“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie
We’re living in a rapidly changing world.
Major crises follow one upon another on a global scale — political, financial, social, you name it — interspersed with viral infections.
Once more, we're facing uncertainty, this time created by an epidemic known as Covid-19, or coronavirus, that's rolling over the world like tumbleweed.
When uncertainty is high, it increases stress levels. And with stress, anxiety and fear grow.
We worry about our health, the health of our loved ones and friends; failing stock markets, currencies, and suffering businesses. We fear the future.
And if you grew up with a difficult mother, your amygdala — the smoke detector of your brain — is larger and more sensitive to fear compared to those who come from harmonious homes. You’re prone to worry even in peaceful times, and the current stressful atmosphere may overwhelm you, triggering anxiety, insecurity, and a feeling of disconnection.
How do you cope?
A Positive Attitude Helps You to Stay Healthy
Humans have feared the unknown since the beginning of time.
The world was filled with things they couldn’t explain and nobody could help them to understand. They didn’t know how to handle them, and had no idea if they were dangerous or not. No wonder they were frightened. They used their imagination in an attempt to explain what was happening to them or around them — and that’s how mythology, fantasies, and magical stories were born.
We’ve evolved as a species since then, but more often than not, we’re still in favor of using magical thinking to control anxiety and fear of the unknown, telling ourselves, “If I do this or don’t do that, I’ll be safe.” Some of us prefer to drink, overwork, or use other methods of escaping reality to calm our nerves. And we all like to speculate, guess, and fantasize, at least once in a while.
Is this epidemic very different from the previous ones we've survived — SARS, bird flu, swine flu, Ebola, or Zika viruses? Remember those? I'm not a medical doctor, but from what I’ve learned, the answer is no.
It would’ve been much less dramatic if we were prepared, and by “we” I mean our governments. Still, there’s plenty we can do — you and me — to stay healthy.
As I’m sure you already know, you can protect yourself from being infected by following simple rules of self-hygiene. Keep your hands away from your face — wearing a mask and glasses helps you to do to that. Wash your hands often and thoroughly, and use disinfectant. Try to spend as little time in public places as possible, and practice social distancing by staying 2 meters apart from others at all times. Take extra vitamin C. Eat and sleep properly, and remember to exercise. (YouTube is a great source of free exercise programs — use it!)
Those are great tips for physical hygiene, but is there such a thing as mental hygiene?
Yes, you also need to protect yourself psychologically.
To stay healthy, you have to stay calm, keep your head cool, and live as normally as possible.
And here’s how.
Ways to Stay Calm During the Covid-19 Pandemic
- Stay active and keep your usual routine as much as you can. If you’re home, use this unexpected free time to do something fun or that will bring you satisfaction. Is there something you’ve wanted to do for a while but never had time? This is the perfect opportunity to read, clean the kitchen cabinets, or try that new recipe you saved before last Easter!
- Focus on things you can control and let the rest go. Are you confused, unable to tell the difference? Here are a few examples. You cannot control whether someone will sneeze at the grocery store or if he has washed his hands. You cannot know if the person passing by has been exposed to the virus or not, just as you cannot control the weather and the cycle of day and night on Earth. But you can use gloves in the supermarket and keep a suitable distance between you and the next people in line. You cannot control what the next challenge will be, but you can choose how to deal with the present situation and maintain your health.
- Find and practice more things that bring you joy, starting in the morning and continuing during the day — it will boost your immune system! Need ideas? Try our free course here.
- Have emergency supplies of basic goods on hand, but stockpiling huge amounts — you will end up throwing it out later. The feeling of control you may seek by hording is false and it won’t last.
- Check the news once or twice a day to stay informed of any important developments, but be aware of how your body reacts. If you feel aroused and your muscles are tensed, your heart is jumping or you’re clenching your jaw, stop watching and do something else — make yourself a cup of tea and listen to your favorite song, do push-ups, go for a walk, etc.
- Think for yourself. There are many rumors and much speculation, wild guesses, and theories around. Not everything is true. Choose reliable, science-based sources of information such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control or a similar organization in your own country. Don’t speculate yourself.
- Be compassionate to yourself and other people, although don’t let the complaints, worries, and negativity of others infect you — negative energy can be contagious, too. Stop those who complain too much, change the subject, or find an excuse to leave. You need your energy to stay healthy.
- Be mindful and notice every nice little thing that you see or that happens to you during the day — sunshine or spring flowers on the lawn, a smile on your honey’s face, or your child’s first words.
- Ask yourself what you need right now instead of anxiety, fear, or overwhelm. Is it security, love, or connection? Calm, abundance, or something else? When you know what you need, you can better find out how to give it to yourself.
- Respect and honor all your emotions — they need to be named and processed. But don’t get stuck in anger, fear, or other negative feelings. Express them in an acceptable way: cry if you need to, exercise, throw eggs, or hit a dumpster outside.
- Stay in touch with your family, friends, and neighbors, because loneliness increases fear. Call them, write a text, ask if they need something when you go shopping — you can always leave groceries at their doorstep.
What to Do When Emotions Overwhelm You
Cannot shake off stress and relax? Feel overwhelmed by fear, constantly aroused, or on the verge of a panic attack?
Here are a few techniques that will help you feel calm.
- If you have a fireplace, light a fire and stare at the flames for a few minutes or use a candle instead.
- Watching water is very calming, too. Is there a river or a stream nearby, or perhaps you live near the ocean or a fjord? Spend some time outside at their shores. A home aquarium is an excellent source of calm, too.
- Try a breathing technique — here's a video.
- Use a simple tapping technique — tap lightly on the chest using either your entire hand or a few fingers until you feel relaxed.
- Write in a journal — it will help you vent your emotions and keep perspective. A journal can help you engage in critical thinking and see if your thoughts are based in reality.
- Listen to bird music — it has a proven therapeutic effect on anxiety, depression, and a few other conditions. It also helps feel more relaxed and present.
No matter what, we need to take care of our emotional and mental wellbeing along with our physical health. Many of us are isolated right now and lacking social interaction, which can make things even more challenging.
Do you need human connection and support from a professional?
Schedule a free 15-minute call with me here, and I’ll help you make a shift toward peace and a new perspective.
P.S. Did you like these calming techniques? We offer more in our course How to Cope with a Difficult Mother and Reclaim Your Life.