Today I’d like to share some thoughts about something each one of us is feeling … and that’s anxiety.
As we track the spread of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus, change is coming rapidly, right now. It’s hard to keep up with the latest news, the most up-to-date numbers, and the most recent projections. Add to that isolation that comes with distancing measures, and it’s not surprising that many of us are experiencing heightened emotions right now and a good deal of worry and anxiety.
By definition, anxiety is feelings of worry, nervousness or unease that typically result from an imminent event or uncertain outcomes. From a medical standpoint, most anxiety arises from an excessive activation of the brain mechanism underlying fear, and the evolutionarily important “fight-or-flight” response. Severe, or constant stress, can produce a hyperactive anxiety reaction, where those thoughts and responses persist and even continue after the threat has passed.
While our nation’s current COVID-19 situation has a lot of real uncertainty, there are tangible ways we can mitigate our anxiety, and actively improve our mental health. In fact, social scientists tell us that during times of stress and difficulty, we can actually grow or increase individual and family resilience, personal growth, social connectedness, and meaning.
That’s easy to say … but how do we do it? Here are some strategies that we know work.
First, we must share our stories and socially connect, even while we are physically distancing ourselves. You see when we share our stories of HOW COVID-19 is impacting our lives, and HOW we’re working to cope, we have the sense that we are not alone in our struggles, and we also learn new strategies to make each day easier. Thanks to technology —and yes for those a little older, it can be a little hard the first time we use this technology — but thanks to technology we can schedule INTENTIONAL interaction with friends and family over video. It sounds strange at first but go ahead and plan lunch on FaceTime. Watch NETFLIX with 5 of your friends tonight on ZOOM. Get creative and don’t forget to connect with grandparents!
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Second, practice gratitude. We’re so aware of all the things that are “missing” and feel out of place, but science—and faith—proves that purposefully spending time each day thinking of things we are thankful for can focus and rewire our minds towards growth …and resilience…and fulfillment.
Third, create a schedule. Write it down or type it up. ROUTINE has been shown to provide comfort, and reduces anxiety. Kids and adults alike function best with structure. Plan to exercise for both your body’s health and to release endorphins that reproducibly trigger positive, optimistic feelings and reduce stress. Keep consistent bedtimes and wake up times, so you get enough sleep
Finally, be very thoughtful about the sources of information you are subscribing to. Too much news and opinion can create a great deal of internal noise and clutter, and increase your feelings of helplessness. Keep informed by checking in with a few sources of news that you trust, but resist the temptation to constantly consume updates, opinions, and perspectives. Literally, it is bad for your health.
These are unprecedented times. Every day, we’re hearing news about the impact of COVID-19, and how it’s shaping our places of work, worship, childcare, health systems, economies, and communities.
But we are NOT HELPLESS bystanders.
By using these strategies for improved mental health, we are investing in our growth and our resilience—and that of our families—in ways that will serve us well, far after this crisis is over.
Please keep your questions coming to this platform, and I will do my best to get the latest, must trusted information to video at A Second Opinion with Bill Frist. Visit asecondopinionpodcast.com.
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