Feeling a little anxious these days? Us too. It seems like no matter how hard you try, it’s very easy to find yourself consumed by the coronavirus and the “what happens next?” scenarios.
Pamela Smith, LPC, CEAP, is a licensed professional counselor with years of experience in individual and family counseling. If you start to feel anxiety creep in—about COVID-19, career changes or even cabin fever with children—here are five actions she suggests that can help you regain some control.
Try square breathing.
Imagine a box: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold for four counts. “This gets you to do some deep breathing but your head is in the game. You are less likely to let your mind start thinking of those stressful things. Because you have to count,” Smith explains. Her advice is to take is slow and don’t worry about quantity. Even just three or four breaths can help you reset.
Start a gratitude journal.
At night before you go to bed, Smith recommends writing down three things that happened during the day that you are grateful for—no matter how small. “When you write, the information goes to a different part of your brain, you process it better than just thinking about it,” she explains. Then after you turn off the light and try to sleep, replay those three things in your mind. If you aren’t a writer, try bullet points or even draw a picture, she says.
Limit time watching the news and surfing social media.
There is a big difference between staying informed and staying immersed in the daily news grind. “Don’t leave the news on 24/7 a day and when you get on social media, set a time limit,” Smith says. It’s easy to start clicking on every single opinion article, but your mental health can’t handle an overload of negativity.
For those unfamiliar with the term, mindfulness is about “staying in the here and the now,” Smith says. “Right now, we are so worried about the future and what’s going to happen. But we forget what we are doing right now.” Being mindful means you focus on the moment you are in. For example, when anxiety starts to build, focus on three things you see, three things you hear and three things you smell. “This allows us to re-center ourselves,” Smith says. “This is who I am right now. Let me move forward right now.”
Get moving, preferably outside.
“I know for me, I was going to the Y and exercising four or five days a week so I’m struggling a bit,” she says. “Moving our body is so critical for not only our physical health but our mental health.” Whether it’s going for a walk or doing some gardening work, you will feel better after getting some fresh air and working up a sweat.