How exactly do you quiet a mind that’s full of worries even for just one weekend?
The last few weeks have been rough—to say the least—for everyone. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, establishments have been closed down, people have been laid off from their jobs and told to stay at home, essential workers on the other hand, go to work every day with fear of catching the deadly virus, and those who got sick go through an ordeal that even celebrated tenor, Andrea Bocelli describes as a nightmare.
It is therefore understandable for anyone to feel anxious at this time. And one thing you should realize is that you are not alone.
Almost Everyone is Anxious
Data from Washington Post-ABC News Poll conducted last late March shows that three out of four Americans feel like their lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, with 50 percent of the population expressing that the virus has had “a lot” of effects on their lives. In addition, the same poll also shows that 77 percent of American women and 61 percent of American men felt personal stress in relation to this whole ordeal, not just because of job security, but also because of fear that they or someone in their immediate family will catch the disease.
To paint a clearer picture of just how troubled people are these days, the stress levels reflected in the said poll are significantly higher compared to those during the deep recession of 2009, where six out of 10 people said that the economy has caused them worry. Today, seven out of every 10 Americans say that the virus has been causing them stress, with one out of three saying that it causes them “serious stress”.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last April seems to reflect the same findings from the poll. The survey shows that 72% of Americans feel that their lives have been disrupted “a lot” or “some” by the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, more than half (59 percent) say that they are worried that their investments will be negatively impacted for a long time. More than half of the respondents (52 percent) expressed fear of losing their jobs, while 45 percent say they are worried that they will lose income due to a workplace closure or reduced hours.
More than half of the respondents (53 percent) also expressed fear about themselves or a family member getting sick from coronavirus.
In summary, there has been a lot of worry in everyone’s minds these days, so if you’re feeling anxious about the same things and have been having trouble sleeping or functioning, you need to understand that you are not alone. This is very important, especially at a time when physical distancing is very much encouraged. Knowing that you’re not alone in a battle gives you a sense of connection as well as hope.
That Feeling is Called Grief
In a Harvard Business Review article published late March, the author, Scott Berinato, and the rest of the website’s publishing team named the sadness they were feeling as grief. They discussed this idea with notable author and death and grieving expert, David Kessler, who confirmed and gave a few words to help those in the same state.
“Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different,” he says.
When asked about what he means by us feeling more than one kind of grief, Kessler replies, “Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”
Dealing with Grief, Stress and Anxiety
Kessler then proceeds to say that in order to manage our emotions, we must first understand the stages of grief. The stages of grief, according to him, are not linear, and may not happen in the same order he’s explained them.
“It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”
The next step is acceptance. That is to say, finding things that we can accept so as to have a feeling of control. “We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”
Learning to Relax
Amidst all the stress and anxiety that the world is feeling, experts are providing tips on how to disconnect from all the chaos to allow your mind to slow down and relax. Some of them are:
1. Limit your media diet. At a time when everyone is bombarded by all sorts of negative news, one may find comfort by limiting time and energy spent consuming all this information. Stay updated, yes, but also learn to identify when you’re already drowning from all the information you’re receiving. When you start to feel anxiety creeping in, perhaps it’s time to take a step back. Also, choose to get your information from credible sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
2. Establish a routine. Routines are great for allowing us to ease into a new life—or in our case, a new normal. Especially, if you’re working from home, it really helps to have a weekday and weekend schedule. A couple of things to keep in mind when establishing a routine, make sure to have time for breaks, and to space out meals properly. In addition, try to include pockets of happy quiet hours when you can indulge in a bit of me time with just your thoughts, your surroundings, and yourself.
3. Re/discover your passion. Try to go back to your roots and remember the things that used to make you happy. Experimenting in the kitchen? Singing? Arts? Architecture? We all have something we used to be very passionate about that we somehow left behind. Try to search for this inside you and work on it again little by little. It’s important to not force it and stop as soon as it starts to feel like a chore. You’ll find that as you reconnect with one old source of happiness, sooner than later, you’ll find other reasons to relax, smile, and be happy about.
4. Live in the moment. One of the things that’s causing people stress and anxiety is their negative views of the future. Everyone is so worried that they forget to appreciate all the beautiful things they have like the safety of their family and friends, the food on their table, and so on. At some point, you need to stop stressing about the bad things that can happen and learn to be thankful for what you have.
5. Help others. This fact is backed by science—helping others makes us feel good. Try to find a sustainable way to watch out for those who can’t take care of themselves. Selflessness is a form of love so fulfilling that only you can give it to yourself.