5 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety During the Pandemic

Monday August 17, 2020

5 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety During the Pandemic
  (Source:Getty Images)

During these challenging times, we all have a rollercoaster of emotions during the day. Sometimes we wake up feeling hopeful and by lunchtime, that notion is down the drain. That's completely normal. We are worried about so many things including getting sick, losing our jobs, not being able to pay bills or put food on the table. Our stress is real and if you feel out of sorts, you aren't alone.

While we can't control many things right now, we can control how we handle our stress. Dr. Divya Kannan, Cure.fit lead psychologist Divya Kannan offers tips on how to cope with anxiety and stress during the pandemic.

1. Being in the present and anchoring the mind

The frequent what-if thoughts that keep plaguing us, and distracting us from our daily tasks. Can we learn how to anchor these thoughts so that our attention isn't constantly being compromised? It's not easy, because on average our minds are lost in thought close to 50% of the time.

Meditation helps our mind to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, and for us to observe these from a distance, and in a way accept the natural rhythm of our thoughts. It is not about stopping our thoughts or avoiding our emotions, but about experiencing them present, with a calmness or focus. Our breath or breathing helps us achieve this calm and focus. Think of the role of meditation as a way to achieve intimacy and connection with your mind, in the present.

With anxiety, we are more focused on connecting with what might happen, that we lose sight of what is happening right now and we miss out on many possibly great moments. This tips the balance between the positive and the negative and makes us feel as though most of our moments are lived within a negative space. But, if you spend just 10 minutes a day cultivating the practice of living in the present moment, then you can deal with difficult thoughts in a calmer and grounded manner, and feel a greater sense of mental fitness as you continue this practice.

2. Experiencing vs. Avoiding

The key to navigating difficult feelings is being open to experiencing feelings rather than avoiding your feelings or fighting them. And most importantly, not judging them as good or bad, but paying attention to them and finding a way to express those feelings. So, I have to say to myself on a daily basis now, that, yes I guess the pandemic is still here, and in this moment I also have to accept that I don't have control over the situation or over what happens tomorrow, which makes me feel scared, but also makes me turn to things that I CAN control, such as taking care of my emotions and being able to reassure the scared part of myself - this, in turn, frees me up to focus on other activities.

Your feelings always need an outlet, whether it's through writing, meditation, or through talking with a friend or therapist. Your feelings need somewhere to land. Knowing how you feel, and why you're feeling it, sets the tone for making effective decisions and choices. You can figure out which method works best for you, and start to practice good emotional hygiene in this way.

(Source: Getty Images)

3. Finding your balance

The third aspect of coping is finding balance in a situation that feels extreme. A sense of disequilibrium happens when you begin to see things in the world that don't make sense to you. It leaves you feeling uncertain, confused, because the things you thought you knew about the world, about yourself, may now feel like they're in question.

So, this shift in balance can be a struggle. Why? Because we all crave a state of equilibrium, of balance, of certainty, of having some level of predictability about how the world works.

That said, it is an important struggle, to move from this uncomfortable state of disequilibrium to a more balanced state — how do we do this?

Ask yourself:

What you are learning from the situation at hand, at present. How has it changed your understanding of yourself? How has it reshaped your sense of purpose? Has it brought you closer to others? What has it taught you about life as you know it?

This process is called making meaning, where we are constructing a new understanding of something previously unfamiliar. This is how we learn. We come to a new state of equilibrium when we self-reflect in this way.

4. Embracing Change

Right now, and at many moments in our lives, the only constant is change. It's tough to wrap our minds around this, but letting go of the things you can't control will help you focus on the things you can. It's important to try to balance what you envision and imagine about this change — if the association of change is all negative for you, think about some of the positives that have come with it, perhaps in past experiences where you have had to deal with some kind of uncertainty or change.

How we deal with change can ultimately help us be more flexible, adaptable, and can help to create a path for yourself in being resilient to tough situations. I think sometimes we also expect that we should handle change in a certain way, meaning we expect ourselves not to have anxiety about it and in some ways feel we should deal with change expertly or in a perfect way. It's also important to have compassion towards yourself and allow yourself some leeway in terms of the time you take to adjust to an ongoing stressful situation.

5. The Practice of Gratitude

Gratitude is a feeling, which is often simply the acknowledgment of what is good in one's life. It is also the idea that, what we do have, can be enough. It's shifting focus to the things that are, rather than only on the things that aren't. This is an important positive emotion to cultivate, which has positive effects on our brain and this can go a long way in enhancing our well-being.

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