By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
We are living in the most unpredictable time in modern history. In just three months, we’ve gone from the best of times economically to the worst of times. Unemployment, isolation, and illness are rampant, seemingly with no end in sight. In the midst of this environment, it’s only natural that anxiety and fear would govern people’s emotions. But it needn’t be that way. In this article, we reveal six proactive ideas for how to get rid of anxiety and fear, despite cabin fever and what’s going on around you.
I get it. You should stay up to date with what’s going on regarding the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be obsessed with it. Becoming a COVID-19 news junkie is only going to make you more anxious.
So, the first step to relieving anxiety is to unplug yourself from the constant flow of information. Limit yourself to watching the main, general news item once a day, and you will have all the info you need.
If you’ve been in a lockdown situation due to COVID-19, you may have found that your normal structured routine has disappeared. While being stuck at home, there may be a strong temptation to sleep in for an extra few hours each morning and spend the balance of your day on the couch watching Netflix. Don’t do that. Speaking of sleep, go to bed on time and wake up on time. Get yourself some cooling sheets to help you feel rested.
Maintaining some semblance of a structure is vital to staying on top of this situation. So if you are used to getting up at 6:30 for work, continue that routine. Take your morning shower and change into an outfit that makes you feel productive.
But what are you going to do with your day if you can’t go to work or are unable to work from home? Well, you now have the time to pursue interests that you might not have had time for in the past. Each evening before you go to bed, plan out your coming day. Include reading and studying time as well as exercise, meditation, chores, and, to a limited degree, Netflix.
It is an established fact that exercise can reduce anxiety, backed up by epidemiological evidence. In the current climate, however, getting daily exercise is absolutely essential—not only to relieve anxiety but to keep from going stir crazy.
The human body was not designed to sit on a couch all day long; it was were designed for movement. So, schedule time in your day for structured movement. Ideally, get your exercise outdoors. Perform calisthenics, plyometrics, and sprint training in your yard. Take a daily walk around your neighborhood (just be sure to maintain social distancing), and, if you do find yourself in front of a screen, stop every 15 minutes and pump out a few push-ups!
When feeling anxious, there’s a tendency to breathe shallowly. This results in less oxygen being brought into the body, which makes the body less efficient in everything from absorbing nutrients to making sound judgments. If you don’t breathe properly, you’ll be more sluggish, which will only feed anxiety. That’s why deep breathing is an essential part of how to get rid of anxiety related to COVID-19.
Learning to breathe through your nose will make you far more effective at taking in oxygen. When you inhale through your nose, you will be taking the air more deeply into your diaphragm. Try it right now and you will be able to feel your diaphragm expanding. This expansion puts downward pressure on your abdomen. This has the flow-on effect of pushing air into the lungs and enhancing the circulation of blood and nutrients. This form of breathing is also more relaxing than breathing through the mouth.
The forced slowdown in life that the pandemic situation has caused can be seen as a blessing or a curse, depending on your attitude. Given that there is nothing you can do about it, why not make the choice to view it as a blessing? You now have the time to indulge yourself in areas of interest that you haven’t had time for in the past. Couple that with the fact that you have access through the internet to any information you could want, and you’ve got precisely what you need to pursue a new hobby.
Whether your passion is learning a new language, playing the guitar, or researching the War of 1812, now is the time to throw yourself into it.
You may have heard the phrase “your mind is your worst enemy.” The truth of that statement quickly comes to light in a pandemic environment. It’s easy to imagine worst-case scenarios, fear the unknown, and rob yourself of sleep over things that can’t be controlled. The key to overcoming these reactions is mindfulness-based stress reduction.
Simply put, mindfulness involves turning down the white noise in your brain, getting rid of negative thoughts, and becoming present. When you do that, you can enjoy the blessings of the present. You can spend more time with your family, learning new things, exercising, and generally having time to “smell the roses”—without having your mind poisoned by fear of what may be coming down the line.
To practice mindfulness, find a quiet relaxing place where you will not be disturbed. Set a timer for 10 minutes and then try different sitting positions until you find the most comfortable. Take some deep breaths and focus on the oxygen flowing to the different parts of your body. Tell yourself that you have control over your thoughts. Then eliminate any that are not related to your physical self. Whenever you feel your mind drifting, return to focusing on your breath.
Check out this simple mindfulness activity that will help you to empty your mind of fear of the future.
Ridding yourself of fear and anxiety during these challenging times starts with the realization that, though you can’t control what’s going around you, you can control your reaction to it. Make the choice to maintain control over your life by incorporating these six tips, and you’ll come out of all of this a better, stronger, more resilient person.