For most of us, this is the first time we have experienced a global pandemic. We may be able to compare parts of this experience to some events from the past, but there is no one-to-one match. So, how do we manage the stress, anxiety and uncertainty on a daily basis?
First: Be Mindful
We are more aware right now of everything we touch, every person we come in contact with and every place we go. We are hyper alert to insure our safety. When anxiety gets on board our minds tend to spin forward to the seemingly inevitable worst case scenario. Being mindful means taking a deep breath and being present in this moment. Being mindful slows us down. Slowing down gives us a chance to think clearly in each moment. Instead of allowing anxiety go full speed ahead, we can pause, and take a breath. Try to pause and breathe as you transition between activities. Pause and breathe as you move from indoors to outdoors. Check-in with yourself, do you have what you need? Pause and breathe. This will actually give you a chance to slow down and be more mindful of how you are coming into contact with the world.
Second: Focus on Positive Steps
One of the tricks anxiety tends to play on us is to focus our minds on every possible way we could have been exposed to this virus. Anxiety keeps our mind spinning and becoming more and more fearful of all the unseen ways that the virus might reach us or our family. We must take serious precautions…yet, we do not live in a vacuum and there is still a chance that we will be exposed to the virus. Rather than let our minds spin into all the ways we may be missing something, focus on the ways you have reduced your risk. If you would normally go the grocery store multiple times in a week, have you reduced down to one time? If you normally would get together with groups every week, have you switched to online meetings? How much have you reduced your in-person contacts? Rather than thinking about the one small possibility of exposure, focus on all the positive changes you have made to reduce your risk.
Third: Use your Values to Guide You
We are all caught in the middle of tough choices about how to manage our households, our work responsibilities and financial realities. Sometimes there is more than one viable way to proceed. At these times, I think it helps to focus on your underlying principles or values that guide you. For many of us, it has become even more apparent that our choices impact other people, too. In valuing our own well-being, how do we also maintain a healthy awareness of how our actions impact others? Although it may take extra time to wash hands, it helps to protect others and ourselves. By doing this, we are showing how much we value our health and the health of our community. How do your personal values inform and direct you during this time? When you question if you are making the right choices, can you find some reassurance by thinking of your personal principle that has guided your decision?
For those who prefer a visual versus all these words: