Coping With Anxiety During a Pandemic

“Once Upon A Time In America”
Meikel Church

We are all experiencing this COVID-19 pandemic differently as individuals based on our profession, our relationships, and our personality.  One day might feel ominous while the next is sunshine and gratitude.  Who knows how to feel in all this when the information you are told changes daily and in a small town maybe hourly.  It can leave us feeling anxious and on edge. 

This week I had the privilege to speak to Monica DiCristina, a therapist in Atlanta, Georgia who specializes in anxiety and who has battled with her own form of anxiety in her younger years. 

Her and I discuss what coping with anxiety looks like in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

For many of us, we naturally cope with our anxiety by going to work, having a schedule, hitting the gym and visiting friends and family.  So what do we do when all these things are not available to us right now?  Dicristina says this can knock us into our anxious fight or flight response and navigating this while quarantined can be especially hard.     

Up until my thirties, I never considered myself an anxious person.  The times I went to see a doctor for depression I was always asked if I felt anxious.  I never checked that box and so my doctors never discussed how anxiety and depression can go hand in hand.  I thought anxiety was excessive worry and an exaggerated fear of things going wrong. 

To quote Sissy Goff, the director of Child and Adolescent Counseling at DayStar Counseling, “Anxiety is an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of yourself.”  I love this simple definition.  It helps me identify my anxiety in the moment and respond to it right away.  I had no clue that my irritability, chronic pain and high justice agendas were a form of anxiety.  I began self soothing with casual drinking to “unwind” or numb my awareness.  Alcohol to anxiety is like gasoline to a fire. Buckle up. 

Learning to cope continues to save my life.  

Dicristina’s main advice in coping with anxiety, especially during this trying time, came to two important strategies: Name it to tame it.

When you can identify what it is you are feeling, thinking, and doing then you can begin to self prescribe what you need and how to cope.  This past week I found myself standing in my bare pantry feeling very anxious.  I do not have what it takes to do all this, I thought. I named it. 

My mind was full with all of the people I would potentially be letting down this week: my husband, my kids, my clients, my coworkers, my family and friends.  I was overestimating the problem and underestimating myself.  I closed the pantry and retreated to my kids empty trampoline.  Laying on my back, parallel to both the earth and sky. I practiced breathing and listening.

That was the song of a Cardinal.  He sings somewhere south of me.  And That tweet was from the fat, male Robin who sits in the dead tree right above… four slow breaths…Jacklyn, your self-worth is inherent; it does not come from how hard you work or how well you perform.  It just is.  Enjoy your self like you enjoy the birds. 

Strategy number two: Do not isolate.  My nature is to isolate.  I’m an introvert that loves her alone time and being with her own thoughts yet if I am in an unhealthy mindset there is a danger in my lonely echo chamber.  We need outside voices and perspective.  We need safe people that love us and can listen.  Keep yourself in good community in this quarantine season.  Lean on your family, your friends, or other trustworthy people in your life.  What you might need that day, they likely also need.

PODCAST

You can hear my entire conversation with therapist Monica DiCristina on Ep.7 of The Oh By Golly Podcast

Take care of yourself friends. 

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