3 Simple Tips for Coping with Anxiety During COVID
Anxiety is triggered by stressors in our lives and environments. Your body naturally responds to stress with feelings of fear and apprehension, which are what we classify as anxiety. And unfortunately, it can be pretty debilitating. Anxiety can be triggered by all sorts of things; sometimes a big life change can trigger feelings of anxiety while other times it may simply be a buildup of small events that lead you to feeling excessive worry and stress. It’s important to recognize that while feelings of anxiety are valid and okay, they are also manageable. And, the good news is that there are plenty of ways that you can manage your anxiety and stay positive during tough times. Here are some of our favorite ways to manage anxiety:
Analyze Your Thought Patterns
If you’re an analytical thinker, this is a great method for managing and coping with anxiety. Anxiety is often triggered by negative thoughts that you allow to enter and become at home in your mind. As you focus on the negative, you begin to distort the severity of the situation and you may find yourself getting stressed and overwhelmed. If you find yourself getting into a pattern of negative thoughts and allowing your mind to focus on those things, slow down and take a deep breath.
- Recognize the thoughts that are entering your mind and pay attention to the pattern that you’re allowing yourself to fall into.
- Acknowledge the thoughts and the pattern that you are creating and acknowledge that you want to put a stop to that pattern.
- Express what exactly you want to change and how that will make your thoughts different moving forward.
- Choose and then focus on a different thought or behavior instead of the negative thoughts. Choose something that serves your goals and helps you to move forward instead of dwelling on difficult or scary situations.
By slowing down and allowing yourself to recognize negative thoughts and their patterns, you can help curb anxiety and refocus your thoughts on things that are positive and productive.
Focus Your Breath
Focused breathing is a practice that allows you to be present in the moment and to focus only on the act of breathing in and out. Focused breathing serves two purposes; firstly, it helps to slow your mind down and ground you on something present and tangible. This can provide comfort, especially if you are experiencing anxiety due to the unknown or uncontrollable circumstances. Focused breathing also evens out and slows down your heart rate, which will help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and calm you down.
- 4-7-8 Breathing – One method of focused breathing is the 4-7-8 technique. To begin, find a comfortable place to sit or lie down where you will not be distracted by your surroundings and area able to relax. Next, rest the tip of your tongue on the top of your mouth. Your tongue should be relaxed and should rest right behind your top front teeth. It’s important to keep your tongue in this position during the entire practice, even as you exhale. To begin 4-7-8 breathing, let your lips part with a whooshing sound. Exhale your breath completely through the mouth. Then, close your lips and inhale through your nose. As you inhale, count to four. At the end of four seconds, cease the inhale and hold your breath for seven seconds. Finally, make a loud whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds. This cycle should be repeated for four complete breaths. If you fall asleep, don’t worry! That simply means that you were able to fully relax your body and give it the restoration that it needs.
Start a Journal
Journaling is a great way to get the stressors and anxiety triggers out of your head. It works similarly to talking to a mental health professional, and in fact, you can even bring those thoughts with you to a telehealth or counseling session! If you struggle with sporadic anxiety rather than ongoing anxiety, writing down your thoughts when you feel yourself growing anxious is an effective way of releasing the negative thoughts and energy from your mind and allowing yourself to focus on more positive experiences.
- How to Start an Anxiety Journal – If you’re not sure where to start with your journal, don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be daunting or scary and in fact, it should be an outlet rather than another source of stress. To help you get started, try setting aside a few minutes every day to write. That will give you the opportunity to spend some daily time focusing on yourself and altering your thought patterns. Next, keep your journal handy. By having a pen and paper or your notebook on you at all times, you’ll be able to write down any thoughts that you feel you want to get out. Don’t worry about structuring your journal in a certain way, either. Many people think that they need to write in a certain style or only use words to express themselves. Do whatever feels right and helps you to focus and ground yourself. A few ideas include:
- Keep an art journal and express your thoughts through imagery.
- Start a journal in a note on your phone or computer.
- Write in poetry or in a language that you speak regularly at home.
- Don’t worry about spelling or what people would think if they read your thoughts.
Whatever you choose to do with your journal, simply know that it is yours and it is an outlet and an expression of you. Keeping your journal may help you to feel a sense of order and peace during chaotic or stressful times.
No matter what method you choose to help cope with anxiety, know that you are strong and you can do this! If you feel you need some extra help and encouragement, the team at My LA Therapy is here to help. All of our professionals are available for telehealth and web conferencing calls to assist you during the COVID-19 epidemic. We’re here to help whenever you need us.
Brooke Sprowl, LCSW is the clinical director and founder of My LA Therapy. She is passionate about working with and writing or speaking about purpose and personal transformation, radical responsibility and the reflection principle, anxiety, authentic spirituality, and relationship issues with couples and singles such as codependency.