Have you ever found yourself in bed after a long day, finally snuggled up and ready to rest, but your mind won’t stop? You find yourself bouncing from one task to the next trying to formulate a plan of how you’re going to “get all this done”?
Or, perhaps you’ve been experiencing a different type of anxiety due to COVID. Maybe you or someone in your life is high risk, so you are extra concerned about the actions you take out of fear that you might infect them?
I get it. Anxiety sucks! It’s also super unhelpful.
Let’s dive into where it comes from and how to help get yourself out of it.
WHERE IT COMES FROM
Our mind starts developing from an early age. Our programming, what we believe to be good and bad, right and wrong, rude or polite, is instilled in us by the age of seven.
As our mind develops, certain patterns get coded as “safe” or “survivable” and our bodies react with the proper hormones and instincts. For example, if you were raised in an abusive household, your mind was exposed to excess stress and anxiety, leading to an excess of cortisol. As an adult, you might find yourself in high stress or high anxiety situations because that’s what your mind trusts to be safe.
But how does this help you now? Your life is very different now than it was when you were seven, right? Here’s where to start: if you can reflect on the past experiences in your life that caused you stress and anxiety, you’ll observe whether there’s a pattern your mind has created for staying safe.
THOUGHTS + MINDSET
Your thoughts are so powerful. Once you have a thought, that thought triggers a feeling. That feeling sends neurotransmitters (little messengers) to the body to release the appropriate hormones.
So let’s apply this understanding of how the mind-body connection works to the real world. You might look at your to-do list and THINK, “There’s no way I can get all this done”, triggering a FEELING of overwhelm and stress, which signals cortisol (that pesky stress hormone) to be released. If your mind is predisposed to dealing with higher levels of stress, it will FIND things to stress about.
Similarly with anxiety, if you have a pattern of experiencing anxiety all the time and you notice things are going well, your mind will narrow in on something for you to worry about. Why? Because your mind is predisposed to anxiety, it will focus on any disturbance that has been brought to it;s attention - instead of just letting it go.
HOW TO CHANGE
What is anxiety?
Anxiety involves a lot of chronic worrying. But what does worrying do to benefit you? Nothing, really. You might argue it’s a survival instinct or it helps prepare you for the future, but unless you’re a wizard, there’s no way to know what the future will hold.
When you let anxiety take over, you end up experiencing negative emotions around a situation that may never happen. You make up stories that have never happened, and probably never will. Sound familiar?
In order to break the anxiety cycle, you need to give your mind a new problem to focus on. How, you wonder? Ask yourself a question. Ideally a question framed for a positive solution. That will help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your anxiety.
In terms of the pandemic, if you are anxious about living with someone who is at high risk for COVID, you might think, “I can’t go here or there because I might get infected and bring that home to my loved one and then they would die.”
First, that’s a false reality. There is no factual evidence that if you go to the suggested place that you will 100% get infected and bring it back, or that the person will die. Yes, you do need to be cautious, but worrying constantly honestly weakens your immune system, which would make you more prone to attracting COVID anyway.
Instead, look at the facts:
Fact #1= I live with someone at high risk.
Fact #2= If I go to said place I could get COVID
That’s it! Everything else is the anxiety story your mind is telling you. If you can accept those facts, then ask yourself “What can I do to still get what I need and still be safe?”
That is a question your mind can work with.
Here’s another example: If you want to go to a friend’s house because you miss feeling a connection, meet up outside (or make sure people have taken COVID tests first)! Have a Zoom party instead! It might not be exactly what you want, but what’s more important - getting what you want the way you want it OR getting what you want and still being safe?
The reality is, living at high risk (or with someone who is high risk) is going to restrict you. So instead of being afraid, anxious, or stressed, accept your reality. Stop being angry you can’t do things. Let go of the way you want to do things and get creative! When you choose to give into the fear or anger you are only making this situation harder on yourself and ultimately weakening your immune system, which is the opposite of what you need right now!
YOU CAN DO THIS
Once you narrow in on the facts, ask yourself the right questions. Accept your situation, and think outside the box about how you can live your best life while being safe.
You don’t have to like it, but there’s also no sense in fighting it.
You got this!