Conduct an Emotional Status Check Once a Day
An easy strategy for coping.
Posted Mar 27, 2020
A goal I have for myself, my family, my loved ones, and the clients I see in my practice is to emerge from this crisis as psychologically intact as possible. However, a roadblock to psychological health is to disconnect from our emotional experiences and the anxiety we are experiencing at this moment. It is tempting when there is so much uncertainty to just exist in an agitated/stressed-out state. Although we are not at peace, we don't stop to reflect on this fact. Instead, we keep pushing forward and the agitation only escalates.
When we avoid our emotions, we do not have peace of mind. Uncertain thoughts stick in repeat mode, we continually ask ourselves questions that no one can answer in this moment: “When will the pandemic end? “What will happen to my kids if they don’t go to school?” “How will I make money?” “What if I get the virus?” You go about your life, doing your work, taking care of your kids, watching the news, and never pause to observe the stress pulsing through your body. As a result, you remain hooked in a hyper-vigilant state, a state of agitation that over time becomes your new reality.
Short circuit this anxious new reality. Self-awareness is a key factor in resiliency and overcoming stressful and traumatic events. As we pause and reflect on what we are feeling, we paradoxically become free of it. Our bodies will remain stressed out and anxious until we observe and become aware of what we are feeling. Here is an easy exercise to become more aware of your feelings and to let go of anxious energy.
Literally force yourself to take a 15-minute timeout once a day to take care of your emotional health: conduct an emotional status check of your own self. Try it now.
Go to a safe quiet place. This can be outside if you can’t get away from the people in your household. Sit comfortably.
- Set a 15-minute timer on your phone.
- Close your eyes and gently breathe in and out.
- See if each time you exhale you can make it longer than the one before.
- Put your hand over your heart. Can you focus all of your attention on feeling your heartbeat ... beat ... beat?
- Now, let the anxiety in. Literally invite your fears, worry, upset in. Say, "You are welcome here, I want to see you."
- Mentally note where the tension lies in your body.
- Label the physical sensations. Is your chest tight? Does your stomach sink? Is your head full feeling? Note how the sensations change, become more or less intense.
- Go back to your breath. Use your focus on your breath to ease the intensity of your physical sensations.
- Develop a positive mantra and say it now. “This will pass,” or “Things won’t always be this way,” “I can be certain that in this moment I am OK,” “I can live here in the present.”
- Now, open your eyes. Go back to your new reality.
Everything is temporary. This new reality will eventually pass. For now, you can only focus on what you can control. For more strategies for managing anxiety check out my book, Be Calm: Proven Techniques to Stop Anxiety Now.