If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed right now, it’s completely understandable. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s been a rollercoaster ride that no one could have predicted. So regardless of whether you’re familiar with anxiety or it’s a new emotional experience for you, be kind to yourself.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to help manage and minimize anxiety, which will help you navigate through and beyond the current crisis. For all the expert advice, we got in touch with our go-to life coach Kira Jean, who shared tons of helpful tips that really do work.
What to Do When You’re Feeling Anxious or Overwhelmed
What makes the current state of the world so full of worry has a lot to do with the uncertainty and unchartered territory of the situation. However, while we cannot control many of the variables of this virus, we can learn to take control of our emotions. So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, rather than allowing the feeling to fester, acknowledge the emotion and take action. Kira recommends doing one or all of these following activities:
1. The 120 Pause
Kira explains one of her favorite exercises: “Stop what you’re doing, sit, relax, and count from 0 to 120 (2 minutes). This will help calm your mind and nervous system.” We know this sounds really simple but it’s a really grounding experience. Plus, it allows your mind to move away from the negative thoughts that are perpetuating your nerves.
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2. Label your Feelings:
“Anxiety is the physical response of underlying thoughts and feelings,” Kira says. “Imagine anxiety as the part of the iceberg we see above the water, underneath can be a number of other thoughts and feelings. When you feel anxious, take a moment to write down “I feel anxious because I’m feeling ____” – fill in the blank – and continue with the same process by replacing ‘anxious’ with the feeling you wrote down in the blank space plus a new feeling. Keep going until you write out everything you’re feeling.”
I feel anxious because I’m feeling worried.
I feel worried because I’m feeling sad.
I feel sad because I’m feeling lonely.
I feel lonely because I’m missing my family.”
Writing out and understanding your emotions helps you to process why you’re feeling the way you are. Even just getting to the bottom of your emotions feels like a weight is lifted.
“Anxiety brings our worries and concerns to the surface and can cause us to feel stuck in a spiral we don’t know how to get out of. Changing our environment can bring instant relief. If you’re feeling anxious, move to a different room, change how or where you’re sitting, move your body in some way,” Kira tells us. We know it sounds simple, but a small change of scene can make a big difference.
Healthy Daily Habits to Minimize Anxiety
Learning how to combat anxiety when it strikes is super important, but try these daily habits that can help to prevent it from taking a grip. Here are three daily practices you can maintain at home that will help to keep you feeling grounded.
“Journaling is something you can do every day. I recommend setting aside 20 minutes in the morning to sit down and write out your thoughts and feelings about certain situations – get them all out on paper. You can use this opportunity to clear your mind. As you write down your thoughts you start to create more space in your mind,” says Kira. For more deets on this daily practice, check out our journaling guide.
2. Commit to Daily Exercise
“Movement in times of stress and uncertainty is an important habit to practice. It’s okay to be more flexible in how you go about it though, the idea of waking up at 5:00 AM and working out for an hour might feel like it’s just too much. Instead, commit to some form of movement for 20 minutes a day. It could be 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night, it could be walking laps around your house, jumping on a mini trampoline, dancing in your living room. It really doesn’t matter what kind of movement you do, simply commit to some form of movement every day,” Kira explains. If you need some more inspo, check out these 6 free at-home workouts.
Another daily habit that can help you de-stress and feel less anxious is meditation. Plus, it’s never been more accessible: there are so many free apps and YouTube videos that guide you through the practice from a 10-minute morning session to an hour-long breathing exercise.
If you’re unsure whether meditation is for you, all you need to do is read the studies and you’ll be won over! One study has shown that it makes you more compassionate and kind to others as you’re more considerate of other people’s emotions. While another study examined the impact of an eight-week mindfulness and meditation course on a group of people, and it found that their ability to stay focused increased.
Quick Mood-Boosting Activities
While you’re social distancing and living in isolation it’s only natural to have ups and downs. Some days you’ll manage to fill your day, find motivation, and be grateful for the small pleasures. Other days, it might not be as easy. In those instances, Kira suggests trying one of these mood-boosting activities:
1. “Every day you miss or wish for something – like going out for a coffee or hugging a loved one – write it down in a notebook or on a little piece of paper that you put in a jar. Make a promise to yourself that once things return to normal you will start working your way through the list of things you wanted to do.”
2. “This might sound like a weird suggestion but screaming into your pillow can help give yourself a sense of relief as you release built-up energy and anxiety.”
3. “I recommend reaching out and helping someone in a small way. This will help you feel less isolated and disconnected. It connects us to shared humanity. When we see the impact our small gesture has on someone else it can really lift our spirits.”
Finally, remember that whatever you’re feeling is valid. We’re experiencing something that no-one in our lifetime has experienced. Another key thing to remember? We’re all in this together. Let us know how you’re feeling in the comments below, and if you have any helpful tips, please feel free to share them.