"Currently, more than 6.7 million people are living with a mental health condition in Canada." I can almost bet that the number of 6.7 million people with mental health conditions has drastically spiked from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sweaty palms, racing thoughts, having trouble sleeping at night, uncontrollable worry. If any of these signs resonate with you, my friend you may be battling with anxiety.
One author from the Washington Behavioral Medicine Associates writes, “We are living in a period of anxiety and fear, as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading worldwide. Compounding the anxiety about the proliferation of this illness is the uncertainty about if/when there is a treatment and/or vaccine. Many of us feel vulnerable, like a sitting duck.” Anxiety is a real response to the conditions in which our world finds its self in. Anxiety is your body's natural response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come. With the social unrest of our country and our world, it is only appropriate to feel anxious. Amongst the anxiousness how are we to to handle our mental well being?
Educate: It is helpful to understand and “read” your own anxiety. Understanding what is going on can lessen the impact of intense emotion. Educating yourself on the reality of anxiety and what it is can offer relief.
Offer Empathy. Try to step into your own shoes or someone who is struggling with anxiety and validate the distress that may be felt. Let them know that what they are feeling is experienced by many people and they don’t need to be afraid of it.
Don’t Rescue. Trying to remove anything that could cause anxiety creates a dependence and is actually disempowering for the individual struggling with anxiety. People grow into stronger, healthier individuals when they can learn to move through it. Be open to working with the individual to modify what is expected without fully removing the challenge.
Create a “Fight" Kit. Brainstorm together four things to do when the individual begins to feel anxious. Type or wright ideas on their phone or in a journal, and encourage them to choose what idea they need in that moment when anxiety begins to grow.
Take Small Bites. If their anxiety is centered around doing an activity, break it into small steps and encourage them to take only the next small step. Celebrate each success.
Create a “Worry Jar”. The individual can “park” their worries in the jar. Get them to write their worry on a slip of paper, and put it into the jar for them to tackle it during a designated time each week/each day. This gives a place for repeated worries to rest, knowing they will be dealt with at the selected time.
Teach them Coping Skills. When anxiety begins to take over, look for ways to gain perspective by shifting to an outward focus of the individual’s emotions . Ideas: (i) breathe slowly, deeply and repeatedly (ii) think of a topic and begin listing things in that category (iii) start at their toes and tense then release each muscle, moving all the way up to their forehead. Notice the feeling of release each time.
In the midst of the unknown, I am reminded of the hope found in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Grace and Peace,