The world is different today. Life has changed, dramatically. The Covid-19 pandemic has struck with all of its ripple effects in many aspects of our life together. Every day we are hearing the news of tragedy and loss. Hearts race in the “what if’s”.
Anxiety and grief are everywhere. As the Covid-19 spreads, anxiety does too. Heart racing thoughts take over our minds and bodies as we think about just what will it mean for us and loved ones now and in the future. The losses are real and too many to count – loss of perceived control in life, loss of health and anticipated health, loss of finances and employment, loss of sense of safety and security, loss of routine and daily life as once known, and anticipated loss of future life. Loss, loss, and more loss seems to blanket us as a fog. We feel anxious, overwhelmed and outmatched for what we are dealing with in our lives.
How to find ways to cope during this time?
First, is to acknowledge that anxiety and grief are a part of what you are feeling and dealing with in your life. Our brains are hard wired to respond to something we perceive is scary and dangerous. Chemicals from your brain get released, we go into a fight or flight response. When we experience any loss, whether anticipatory or actual, our brains, bodies and spirits feel it. We ache inside, our hearts hurt and our eyes fill with tears. Take time to acknowledge that you are scared and anxious, and grieving. Spend a moment in time to sit with it and acknowledge it.
Second, reach out for emotional support. Social distancing does not mean social loneliness. A phone call or video chat with someone who is trusted and listens helps to share the feelings and concerns. Burdens shared with others can provide a comfort in knowing that you are not alone in the midst of the anxiety and grief.
Third, practices of yoga, mindfulness and breathing can help to decrease anxiety. Deep breathing helps the body to know that it is not in the fight or flight mode. Mindfulness and yoga have shown to decrease stress, anxiety and depression by releasing endorphins considered the “happy” hormone. Other techniques such as 5-4-3-2-1 exercise can reduce anxiety while helping one ground back into the world. There are many online resource that can be used to do yoga, mindfulness and deep breathing at home.
Fourth, meditation and prayer can serve as way to center and express oneself in a time of distress. Walking with body prayer for some engages both the spirit and body in practice. For others, centering prayer and quiet meditation can serve as release of anxiety while providing grounding in spirit. Journaling for others serves as way as emptying thoughts and lifting them to God. There are good apps for these based on one’s faith tradition do to each of these.
Next, focus on what can realistically be done during this period of time. Having a new “normal” routine helps the brain know that life has order and gets it out of the fight or flight mode. As well, it allows the brain move beyond ruminating internal thoughts to the outside world. One moment, one step added each day creates a routine.
Lastly, doing acts of greater good for others helps one to move beyond the ruminating thoughts circling in the brain. It breaks the cycle of anxiety by allowing a different focus other than oneself. In these days of social isolation, doing acts for the greater good for all is challenging but doable. Taking time to send a note. Working by oneself in elderly neighbor’s yard to clean up. Fostering a cat or dog. Dropping food off for food pantry at a barrel site. Making sewing or art projects that can be used by others during this time.
Find a way to help someone while still being at home.
Remember it is normal to feel anxious in this time. It is a season of grief and loss. And if it feels overwhelming and unabated, reaching out to local mental health professional can help. There are hotlines in each area to offer assistance during this time.
It has been repeated that “it is an unprecedented time”. It is time to recognize, respond and do what one can to care for oneself in ways that offer healing hope and love. As the Psalmist wrote: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” (Psalm 130:1). Know that God will hear your cries and be with you this day.
Rev. Donna Pupillo