Techniques for Coping with Anxiety

Posted on March 9, 2021

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Today’s Buzz is by Kayla Barber-Perrotta– connect with her on LinkedIn!

  • What I’m Listening to – An audio book. See below.
  • What I’m Reading – “On the Way to the Wedding,” by Julia Quinn. I fell down the Bridgerton hole hard. J
  • What I’m Watching ­– Adam Ruins Everything
  • What I’m Doing – Cleaning/organizing my house. Family finally got vaccinated, so first visit in over a year is just a few weeks away!

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Thursday will mark the one-year anniversary of Colorado declaring a state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic, and it strangely feels as if it is were yesterday and 10 years ago all at once. Time over the past year has been a quagmire of moving too slowly and slipping away too quickly depending on the minute of the day, the latest headline, and whether you or your family are quarantined or awaiting word on potential exposure. For many, the silver lining of spending extra time with their family or catching up on their favorite Netflix Series has faded into a daily countdown to the summer when, hopefully, enough Americans are vaccinated to provide us heard immunity and a return to some sense of normalcy.

It is not a stretch to say the last year has taken a toll on us all in some way, but for many, it has wrought an almost secondary pandemic—one of mental health. According to a US Census Survey, 42% of Americans are experiencing symptoms of anxiety one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be worry over your family getting sick, concern about the schooling of children, financial duress, or work-related stress. For those who have never experienced anxiety before the pounding heart, sudden dizziness, shortness of breath, anger at loved ones, or the paralyzing fear of getting out of bed in the morning adds yet another layer to a confusing and often terrifying spiral of knowing something is wrong, but not knowing what, how to communicate it, or how to deal with it.

As someone who has dealt with diagnosed anxiety for the last several years and experienced it even longer, I was lucky enough to go into this pandemic knowing my signs and having a few tools at my disposal to turn to when times became tough, a few of which I would like to pass on to my colleagues as we enter the home stretch.

  1. Grounding: I’ve never been one for meditation. Actively trying to clear my thoughts and breathe only makes me more anxious. I have, however, had some success in grounding as a technique to help quell the early stages of anxiety. This is all about getting your body and mind to be present and while there are many techniques out there my favorite ones are sensory related. These include having a piece of chocolate that I can focus on the taste of, a glass of water where I can focus on how cold it is, or something I can smell such as a candle or perfume. It’s all about finding something else to focus on, and I’ve found it also forces me to simply slow down.
  2. Lists: Making weekly lists of things I want to get done at home and at work has been essential in combatting anxiety for me. Not only does it provide a calming ritual, it helps me pre-plan distractions, and also makes me feel more in control of my life. If I feel myself starting to slip, I can look at my list and see my pantry needs to be organized or I was meaning to clean out my closet. By the time I finish a task, not only have I usually redirected my thoughts, but I feel a burst of accomplishment that helps me to stay happier throughout the day. Plus, my house is also so much cleaner than it has ever been, and who doesn’t want that?
  3. Exercise: For me, this one is a combination of physical movement and mental distraction that has been incredibly useful for breaking more severe anxiety spirals. I put on my noise-canceling headphones, max out the volume on a high-energy playlist, and then just dance. I sing aloud and let my whole body just feel the music. This used to be much harder when I thought I had to set aside time to do this, but now that I’ve realized I can pull double duty dancing while cleaning or cooking it has become my go-to technique. When I do have more time, I’ve just thrown my music on and walked until my brain turned to some new thought or thing I needed to do. Sometimes it’s 1,000 steps and last weekend it was 17,000. Not only does this distract me in the moment, but it leaves me more tired so I don’t wake up at 2:00 am in a fresh wave of anxious thoughts.

So as we work our way through this home stretch of the pandemic, I encourage you to evaluate how you feel and how you are thinking. If you aren’t feeling yourself or find that your thought patterns have shifted don’t just write it off or assume you’ll get over it. It may be something more like anxiety or stress that will take a more proactive solution. The solution may be one of the techniques that I mentioned, one you simply find from an internet search, or it may require more professional input. Many of our organizations have mental health services where you can simply make a call and chat (believe me the call is scarier than actually talking to someone).

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