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Anxiety in a Time of COVID: Part 2

We have many internal and external resources available to us when anxiety becomes overwhelming. We can typically recognize an unhelpful anxious thought because it often starts with some variation of “What if…” and or is predicting negative events that are possible but incredibly unlikely.  In this post, I will briefly outline some of the internal and external resources that can be extremely effective in confronting and managing anxiety.

Internal Resources

1)    Talking back to and Challenging Anxious Thoughts:

Anxiety is like an annoying know-it-all and overly critical boss; it constantly points out what might go wrong or what it thinks you didn’t do right, and it is usually flat out wrong! When we talk back to or challenge anxious thoughts with phrases like, “I’m allowed to make mistakes!” or “I’m enough as I am!” and “You don’t know everything!” we are bossing back our anxiety and taking charge.

2)    Past Successes:

What difficulties have you overcome in the past? How did you do that? What did you learn about yourself? Anxiety likes to make us forget or discount all the challenges we have overcome in the past. But, as we stack up our past successes, we are reminded of just how capable we really are, no matter what anxiety says.

3)    Problem Solving Skills, Creativity/Imagination:

Clearly you have gotten yourself this far in life, which means you have solved literally thousands of problems. Life throws curve balls at us regularly, and it is our creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills that help us work through them. When anxiety says things like, “What if you get sick?” We can say back to anxiety, “Then I will rest, get lots of fluids and take care of myself. I know what to do when I am sick.”

External Resources

Support Systems:

Some problems and concerns are outside of our experience and skill set to solve. Who do you have in your life that you could go to for help? Make a list of people in each arena of your life that you feel comfortable approaching and asking for help. For example, who at work can help you when you have questions or problems? When you are at school, who is most likely to have the information you need? Our external resources include people in our support systems, people who know us and care about our well-being and are invested in our success: parents, teachers, friends, family members, coaches and teammates, therapists etc.

When anxious thoughts and feelings begin to escalate, start by recognizing these feelings for what they are, ANXIETY, and then access your internal and external resources to challenge and talk back to your anxiety. 


Face Your Fear and Anxiety

Most people experience fear or worry to some degree at different times in their life.  Fear is a normal and necessary tool that our bodies create in response to dangerous or potentially dangerous situations.  It helps us identify threatening situations, and initiates the fight or flight response, causing us to react and protect ourselves.  Some of us even seek out this response for the “rush” by watching horror films, going to haunted houses, skydiving, riding roller coasters, or participating in high extreme sports.

We enjoy this, because not only is the fear present for a short amount of time, but the threat is fairly controlled and allows us to feel the pleasurable side of the fear response without being in any real danger.  However, what if you’re living in a constant state of worry, or always feeling uneasy about every possible threat that may or may not exist?  This is more about anxiety than general fear, and it can be very overwhelming and exhausting.  If you are someone that struggles with anxiety, here are some things you can do to begin managing it:

Spend at least 2-minutes, 5 times per day doing calming exercises. 

These may include deep breathing, visualization, listening to calming music, physical exercise, or anything else that relaxes you.  This will help prevent your anxiety from becoming too overwhelming or out of control.