Y’all, the last couple weeks have been a doozy. I’m not sure how much of it is my own perception, but I feel like the past few days have seen a tipping point in the levels of coronavirus anxiety among, well, just about everyone I know. At church last Sunday, we refrained from shaking hands during the greeting time, and multiple friends of mine have bailed on social events due to fears of being in crowded public spaces. Oh, and SXSW was cancelled in Austin for the first time in its 34-year history after the city declared a “local disaster.” These are not normal times we’re living in.
As someone who doesn’t typically struggle with anxiety, I’ve been surprised at how deeply I’ve felt the fears over not just catching the virus (reading the statistics does make me feel better on that front), but thinking about the societal shifts, the cancelled travel, the struggling businesses across various sectors, the panic shopping as people clear supermarket shelves of toilet paper… these are the things keeping me up at night. Also, that person sneezing in front of me at church and setting her used tissue on the seat a foot away, but I digress.
Knowing that we may be dealing with this thing for the long haul, I think we have an opportunity to look within and examine how we deal with stress in uncertain times.
Do we let anxious thoughts get the better of us and prevent us from being fully present? Are we swept up in politically-driven news stories meant to incite fear? Do we let panic get in the way of living our fullest lives?
Though I’ve been guilty of each of these from time to time over the last several days, I’m using this coronavirus scare as an opportunity to focus on the things I can do and trust God with the rest. To consciously choose a calm and unshakeable spirit that’s not driven by fear. And to wake up each morning making time to breathe deeply, be grateful for a new day, and release my grip on what’s out of my control.
Scroll on for a few very specific things I’m doing to keep my stress levels in check, as well as some tips from our associate editor, Kat, as she deals with her own anxiety during this time.
image: outdoor voices
1 – Move your body every day.
It’s been said that exercise can be as effective as prescription meds for treating anxiety, and I totally get it. When I’m feeling anxious, I opt for gentler, more restorative workouts: pilates, barre, yoga, walking — over intense, cortisol-inducing cardio. Do what feels good to you, whether that’s dance, boxing, or a jog around the block, and bonus points if you can spark a major serotonin release by doing it outside in the sunshine.
image: hannah zahner
2 – Get a full night’s sleep every night.
This is hands-down my MVP of dealing with anxiety. Not only can I think more clearly after a good night’s sleep, but it’s been shown that while we sleep, our bodies undergo processes that flush our bodies of toxins, balance our hormones and help us assimilate information from the day. That said, when I’m feeling anxious, sleep can be most elusive. I have to be extra vigilant about sleep hygiene during stressful periods, which means powering down my devices an hour before bed, taking my supplements (I’m doing a micro dose of melatonin lately), and reading something non-stressful before it’s time to nod off.
3 – Start the day with meditation / journaling / time to reflect.
I know, I know: mornings are busy. But this doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, and trust me that even a few minutes makes a major difference. I’ve been using Insight Timer as my meditation app of choice, and usually I find a guided meditation that’s around 10 minutes. Afterwards, I pull out my journal (I type it in an Evernote) and free write for 5 minutes about whatever is on my mind. Just getting it out on paper helps me feel clear and ready for the day.
image: kristen kilpatrick
1 – Be mindful of your diet.
Stress eating, anyone? Guilty. When I’m feeling anxious, I take a good hard look at what I’ve been putting in my body the past few days. Have I been over-indulging in carbs, sugar, and alcohol? When I get off the healthy eating train, I notice a spike in my anxiety like clock work. It’s so important for me to feed my brain and my body with leafy greens, lots of protein, and healthy carbs and fats. Also, WATER! So much water. For whatever reason my body feels like it can never get enough water. I usually have a bottle on me at all times, and if I don’t get my 2-3L a day in, I notice that I get foggy, tired, and being dehydrated actually makes me crave sugar more, too. Drink up and eat up, but do it the right way for a happy head and heart.
image: kristen kilpatrick
2 – Do a mental check in.
I recently came across this inspiring article on how regular self-reflection gives you and a happier and more successful life. According to the article, here’s what happens when we don’t take the time to stop and reflect: “We keep moving. We push through. We stay in jobs that are (literally) killing us, relationships that zap our energy, circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated and tired. We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we don’t have time to waste. So we keep moving in order to keep up. But too often, we just crash and burn. That’s because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is to STOP. To hop off the treadmill. To reflect on what’s working and what’s not. To identify what to keep and what needs to change.”
Woah. Preach! This was a powerful reminder for me as I’ve been dealing with feelings of anxiety in almost every area of my life lately. When I sit down and take the time to stop and reflect on why I’m feeling anxious, and really break down what it is that I am worried or overwhelmed about, I usually realize that I am putting pressure on myself to go 150mph in my work, home, family, and social life. The expectations I put on myself to excel in my career, be an amazing wife, mom, daughter, sister, and an attentive, supportive friend are sometimes way too high — and I need to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can, and that’s simply the best I can do. Or on the flip side, I may need to reflect and be real with myself in admitting that certain lifestyle choices I’ve taken lately aren’t working for me to feel happy and healthy, (looking at you, post 3-day wine bender in Napa with the girls…) and I need to make some healthy changes in order to get back to being the best version of myself.
image: ashley kane
3 – Get inspired.
When anxiety creeps in, it can be hard to tackle anything on your to do list. When I feel so overwhelmed with life that I don’t know really where to begin, I take a deep breath and bring in the reinforcements. These can look different for everyone — for me, it’s putting on an uplifting podcast and drinking a cup of tea, calling my mom or a friend to chat about how I’m feeling and hear a new perspective, doing something creative that makes me happy, or blasting Maggie Rogers on a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. Find what it is (or who it is) that inspires you to be more positive, motivated, and happy, and lean on them when you’re struggling. Chances are you’ll come back to whatever you’re putting off on your to do list feeling refreshed and ready, with a knowing that everything is going to be okay.