Uncertainty feeds anxiety, and the pandemic we face has so many unknowns. How long will it last? How much worse will it get? Should I go to work? How much food do I really need? Can I see my relatives and friends? What if I die, or someone I love dies? Anxiety can quickly spiral down into panic. How do we calm ourselves when nothing around us seems calm at all?
- Strengthen your tolerance for uncertainty through awareness and acceptance of life as risk. There is risk to our lives in countless ways every day, every minute – we just don’t think about it or feel it. COVID-19 makes us think about and feel it. Strengthen your tolerance for uncertainty by remembering that we are always at risk in life, and we survive most of those daily risks.
- Stay in the present. We are hearing a lot of predictions about how long the pandemic will last, but we really don’t know yet. So leave those predictions to the experts, and keep your focus on today and tomorrow. Looking ahead leads to ‘catastrophizing,’ – slipping into an imaginary worst-case scenario. A shorter-term focus creates a calmer mind.
- Take advantage of the mental health services which are being provided now by phone and online. Having our social lives abruptly halted makes us unable to distract from everything we usually avoid, not just the virus. Isolation can be lonely anyway, but it can also bring out emotional issues which might need attention.
- Embrace vulnerability. The American Dream is about strength, fight and individual power, but that message, intended to inspire us, may give us an unrealistic illusion of control. We are part of life, not completely in control of it. Acceptance of our true place in life might be humbling, but it can also be strengthening; we can only do our best. If we can’t control events around us, we can affect how we interpret, and react to, those events.
So, while we are in an accentuated time of risk, let’s not let the pandemic become a “panicdemic.” Let each of us use all of the cautionary methods which have been prescribed, and strive to manage our anxiety in as many ways as we can.