The Montfort Group

Pandemic anxiety? 5 things to consider

Is the worst of the pandemic over, or is it threatening a return? Some people enjoy a sense of relief and renewed freedom. Still, for others, the thought of things reverting to normal brings a paralyzing sense of anxiety. 

1. Remember that anxiety is designed to help us.

Anxiety is unpleasant, and that’s an understatement, but it does have an essential purpose. The cluster of experiences that characterize it – the thoughts, emotions, and physical feelings – are not designed to make us miserable but to activate our sympathetic nervous system. Though it doesn’t come naturally, we can begin to feel some relief if we can remember that anxiety is meant to protect us and keep us safe. We can reframe our relationship by making anxious feelings into an ally. 

What is anxiety’s purpose during this time?

What, exactly, is it attempting to protect us from? If we can answer these questions, it becomes possible to identify the elements of life we can’t control and which aspects we can, and from there, offer ourselves some of the sense of protection we crave. If we’re stuck on the possibility of getting sick, we can choose to take positive action and do our utmost to take care of our physical health. Suppose we conclude that the worry is out of our hands, such as our company’s work-from-home policy. In that case, we may benefit from common coping mechanisms like breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises. 

2. Let yourself feel all those unwanted emotions.

Fear, anger, disappointment, frustration. Since the pandemic began, we’ve all felt these feelings to varying degrees. Some of us have suffered devasting grief, the loss of a loved one being the greatest of these. Even those fortunate enough to survive relatively unscathed have dealt with small, daily losses. Over time, these accumulate and can wear us down. Sometimes we feel that one more stressor may be the one to break the camel’s back. It may help to accept that our bucket is full. In this way, we are permitting ourselves to have some extra compassion for ourselves. 

Remember: We must fully feel our feelings for them to move through us and be released. Only then can we make room for other, more desirable ones. 

3. Set aside time to contemplate

When unwanted thoughts come, give yourself a limited period, say 15 minutes, to dwell on them. Getting sick, the restrictions returning, and other aspects of pandemic life can overtake us. Still, we can choose to be comforted by the realization that this is our brain attempting to problem-solve. The simple strategy of allowing ourselves space to worry may assist us in containing our anxiety and compartmentalizing it, which will likely help prevent it from spilling over into every area of life. 

4. Acknowledge that uncertainty is difficult

Very few of us are fond of uncertainty. But what if we could change our attitude towards the unknown? Perhaps we can reflect on a time in the past when we worried about the future only to find that, in time, things worked out better than we could have ever imagined. Or, at least, not as disastrously as we had feared! We may know someone who is more comfortable with uncertainty than we are and is better able to reframe the undetermined. How is their mindset different from ours? A coffee and a chat with them could be just what we need at a time like this! 

5. Accept that life has changed.

Over the last few years, much talk has been about “getting back to normal,” but what if we can create a new normal? And that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! This is the perfect time to take stock of our familiar way of being, hold onto what is good and leave behind old habits which no longer serve us. 

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