5 Steps to Stay Calm During a Pandemic
When fear is high we need go to practical solutions to reduce stress
Posted March 14, 2020 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
I know how hard it has been lately to focus on anything besides the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been talking to clients all week about their fears. I have compiled this list of 5 tips to help you reduce your stress during these unforeseen times.
Feel your feet on the ground. When anxiety overtakes us you can feel like you are floating outside of your body. You might even feel lightheaded and dizzy. These reactions are our sympathetic nervous system (biological stress responses) in action. By feeling your feet on the floor, back in the chair, and breath coming in and out of your nostrils you quickly shift from the stress response to the relaxation response. In times of crisis we need to make good decisions. The decision-making part of our brain works best when the relaxation response is activated. So, keep feeling your feet on the floor and your back in the chair. Ground yourself throughout the day.
Move the anxiety through your body (DANCE). We hold so much of our feelings in our bodies. Think of the last time you were worried about an email response you were anticipating. Feel your shoulders tense and your stomach tighten? Our body holds our stress, and the more it holds the more it aches and hurts. Since we are being overloaded with stress right now we need to move the stress through our bodies. The best way to do this is to move. Run, jump, or dance. Find your favorite song and move your hips. Shake your body and let the feelings move through.
Focus on what has not changed. Look around you right now and list 3 things that have not changed since the crisis. Are your plants still growing and needing water? Are your kids still asking you to bring them a snack? Are you still getting weather updates on your phone? Are you still brushing your teeth (I hope so)? Focus on what is staying the same. Do what you can to keep routines.
Allow yourself to feel your fear. Over the past week I have been noticing that my clients feel as if they need to take a stance on the crisis. Either they can feel like this is the worst thing that has ever happened or it is being blown out of proportion. I have said over 100 times this week that there is a response in between. You can be worried and feel fear without having to catastrophize or minimize. Allow yourself to feel some fear and concern without panicking and you will be able to make better decisions. You do not have to be anything more or less than what you are in this moment. Feel your feelings and share them with someone close to you. Don’t try to push your feelings away or they will just come out sideways.
List times when you handled the unknown. Not knowing what is going to happen and how long this crisis will last causes lots of fear in all of us. It is important to keep in mind that there have been other situations in which you felt afraid in a situation with an unknown outcome and you made it through. For example, birthing a child, graduating from school, starting a new job, learning to ride a bicycle or learning to drive a car. Write down a list of the unknown situations you handled in the past. Keep this as a reference point to your ability to handle unknown situations. You can handle this one too!