Many of us are experiencing emotional distress from the pandemic which can affect each of us in different ways, but often presents as increasing anxiety, worry, sleep disruption, feelings of helplessness, panic, and/or depression.
The shrieking headlines don’t help do they? So what can we do to manage these feelings and feel stronger emotionally and psychologically as we prepare ourselves to face the difficult days ahead?
As a psychotherapist who has practiced for many decades, I have some ideas that can help. So if you are interested, read on.
We are going to make a customized anxiety toolbox. One approach doesn’t work for everyone, pick and choose what feels right for you. Of course I’m including relaxing photos intermixed in this post because looking at positive images is an objective and powerful anxiety reducer. What you perceive influences how you think and feel.
Self Talk Reframing (Cognitive Therapy)
Distraction in Action
Exercise, Diet & Good Health Practices
This topic will be broken up into separate posts, and start with Self Talk, Guided Imagination and Exposure Limitation. These are the tools I use most frequently to manage my anxiety. Yes, I have anxiety, and now pandemic anxiety, and I don’t like any of it, so I have learned over the years to better manage all of it.
Self Talk is one of your most powerful anxiety busting tools. It can be best understood through the ABC Model:
A: is an objective event that occurs (Covid 19 for example).
B: is what you immediately and silently say to yourself, sometimes many times a day, about this event, usually without conscious awareness (“Oh no, we’re in a high risk group, we’re gonna die, badly,” is my example). Insert your personal pandemic negative self talk here.
C: are the feelings that immediately arise in response to our self talk (Anxiety, pandemic preoccupation, worry and/or panic)
In this case my self talk was awfulizing , which is the tendency to assume the worst possible outcomes will happen to me or the people I love. I can challenge and change this self talk by making it more realistic. An example for me might be, “Stop thinking the worst. Most high risk people survive. You can take steps to improve your chances.”
I use self talk reframing in combination with guided imagination everyday. These are two of my most trusty tools and they work synergistically with each other to reduce anxiety, each making the other more effective. Like any learned skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it.
Guided imagination is exactly what it says it is. When you are resting, napping, or going to sleep, don’t let your imagination run you. You run your imagination. Guide it to a place, a story, a visualization, that engages your mind, and is positive, happy and fun. Challenge yourself to come up with imaginative stories that involve you. This is wonderful for your mental and physical health. Make yourself a central character in your story. I have ongoing stories that I return to everynight before I fall asleep. I come up with new stories when the old ones start to lose interest.
This kind of guided imagination reduces stress hormone levels, aids sleep and reduces anxiety. It can even positively influence, or guide, our dreams which is beneficial to our mental and physical health. It is harnessing the creative power of your brain to control its own production. Long term prison inmates report using this technique to escape their cells and fly free. If they can do this, so can you and I.
And finally, reduce your exposure to news. Yes, it is important to stay well informed and safe, especially in a pandemic. But constant media onslaught can be psychologically overwhelming and add to an unhealthy level of anxiety. So take charge of the news in your own best interest. Consciously limit your exposure according to your best choice about how much you can absorb without becoming overwhelmed. This is truly important in managing your anxiety during pandemic times, and really at all times.
Switch from the news after you’ve had enough to stay informed, and read blogs or a book. Watch a movie. Look for positive imagery. Write blogs and stories. After all, you are bloggers! You have awesome creative imaginations. Use your imaginations in positive ways to help you, and your readers, stay on even keel during the coming stressful days.
Cheers & calm to you from me at The Holler~
Note: Australian birds in order, New Holland Honey Eater, Gouldian Finch, Superb Fairy Wren.