Covid-19 is a valid, fearful threat to our health. The increase in our anxiety is totally justified. Isn’t it appropriate to feel frightened? Aren’t these feelings inevitable? If this is the reality, should we even change the way we feel?
Sometimes yes, negative feelings are healthy but sometimes they are unhealthy. The fact is that our current anxiety doesn’t do anything to actually change our reality. It only makes it harder to cope with.
In light of Mental Health Awareness Week here are three steps to managing our anxiety during the current climate helping us to think how you can be kind to yourself and others.
1. Self-acceptance - How do I really feel about my anxiety?
Sometimes even when we are suffering internally, we disagree with our reaction. We believe we should be able to handle it better, stronger, calmer. Not only do we feel a certain way we then berate ourselves for feeling like that.
Write down on a piece of paper how you really feel about your reaction. Then ask yourself, what would I tell my friend if they were feeling the same way?
Take a look at the difference between the two.
Self-acceptance begins with words of self-kindness.
2. Self-expression - Will I be helpful or hurtful when I express my feelings?
When we experience negative feelings we might tell ourselves that we have the right to feel this way; our anxiety levels are high so we therefore have ‘no control’ over how we express ourselves.
‘I was angry I couldn’t help it’.
Negative feelings don’t have to result in negative behaviour choices. If in anger we attack someone with harsh words our negative feelings will only get stronger. Eventually guilt and sadness will be added to the mix. It’s not easy to stop an outburst. But we can if we give ourselves a pause; ten second pause before expressing ourselves helps us realign our thinking and consider our options. Consider:
‘Will anger affect my choice of words? Do I really want to attack or do I want to be heard? If I want to be heard, how can I express myself in a more rational way?’
3. Examine the evidence - Are my thoughts and feelings realistic?
When negative feelings are based on unrealistic thoughts it’s often better to change the way you think about the situation. To determine if your thoughts are unrealistic, take a pen and paper. Once you get them on paper you develop a more objective perspective.
What evidence do I have to support my thinking?
How could I look at this situation in another way?
Remember the goal is to feel better; if a thought is making you feel bad, check the facts ask yourself again what would you tell a friend in this situation?
Answer each negative thought with a new more rational perspective.
Anxiety can be overwhelming. But we have the power to decide how much we let it affect us.