to Calm Your Mind
    While we all love to indulge in that glass of wine, it is important for us to realize that this is not the healthiest of ways for us to calm our anxious minds. An example of a healthy practice is establishing a daily workout routine. It doesn’t have to be anything excessive, but maybe a 20 to 30 minute yoga flow or pilates. Incorporating a time for mindful meditation can also be helpful.Certain hobbies, such as reading, writing, coloring, knitting, and playing music can also be great healthy practices for calming your mind.
  5. Find the Lovely in Every Day
    A few years ago, I read a book by Annie F. Downs called Looking for Lovely. This book completely changed my idea of happiness. I used to think that I could only find happiness in big life events, like a job promotion or getting some sort of recognition. But through reading this book I realized that life gives us small moments of joy each day. Whether it be taking the time to enjoy the sunset or enjoying some of your favorite takeout food on a Friday night while you binge watch yet another show on Netflix, each day has a moment of lovely.So at the end of each day, remember to ask yourself, “what was my lovely today?” Make note of that and use it as your fuel to keep moving and overcoming the next day.

I am in no way an expert when it comes to managing anxiety. All I can do is share some of the methods that have worked for me throughout the years and hope that they can do the same for you.

Stay safe, healthy, home and strong! We got this, y’all!