How to Panic Less in the Pandemic

And just like that, life has changed dramatically for all of us. For some of us that change will be more seismic than for others. Some have needed to relocate from the office to home. For others the changes in employment will be more pronounced. Some will have become unexpected teachers to young children and others will be worrying more for those at the other end of the age spectrum. These of course are just some of the adjustments that have been thrust upon us and there may be more to come.
I don’t pretend to have any of the answers as to how this whole thing is going to play out, but if you will allow, I’d like to share some thoughts on how we might be able to panic less in this pandemic.

Come at me anxiety, but only when I tell you!

As a therapist, I can often be trying to help people understand where their worry and anxiety is irrational. It is these irrational thoughts that induce feelings of panic. However, it would be foolish of me to say that worry at this time is irrational. It isn’t. It is very rational to be worried at this moment in time. With that being said, I feel that there are some things that we can do to boundary this sense of anxiety.

Expect to be anxious

Often anxiety can sneak up on us suddenly. It can be an unexpected visitor that hijacks our present. However, one thing that may be helpful when you feel worried about this current situation is to acknowledge to your anxious thoughts that were expecting them to knock on your door. Audibly or internally you could say something like, “Ah, there you are. I was expecting you to come to me today.” This can help disarm the element of surprise and enable you take a position of control of these feelings.

Open the door on your terms

Once you have acknowledged that the worry is at your door, it may be helpful for you to determine whether you open the door at that time or not. By doing this you are drawing a boundary around your worry. One attribute of anxiety can be ruminating thoughts and at time like this we can all fall into that pattern. However, as the feelings of worry and anxiety visit you, it may be useful to set aside a particular time of the day where you allow those feelings in through the door. Allow yourself some time during the day to spend time thinking about what is going on in the world. But do this once or maybe twice a day and when it is not the time to ponder the situation, don’t open the door to it and tell the worry it can only visit when you say so, on your terms.

Accept that you are anxious

Anxiety is a normal reaction at this time, so accept the fact that you are worried. Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling this way. Take the time to be compassionate to yourself at this time.

Limit your media intake

Has anyone else’s WhatsApp been more active then usual? It’s not just the mainstream media outlets that have been reporting on COVID-19 non-stop, but so too are the amateur reporters in our lives. Try to make sure you listen to official lines. Limit your social media usage as it can fuel our fears. Also, we live in the age of 24/7 news channels. Update yourself once a day and try not to go looking for news on a regular basis.

Structure your day

For many of us our normal and regular routines have disappeared. However, all of us love structure, our brains need it to a degree also. If we have small (or big) children under our roof the sense of routine will be even more important. Put in place a structure for your day. A helpful thing may be to “think in ink” before you go bed the night before and write down a plan for the next day. It of course doesn’t have to be rigorous and if an item or two falls by the wayside, be kind to yourself. But do try and maintain a structure. This will help you navigate these days that we are in.

Do normal things too. Stick to your normal bed time, eat well, get up at the same time you usually do. Avoid staying in your sleep wear. Get dressed. I mean, the Amazon delivery guy may still appear! Don’t neglect your personal hygiene. I’m not telling you to wash your hands, you know about that already, but wash, shave if you normally do, pop on some make up if that’s your thing. Shower. Keep up your normal hygiene regime. As silly as that may sound, this can really help our mindset and set the tone for the day ahead.

ACE your day

It’s a good idea to ACE your day. That means do things that give you a sense of ACHIEVEMENT, CLOSENESS and ENJOYMENT. These are three things that our brains love.

Achievement can be anything from tidying a press, fixing up the bike in garage or getting your tax return done.

Closeness has been redefined in the last few weeks but there are ways we can still connect with those who we love. Video call, phone calls and chats at a distance outside are still possible at this time. Don’t neglect your need for connection, you may just need to reconsider how you do it. Therapists, provided they have done the required training, can provide therapy online too if you feel you need it

Lastly, do things that bring you enjoyment. This will mean different things for different people. As I write this, you can still responsibly exercise outdoors. There are a whole host of enjoyable things that we can do each day such as; baking, cooking, reading, watching comedy, playing music, listening to music, drawing, reading, writing, playing board games….the list could go on!

On the other hand…

As I stated above, yes, this whole situation is difficult and worrisome. On the other hand, if you peer into the mist of the uncertainty that is in the air, there are some chinks of light that we can be thankful for. These will be different for everyone. Perhaps this has provided a time for rest, time with your children that you may not have had, or maybe a time for reflection about life. There are many different things that may have arisen from this and I would encourage you to search for these diamonds in the expanse of the rough.

As I said at the beginning, I can offer no answers as to how this pandemic will pan out, but I hope this short string of thoughts helps to brings some sort of ease at this time.
Mind yourself.

Ross Campbell
Psychotherapist

Phone: +353 1 2100 600
Fax: +353 1 278 9851
297 Beechwood Court
Stillorgan, Co Dublin