Recently I received a call from a friend who asked me if I have any strategies for reducing anxiety. She had been feeling consumed with worry about the health of her family during Coronavirus, especially because she has close family members working in the healthcare industry. We talked for a while and I shared several strategies to help calm her thinking, but once I woke up in the morning, I had even more ideas to share. After printing off several handouts, I snail-mailed her a Happiness Care Package. Here are some strategies that may help you too:
1. Monitor your input. Do not allow just any information to enter your brain. Be aware how much news you’re consuming, including social media news headlines. Try to limit news intake to just once or twice a day, and not just before bed. This is one strategy I realized I had to learn to master about 5-6 years ago. I had never realized how the news was affecting my psyche until my eyes popped open before 7:00am one Sunday morning. My heart and brain were racing and I was filled with rage about a late-night political news report we had watched on the DVR the night before. I couldn’t shake that feeling of upset, like the news had started to penetrate deeper than my skin. It was then I realized the importance of monitoring my input, particularly at night!
2. Always remember to focus on what you desire, not what you fear. The Law of Attraction indicates where we put our focus and attention is what is drawn to us in the future (although this rarely happens on our timeline, science has proven this is a fact), so we must always focus on what we want, NOT what we don’t want. When slipping down the tunnel of fear, immediately replace your thought with what it is you desire.
3. Meditation is a helpful tool to clear your brain and reset your thinking. Research has shown it has a host of medical and psychological benefits, but training your brain is not a one and done. It’s like a muscle that gets stronger over time. One simple technique to get started is to focus on your breath while inhaling to the count of one, and exhaling to the count of two. When you reach 10, repeat. Additional meditations can be found on the Meditation page of our website.
4.When headed into a full-blown panic attack, pull yourself out of your head by completing a grounding activity. Countdown from five and pair each number with one of your five senses. For example, identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, etc. When you use this strategy repeatedly, be sure to think of new examples each time. (If you were to choose the same examples each time, it will become a routine, causing you to complete the activity without really thinking about your responses. Then the strategy won’t have the same effect of pulling you away from your thoughts.)
5. Get outside, in nature if possible. Whether it’s a walk through the woods or taking deep breaths on the front porch, being outside clears the lungs and clears the mind.
In addition to sending the above strategies, I also shared Jada’s 5 Combating Quarantine article. Since mailing the Happiness Care Package a couple of weeks ago, I have received three phone calls from my girlfriend. One was to express her gratitude and appreciation for sending her the package, and the other two calls were about one week and three weeks after that. Both times she enthusiastically reported how she keeps the papers nearby, and when she feels her mind is going to dark places, she immediately starts her breathing technique. The other day she was remarking how she’s getting better at noticing her thinking and putting a stop to negative thinking before getting too deep. Her enthusiasm and testament prompted me to share these strategies, to empower people to take control of the narrative in their heads.