The anxiety bug has been doing a world tour since the pandemic started. We have always wondered and worried. We have always had anxiety and stress to varying degrees. It's how several decisions have been made since time immemorial but this intense fear of the unknown that is a concurrent pandemic alongside COVID-19 has left us with more questions than answers. It has become more pronounced. Not only that, there is limited distraction from it. Let’s talk about anxiety.
Anxiety can be described as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Experts say that anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come. We have all been through intense stress in the last one year. What more is that there has been a lot of loss in a short space of time. A lot of people are unsure about the next steps to take or if their lives are safe.
For many people, anxiety is high as a result of the pandemic. This is not all bad. Anxiety and fear are natural protectors of people's lives. These responses trigger the fight-or-flight response that motivates people to act in the primitive sense — usually to run, fight or take precautions. Although this response has kept humans alive for generations despite many dangers in this world, the pressures of today’s world have exacerbated things.
“I think we are becoming more stressed and that has to do with having a lot of demands on our time,” says Jennifer Wild of the Oxford Centre for Anxiety Disorder and Trauma in the UK. How then can we navigate anxiety?
You have to take time to identify your triggers. What are the things - events, places or information that cause you anxiety? Once you figure these out, you need to manage your exposure to them. Also, you can try to develop a routine. It could be a wellness routine or simple walks around your neighbourhood. Routines help your mind and body relax.
You can practice deep breathing. Take regular deep breaths especially when you feel triggered. Do not feel pressured to respond to things as soon as they occur. It might help if you form the habit of writing things down. This way you can express your thoughts without pressure and you don't have to be anxious about forgetting things.
Most importantly, monitor your thoughts pattern. Anxiety starts from a small seed in your mind. You have a tiny trigger, then you overthink it till you expand the problem in your mind by combining several trains of thoughts. You need to know that you are not alone and be kinder to yourself.
The reality is that we can set out all these tips for anxiety alleviation but fear and anxiety are a part of human emotions. They will always come from time to time. Like waves in the ocean. We are all happy sometimes, we are all sad sometimes, we are all afraid sometimes, we are all anxious sometimes. The more one accepts and confronts anxiety for what it is the easier it is to channel the energy of anxiety into something productive over time. The first step is just to accept the anxiety for what it is. Try to identify the cause of the anxiety, it could be an accumulation of things. If you don’t want to write it down record it into your phone. Play it back to yourself a few times. You can always delete it, but just expressing it helps to you to be able to process it better. Some prefer to talk, some prefer to write. It’s great if you can talk to someone about it, if not, write it down or record yourself talking about it.
So its out there. Now what? You have confronted it. Well done. Big step. You don’t even have to do anything about it at this stage. You can just leave it there. I am anxious about….That could be enough for a while. If you are up for it, start to think about how the anxiety is affecting your emotions, interactions and your ability to think clearly. Tell yourself that you are anxious but you need to try not to let this dominate your emotions as it is having a negative effect. Write out some steps and action points that may help to relieve the anxiety. Spread it out, do not overburden yourself. Write less rather than more. If you write a lot out just pick a few things to focus on over the course of the week. Ticking the things off will make you feel like you are doing something about the situation and perhaps relieve the anxiety.
The anxiety is in the mind. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s a powerful emotion. Respect it, accept it, acknowledge it. It will come and it will go. Don’t bury it, otherwise a new and stronger variant will emerge. Anxiety is part of our emotional landscape. The more we accept it, the more we can navigate it. Ride the waves of anxiety.