By Mike Rizzo (LMFT, CSAC)
I don’t know about you but what is going on in the world right now is making me very anxious. The COVID-19 virus is new to us all and there is not a lot we know about it right now. Certainly, there is no definitive treatment yet, and as of now the only course of action we have is to isolate and quarantine ourselves. Human beings, by nature, are very social beings and to sit at home and in place goes against our nature and can lead to increase in our anxiety. Virus + isolation = increased anxiety.
So, what does one do with our increased anxiety? Anxiety can be helpful, it warns us, it informs us. But too much anxiety can be detrimental to our well being. Listed below are my 3 top tips for dealing with anxiety.
Exercise is known to reduce stress and anxiety. When we exercise endorphins are released into the brain and reduce the perception of pain. Endorphins act as an analgesic and can also act as a sedative. Many runners often describe a feeling of euphoria, more commonly referred to as a “runners high”. This release of endorphins act as a natural relaxant and give us a homeopathic way of dealing with life stressors. If running is not your thing than a simple 15-20 minute walk can produce similar results.
Meditation can be another successful way of reducing your anxiety. As I write this, I can imagine some people rolling their eyes in skepticism. I can tell you, I too, was one of those people. Meditation can be challenging for some people and it can be hard to sit still for the allotted time. You don’t need to be good at it, you just need to start. Short guided meditations can be quite effective. There is an app called Calm that offers short guided meditations and Deepak and Orpah’s series of meditation can be quite effective. Where I started was an app called 10 Percent Happier, founded by Dan Harris. This app was designed for the skeptic meditator. Exactly what I needed at the time.
Grounding exercises are the exact opposite of mediation. Where meditation can bring you inward, grounding is designed to bring you outside yourself. There are a three grounding exercises I would like to introduce to you.
First exercise is counting backwards from 100 by three. It doesn’t work with any other number; it must be three. Try it! Go ahead I’ll wait. First close your eyes, begin …Ok that’s good. I generally ask the participant what they were thinking while doing it, usually the response was they were only counting. The reality is you can’t think of two things at the same time, thus it distracts you from feeling anxious.
The next exercise would be to pick a color. Once you decide a color look around the room and verbally name what you see that is that color. Do this for at least two to five minutes and see if you become more present in your environment. You may need to repeat this a few times to significantly reduce your anxiety.
My last grounding exercise is one of my favorites. When you notice your feeling anxious, say hello to your anxiety. “Hello Anxiety.” The first time I did this it caused me to chuckle, but I did notice a reduction in my anxiety. Now ask your anxiety what it wants. “What can I help you with anxiety?” Respond to the question and then verbally respond to the answer. When I was in grad. school I would often wake up early with a knot in my stomach. I would then say hello to my anxiety (followed by a chuckle) and then I would ask it what it wanted, and a typical response would be that it was nervous about the papers we needed to write that week. I would then lay out the plan for accomplishing these assignments, which would greatly reduce my anxiety and allow me to self-sooth.
The next time you’re feeling anxious try one or all of these tips to overcome your feelings of anxiety. Please know that if your feeling anxious at this time you are not alone, others may be feeling the way you do. If you need additional support please feel free to call CAST Centers. CAST Centers offers anxiety treatment programming that can be helpful during this difficult time.