Anyone else’s anxiety rising with every COVID-19 news update?
Do you feel like it’s taking over your emotions, mind and body?
Do you feel out of control?
If it does and this resonates with you, you are not alone.
Anxiety typically consists of two things:
1. Uncertainty of what the future holds and
2. Feeling a lack of control to do anything about it.
Given that those two anxiety triggers, it makes complete sense that you may feel extremely anxious right now with the current global health crisis we are facing.
When anxiety takes over, our general habit is to react, get caught up in the undertow and be taken for a wild emotional rollercoaster ride. When this happens it is hard to come back down to a place where we feel comfortable and grounded.
If you are experiencing anxiety like this, what you need to learn how to do is train yourself to bring your mind back to a calming state so you can become less reactive to factors out of your control.
However, to truly get out of your head in times like these, it is also helpful to turn towards your anxiety and the emotions that are sweeping over you. Giving the emotions and feelings that you have the proper validation actually helps in the grounding process.
Today I want to share an exercise that I do to help calm my mind in body during times like these. Because working myself up due to things out of my control is not a productive pastime and it surely is not how I want to handle these types of situations every time they occur.
Given this dichotomy, what I am about to teach you is a two part exercise.
First, we’re going to work on a coping skill called grounding with the 5 4 3 2 1 Technique. Then, we will face our anxiety.
In the first technique we will use our five senses to bring us to the present moment void of the anxieties ruling our minds right now.
If you have 3 minutes of time right now- I urge you to stop what you are doing and practice this exercise. What can it hurt? Seriously. Do it.
Feel free to watch the video below for more direction.
First sit somewhere comfortable, if possible sit on the ground outside, on a meditation pillow in your living room, or in a comfy chair with your bare feet touching the ground. When we feel swept away by anxiety, being closer to the ground can actually be helpful in itself.
Okay, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and let’s begin.
5. LOOK: Look around you and name 5 things you see out loud. For example, you could say, I see my computer or a tree.
TIP: It is even helpful to name 5 things that you see around you that you love, opposed to any ol’ five things. This really helps you get your mind of noisy fearful thoughts going on in your head.
4. FEEL: Feel 4 things around you and name them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel warm or I feel the wind against my skin and the ground I am sitting on.
3. LISTEN: Listen to the sounds around you and say 3 things you hear out loud. It could be anything from the sound of traffic to your tummy rumbling.
2. SMELL: Smell your surroundings and name 2 things you smell out loud, if you need to move to another spot to smell something that’s totally okay.
1. TASTE: Name one thing you can taste right now. This could be the mint flavor from your toothpaste, your morning coffee, or if you can’t taste anything then say your favorite thing to taste.
Take a deep breath and end the exercise.
Grounding practices like the one you just did bring us into the present moment and can help us stay calm through tough and stressful situations.
For this next technique to help us face our anxieties, allow a worried thought you are holding onto to surface. Just allow a moderate concern to arise in your mind.
Where you are sitting, take another deep breath in through your nose and then out through your mouth. Close your eyes.
Notice where you feel that anxiety in the body. There’s usually a physical sensation connected with a thought. Is it in your gut, in your heart? Where is it?
Locate where your anxiety is being held in this moment and tune into this sensation. Feel it, stay with it and notice its shape, size, texture and color. Connect with the felt sense of it in your body.
Take however long you need to locate this sensation.
Now, take a moment to feel the emotion that is associated with it. Recognize it.
What do you feel?
Anger, fear, sadness, shame? Just notice what is there and listen to what this emotion is trying to tell you. Allow it to be an open ended question and just hear what arises.
After listening to what the emotion is trying to tell you, see if there’s anything that you can say to calm it. Ration with it.
Our anxious thoughts are often exaggerated fears, we never really know how life will evolve.
Simply acknowledge the emotion.
For example, if you are holding fear, acknowledge it as fear.
Tell yourself, “I see you are afraid. Of course you’re afraid. It makes sense you feel this way and it’s okay.”
Take a moment to validate and calm whatever feeling you are experiencing in this moment.
Now provide some reassurance, telling that part of you that it’s not alone.
“I’ve seen you, we’ll figure this out and we’ll get through this.”
Offer that bit of assurance to that part of you.
If it’s possible, allow your worries to rest now, knowing they have been acknowledged and understanding your biggest worries rarely manifest.
There are always steps that can be taken and although not all answers arise immediately, know that they will come.
Acknowledge the courage that it takes to face difficult emotions. Allow the feeling of acceptance, peace and compassion to take over you in place of anxiety. And let that anxiety go.
Even without a pandemic, anxiety is something that impacts millions of people each day.
When we experience it, we are often swept away by negative thoughts of the future. This leads to emotional and behavioral responses.
It’s hard to problem solve when we are swept away by an anxious mind, but if we look at anxiety as a teacher, we can start to learn more about ourselves and self-soothe.
In practicing meditation we can learn how to listen to anxiety and respond to it in a careful way. When we address it, we can offer it assurance and release it.
I hope this is as helpful for you as it is for me.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you more during this time and in the future.
And remember, you always have me on your side. You are not alone.