Tackling Coronavirus Anxiety

I feel like I’ve been dropped in a gum-ball machine, in a pile of colorful balls…I’m amused, but also somewhat shocked, confused, and wondering what just went wrong.

Coronavirus. It’s spread. All over. And yes, to my own home town as well. We need to practice social distancing, and for many, self-quarantine. Oh Okay.

Did the world not prepare for something like this, did the medical system get some calculation wrong, did we not pray hard enough or is this some form of the world coming to an end?

No No No. That’s just not right.

But that’s where my thoughts go when I’m in a tizzy, feeling somewhat confused as to what steps to take when how much to do and how much to let go of.

 

And then I have this voice that reminds me of the bigger picture of this big wide world.

We each have a purpose, and each of our big and small experiences on this planet come to inform who we are, how we connect and what suffering means to us. Life and Death are scary concepts, but they are realities of living. And sometimes those realities hit harder than we’d like.

No, none of us thought we’d one day tell our children and grandchildren about the time we were quarantined, the times we had giggles, hopes, worries and lots of outside noise as we ordered laundry lists of food and home goods from Costco. But this is what we are facing, and we are wading the waters as we step ahead, mapping the stories we will one day retell… and I say that, to remind myself, and you, dear reader, that this will pass, as do many other things.

Will there be bruises, scars, losses and traumas? Unfortunately, yes.

There are already losses; financially, a loss of a sense of security, of feeling powerless, of not knowing what the future has in store, and a niggling fear, especially for those who have significant health related worries. And with all we, and those around us, are going through. It will pass. And my hope is that it will pass with as little pain as possible. And, yes, it will definitely pass.

As humans, we’ve survived a lot.

The human race has faced and survived viruses, hurricanes, plagues and dark times, and we’ve made it through this long; and we will continue to do exactly that. Keep going.

 

The world around us is in a state of trauma, a state of disbelief, and the “experts” don't have simple answers for us, because, they, themselves, are stuck in a survival response, in a deep level of denial or just trying to get through their own thoughts and feelings about all of us.

Swinging from freaking the living daylights out of us, to telling us to calm down and do yoga. That’s a very broad sweeping range of extremes. Denial and Minimization to Panic and Fight or Flight response.

Listening to the voice inside…tending to it with gentle care.

“What about us?” a little voice inside whispers.

What about the medium size worries, the small concerns and the unknown waters ahead of us? Where is the space for all of us to navigate what’s really happening, not happening, or has already happened? 

To you, little voice, speak up. Take a pen and paper and write. Find a way to express whatever it is you are thinking, feeling or sensing. OF course it can feel silly, weird or almost disorienting to put the unspoken words, the ambiguity and the unclear into something of texture….and that’s exactly the reason I want you to do so.

Finding ways to release tension that is carried on mind and body can provide relief

Why? Because anxiety, panic, fear, sadness and other intense emotions that aren’t expressed get trapped in our bodies and can cause us to have less clarity, leave our bodies with more compromises and robs our ability to focus and be present in the moment ahead.

 

As a somatic therapist who helps clients  heal from body memories on a daily basis, I see the value in opening a platform to heal, in whatever creative and unique way you can find.

Especially in today’s reality, where you’ll find one instagram influencer telling you she’s got not fear, to another one telling you to just move on, to another one pouring endless mounds of information that is in no way digestible, you can be left wondering what your thoughts, feelings and opinions are.

Your partner, best friend, roommate or even you mom may be dissociated or spaced out because they’ve got other stressors going on in their lives. As a parent, aunt, uncle or godparent, you may be worried about one or some of the little ones in your life. And, grandpa may be elderly and sick, and you might be fighting fearful thoughts every minute and a half.

Just know, whatever you are or aren’t feeling, you’re normal. It’s all normal.

And, for now, since there is so much outside noise, I am going to invite you to listen to the silence or the noise of your own mind and body. 

Here are some tips to release anxiety from coronavirus.

1} Creative Expression - Collage, Dance, Draw

As you may already know, I’m a big believer in self expression, and in mind and body expression, as any form of making sense of what is happening now is a form of self validation, self healing and processing for your psyche.

You can even make any form of self expression a family project, or make this an activity one that is purely focused on yourself. Collage about the feelings you are having, light ones of hope or tough ones such as fear and panic. 

I encourage you to collage a picture of what you imagine life will look and feel like once we have gotten past coronavirus.

 A sunny day on the beach, a fun lunch with a girlfriend at a restaurant, a kiss on the cheek from someone you love. Anything. Just collage the imagery out so your brain gets to fire out “feel-good” hormones. 

You can find a song that deeply resonates with you and slowly start moving to the music, dancing and moving your body. Movement helps release pent up worry, tension and stress, and a fun dance or slight jiggle to a nice melody or song can move things around, shifting your body chemistry just a bit. 

And if you’ve got some scraps of old magazines, some colored pencils or markers, I’d invite you to draw, sketch or create a collage. When I collage or draw, I make it into a family activity. I find it to be a fun, playful activity where, as a family, we can focus on whatever it is we are each are thinking or feeling without needing to “talk” so much about what is going on.

Often, children {no matter what age} can come up with wonderful ideas, can draw cool pictures, and tap into rich creativity…and even when their collage or drawing doesn’t make sense to us adults, they feel like they’ve created something for themselves, and there’s value in that.

2] Free Association Writing {or speaking}

Take  out a pen and paper, and just write. Start with any word you need. No focus or “goal”, but a location, between your heart and mind to process, whatever you are needing to release. Writing is a form of letting go of any words, worries, hopes, both that are conscious or unconscious, to be released and expressed, so your mind and body don't carry them as heavily.

Don’t try to control the direction or message that will come out, rather, just let it flow naturally, and you can always throw the paper out after if you’d like.

If writing is not your thing or doesn't feel right to you, call a friend, a confidant, a therapist or a mentor and just talk. Ask them if they could just hear you out as you share what is on your mind. And if no one is around, or if the ones you trust aren't local, or have time, just talk out loud. Yes, out loud. There’s wisdom that sometimes comes out when we hear ourselves speaking and making sense of all that is going on around us, and inside of us. If it helps, look in the mirror and watch yourself as you speak. Allow your body to try to process. 

3} Tap into Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness is a practice where we help our mind and bodies get in touch with the present moment,  releasing stressors. When we feel anxious, our ANS, autonomic nervous system, gets active and puts us into fight, flight, freeze, submit or collapse, leaving us feeling powerless to face the day. We are left with confusing symptoms, and feel out of balance.

A wonderful way to unwind the tension is by trying a simple mindfulness exercise that helps ground your body and slow your breath. By doing this you’ll be sending more oxygen to your brain and feel more able to be in the present moment.

Using a simple mindfulness tool can help calm our autonomic nervous system which helps us access a grounded state of being, and lets us begin relaxing just a bit. You can try this on your own, just learning to slow down and get in touch with all parts of yourself and your environment, and slowly take 10-15 deep breaths. No need to change the pace of your breath, but rather just stay connected to them, and notice how your breath goes in and out without much effort. 

Your body can take care of you, especially when you tap into its natural capacities. 

4} Make a List of the Skills you’ve tapped into from the Hard Times You’ve Been Through

You may be wondering, okay, but what do I do when I try being creative, but I’m still worried and not sure I’ll make it? Well, if you’re feeling the frazzles, I want you to think for a moment. We’ve all been through rough times; some of us more than others, but we’ve all faced something or another that made us dig in to resources we wished we didn't have to. But we did, and we are where we are today. Not perfect, but we got through to the best we could. So in this moment, I want you to…

Remind your mind and body of the tough stuff you’ve been through….literally all the small and big stuff you’ve survived. You can actually get through a lot more than your mind knows. Taking the time to refocus on your strengths (that you may not want to tap into, but you can actually tap into if you allow your body to step up for you), will reboot the way you relate to your capacities

Did you speak up to a teacher on behalf of a child who was struggling?

Have you gone shopping, done the laundry and put a smile on your face on days you wished you could escape being an adult? That takes strength. 

Have you ever set a boundary with an ex, a boyfriend or nagging friend who was emotionally stifling?

Did you create a new routine with your sleeping, exercising or eating?

Have you engaged in healing your anxiety, depression, relationship issues or trauma? All of those take strength. 

What have other tough times pulled to the surface for you? 

Do you recall tapping into courage?

Taking stock and focusing on your relationship with your higher power? Reached out to friends?

Sought out support and began deeper healing?

Gave a real look at your life and gained some perspective? Committed to some life goals you had previously been “too distracted”from looking at?….

What do you want to learn from this?

To be more flexible?

To learn that you will be ok even when life throws too many dodge balls?

That you can acclimate ….and make mistakes…and still, absolutely, be a worthy human? {yes, even if you lose your cool more times than you’d like, you are worthy and doing your very best}.

Now, to wrap up, here are some words of comfort and care from me to you.

 

 If you’re like any other human on this planet who is facing uncertainty ahead, I invite you to take a go at one of the above suggestions.

I hope you find some relief, inner wisdom and a sense of being that feels just a bit less frightening than it was a few moments before.

And I'll be here in my home in the Five Towns of Long Island, New York, holding you in my prayers….

and taking my own self care and mindfulness tools into play as I walk alongside each of you on this journey ahead.

And remember, we’ve been through hard things, we can get through this too.

Warm wishes,

Esther

 

*originally posted on integrativepsych.co

 

Esther Goldstein LCSW is psychotherapist and trauma specialist who runs a private practice called Integrative Psychotherapist in Cedarhurst, NY. At Integrative Psychotherapy we are passionate about helping adults reduce anxiety and find a richer way of living, loving and "being" that promotes joy and connection. Our therapists use science based methods and modalities such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (somatic), Expressive Arts and Parts work (Ego State Work) to help clients feel relief that last way beyond their time on the therapy couch.

Specialties include treating anxiety, trauma survivors, relationships issues, family-of-origin work, Inner-Child work, Attachment focused Therapies, Healing for Complex PTSD And Dissociative Disorder Treatment.

We also offer Trauma Informed Consultation To Therapists Committed To Improving Their Trauma-Informed Practice And Attachment Focused EMDR Consultation To Therapist Attaining Hours Towards EMDRIA Certification.

Website: Integrativepsych.Co