One sentiment I hear a lot right now that I relate to is a general feeling of unease and fluctuating emotions. During this time of COVID-19, it is common to hear people talk about the roller coaster of emotions they are feeling. One minute we think we have a system, a way of navigating life during the pandemic and that we will be okay. The next minute we feel emotional, anxious and maybe even fearful.
We navigate the fear of getting the virus, the grief of missing out on events and trips we had been planning, the worry about when this will all end, wondering if we will go back to normal and what that will even look like. All these fluctuating emotions lead to a general feeling of anxiety.
Even when we feel “normal” and happy we may be haunted by the feeling that we should not be feeling so good while our community is experiencing such a difficult time. The truth is, feeling good and having a pleasant quality of life is the best thing we can do to get through this pandemic. It will help us continue to follow the safety protocols and help our community get back to normal, whatever that may be, when the pandemic subsides.
When managing anxious feelings, there is a technique commonly used called grounding. This technique helps us connect with our bodies and brings our focus to our physical self, focusing our mind away from the distracting and worrisome thoughts. The thoughts we are having are usually about the future possibilities, or the what ifs. By focusing on the here and now, it helps us feel more grounded and we no longer will notice the anxious feelings.
There are many different grounding techniques, but they all work on shifting your focus to distract you from the anxious feelings. You can do something physical like go for a walk or do some exercises inside your home. You can also do something to shift your focus like pick a color and then look around the room and try to find as many things in that color as you can. If you find breathing or meditation exercises useful then consider trying those.
If you are still having trouble calming your mind you can do a technique that focuses on your senses. There is one called the 5-4-3-2-1 practice. You first focus your attention on five things you can see around you, then four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Once you have found a method to calm your mind and be more present, think about how to maintain that longer term. Think about what you were doing when the anxious feelings started. Were you watching the news or doing chores? Was there something that could be changed to prevent this from happening again? I often find it is when I am not busy focusing on a task, the anxious feelings creep in. Consider arranging your day to provide more structure and put boundaries on watching and reading the news.
Experiencing stress and anxiety during difficult times is a normal response. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is lasting longer then most imagined. Sustaining these difficult feelings for a long period of time will take a toll physically and emotionally. Practicing some simple techniques to help ourselves feel calmer and reduce our stress will be worth it for our long-term health.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.