I would like to talk about the importance of managing your anxiety during these unprecedented times.
We are in a fortunate position to learn from other countries further along the curve. Take the time now to prepare for your mental health, so you and your family can better weather the high stress load produced by the Corona Virus crisis.
This past week our leaders have asked us to practice social distancing, self isolation and for those who have travelled recently, quarantine. We’ve never been asked to do anything like this before and it is frightening.
Along with helpful information from our government, we are also exposed to confusing and inaccurate information floating around social media. It’s a roller coaster ride and this is causing a lot of stress and anxiety for many people.
It is affecting us in different ways. For some it’s an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread, while for others it is new feelings including anger, frustration, difficulty sleeping, mood swings and great fatigue.
First, know that anxiety is natural: it’s a physiological response to danger built by millions of years of evolution. Anxiety is a warning signal from very primitive parts of your brain, that tells you to prepare for danger.
The amygdala, hippocampus, brain stem, and other mid and lower brain structures push you into “fight or flight” mode, to activate large amounts of energy that help you survive danger.
So don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious–you can’t just talk yourself out of million year old survival instincts. Your primitive brain doesn’t hear words very well. But your instincts do understand actions.
What You Can Do
Here are some positive actions you can do to calm your primitive brain.
Simplify: focus on priorities, like family and loved ones first. Finances and other issues will become more clear as events unfold.
Sleep: many people need more sleep to deal with high stress loads. If you’re used to 7-8 hours before, during crisis you might need 9, 10 or more hours of sleep before you feel rested.
Breathe: take very deep breaths to create instant calm. Consider deep breathing a reset button that you can call on anytime. About 5 seconds for each inhale and each exhale works well to slow the heart and trigger physiological relaxation of mind and body. There are free breathing pacers available on Youtube. Practice with the whole family.
Routine: calm your primitive brain with routine daily schedules that create predictability and hope. Don’t overdo it–a couple weeks to a month is about right for a typical family schedule.
Connect: Spend time with your family at home and use phones and computers to connect with others.
Limit news: stay informed but limit news watching to once a day or so. You may even want to consider a news free day!
Exercise: Move and strengthen your body and mind to keep your health and strong. Get outside in the sun to soak up vitamin D and healing light, while keeping safe social distances. Put some music on and dance!
Write things down: stress fogs up your brain so it’s harder to focus and remember. Help your brain by writing lists and schedules.
Build your immune system: take your vitamins and probiotics, eat well and reduce your stress load. Your body needs all its resources to fight illness and exhaustion.
Meditate: listen to guided meditations on youtube and apps like Calm.com. Research shows meditation can be a huge game changer for anxiety. Reconnect with your deep inner self, your sense of spirituality, and your inner abilities to heal and find calm.
Self-care: Be kind to yourself, practice self-compassion and get the rest you need. Respect inner signs of wear and tear and then take a bath, create art, garden, sew, do yoga, binge Netflix, hang with your family, or hug your pet–whatever you need. There is a reason why airplanes ask you to put your oxygen mask on first, so you can help others better.
The Bottom Line
The best thing you can do is focus on the things you can control.
Also, remember that crises and anxiety have been around a long time — they are as old as humanity. We are strong and can handle this, and we will get through this together.
Community leaders, although you are used to helping others first, please take your self care seriously. Get your sleep and refuel. We need you to be fresh, smart and healthy, and continue to give us great advice and support.
While everybody is preparing for a potentially long home stay, please take this opportunity to simplify life and focus on priorities, manage stress and build your immune system, connect with your family and reach out to others by computer and phone.
We are offering some telephone counselling sessions that are free to those who need it. We would appreciate others who have access to extended health coverage to book a paid session.
For new clients that are eligible to coverage through First Nation Health Authority or Crime Victim Assistance Program, please email us at email@example.com to check eligibility.
Stay safe and go easy on yourself.