March 18, 2020 11:55 AM | by Farida Abdel Malek
How to Deal With Anxiety Right Now and for the Long Run
I'm sitting in my room on my desk, one that I hadn't sat on since my 3rd year of university, feeling sad and quite anxious. I've been in quarantine for almost 4 days and I'm proud I've made that very important decision, that frankly shouldn't even be an option. I miss my friends, my office, my fiancé and being just outside and I can't help but think about how much these feelings are probably going to intensify as the days go by...
However, I am not alone in this. Due to the current circumstances leading to quarantine and social distancing, we are all forced to adapt to a different lifestyle, routine and living circumstance that we are not used to. With that, unfortunately, a lot of us experience mental strain, states of panic, anxiety and depression.
We have an interesting piece about how anxiety and depression affect a relationship...
Before we delve into how to deal fear and anxiety or, if I'm being totally honest, how to control your anxiety to the best of your ability and work on your wellness, I think we need to start with the basics...
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is a state of worrying, which can be very different than fear. They both feel the same and with anxiety comes fear, but it's very important to slightly differentiate between the two. To worry is to panic and be scared of something that is not happening to you or has not happened yet. Fear is being scared from a situation you're in right now. Let me give you an example...
Fear: There's a lion standing behind the door right now, you know that for a fact and you can even see it through the peep hole. You're terrified.
Worry: You're constantly terrified of the idea that a lion could be standing behind the door. Is there a lion there right now? No.
Practices of mindfulness always focus on the 'here and now' or being present in the moment. When you are able to achieve that, you are finally capable of convincing your mind that you're not going to worry about the 'what if's and 'what could happen's. Why? Because right now they're not happening, right now you're safe...
So, what are the things that you can do to deal with anxiety?
We're going to discuss a few things, some of them are big therapeutic and wellness techniques and others are very simple everyday distractions to help take your mind off of your anxiety.
- Emotional Regulation
This is something that you could practice and even keep doing for the rest of your life. Overtime, you will hopefully become quicker, better at doing this, where eventually it could become automatic because you will have trained your mind to function is this new way.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
Ask yourself, what is the emotion I'm feeling? Am I scared? Am I sad? Is this anger?
2. What triggered this emotion?
Was it a thought? An assumption I made in my head? Was it a conversation I had yesterday? Is it someone I saw?
3. What thoughts and assumptions have you developed in your mind?
Am I worried something's going to happen? Am I upset because of how people are going to see me? Am I scared of losing someone?
4. Now add the worst case scenario...Ask yourself, What if?
What is the worst thing that could happen? I could get sick? I'm going to lose this person? I won't make my deadline? I'll get fired? I'm never going to be in a relationship?
5. Now analyze this worst case scenario and trick your mind into accepting it...
You can take the worst case scenario and follow the event as if it would happen. So, what if I don't make my deadline? What if I get sick? What if I lose this person?
What you start to realize, is that things might not be as bad as you thought. Or even if they are, there's nothing you can do about it and life goes on. So you might as well enjoy this time right now, where nothing bad is currently happening.
6. Does the worst case scenario match the situation?
Where are you right now? What is currently happening? Is it anything close to having any of the worst case scenarios happen? You will find a lot of the time that it's not, that you're far away from that. It is something that your mind has blown out of proportion or something that is way out of your control.
However, if you believe that the worst case scenario is actually close to where you are...
You can start looking for what you can actually do about this thing that's worrying you. There are 3 options...
Opposite actions: Fight the fear by going through that fear. For example, if you're scared of being alone, go out to dinner and eat alone.
Find the solution and do it: If you know of a solution that can actually help with the situation, start taking steps towards that.
Or do nothing: If both of these don't work for you or are too stressful, you can choose to do nothing. But here, you learn to accept that this is happening, there's nothing you can do about it and you will make your peace with that.
The technique we mentioned above is used in therapy and counseling a lot. But every person is different and needs different approaches when it comes to dealing with anxiety, and it could be difficult to do this on your own. Your anxiety and feelings could be triggered by something deeper, something from your childhood. Here you might want to consider going to therapy and talking to a professional who will help you re-wire the mind and go back to the root of the issue. Therapy can be hard, but it can also be life changing.
I also wrote about my experience with therapy here, if you're interested in checking it out...
- Breathing Techniques and Meditation
For more instant forms of relief when it comes to dealing with anxiety, breathing techniques and meditation have been known to do wonders. They are very difficult and take a lot of practice. You can simply start by taking 2 minutes everyday to practice breathing and try to focus your mind on your breathing only. How does the breath feel? Is it cold or warm? Visualize it going in and out. Give it a color. You can even count if it helps.
There are a lot of apps that have guided meditation or you can practice with an expert and learn different breathing techniques that can truly do wonders for the mind and body.
It is not the best thing to be on right now. It's packed with horrible anxiety triggering news. I did, however, come across a post by Nour Mady that highlighted something very important and interesting...
What resonated with me was the fact that we're all on the same boat, going through the same thing. It has come to a point where our feed has actually brought some sort of calmness, because we feel like we're not alone. Everyone around the world, coming from different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles and with different incomes, is going through the same thing.
The fast paced, competitiveness of social media, where you always feel like you can't catch up and people are more successful or doing more interesting things than you are, has faded away somehow...
However, may I remind you to try to follow things that bring you comfort and positivity. Avoid negative posts or too much news, which only brings panic. Read positive things, like quotes, posts and articles. These things have personally helped me a lot these past few days.
I cannot stress enough how much self care can help you deal with anxiety. For me, it's actually the first thing I go to. I get up, take a shower, put on my nicest Pj's, open up an oldies playlist, put on face masks, do my skincare, massage my face, light a candle, organize my room, make a cup of tea and watch something that always makes me happy. Believe me, I feel 10 times better and have such a good night sleep.
For you, self care can be very different. The point is to dedicate time for you and only you. Do the things that are kind and loving towards yourself. Pamper and spoil yourself and most importantly try to get up and move around. Indulge in something that will take your mind off of your anxiety and worries.
- Art, Film and TV
We are blessed with art for so many reasons, among them is escapism. When you get lost in a book for hours, or lose track of the outside world binge watching a TV show or a fascinating film. Or when you even have your own form of art that you practice, that could be painting, playing an instrument or even cooking and writing. These are all things we get lost in, they help us forget about what's happening, what's worrying us and the terrifying anxious thoughts we're having.
And sometimes in a very special light bulb moment...art actually helps us deal with our anxiety. It helps us resolve an issue or come to a realization...
Main Image Credits: Instagram @taylorlashae
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