10 Ways To Create A New Normal With Less Anxiety
We are living in unprecedented times. We have had to change our life styles with virtually little warning; give up social contact with our friends, family and co-workers, learn to educate our children and try to create a living from home. Vacations have been cancelled, restaurants are closed and even a trip to the grocery store has left me wondering, “Is this worth risking my health over?” There is no hand book for a proper response to this virus. We are left having to make it up as we live through it each day.
All of this creates a melting pot of emotion. Since I entered self quarantine almost 8 weeks ago, I have experienced everything from desperation that the world was ending to elation that things might be getting a little better. I’ve counted the minutes, lost track of the days and continually reminisce of times where I took my health for granted. It seems like years ago but in actuality, it’s only been 8 weeks. No wonder my anxiety has increased! We are all living with some level of anxiety as we try to create a new normal until the world finds health again.
Even though I feel like I’m trying to hit a moving target, there is a way through this. One breathe at a time. One step at a time. One day at a time. I’ve jotted down a few of the ways that I’m making it through this time and I hope you find it helpful to you too.
Mental Health Matters
Giving myself permission to feel what I feel is one of the most important things I can do no matter what’s happening. I realized early on in our self quarantine that my mental health had to come first. I couldn’t just ignore the grief or pass over the anger, fear, and anxiety that dealing with this pandemic has caused. Doing so would only prolong my suffering and cause me to drop further into depression. I gave myself permission to sleep in, to cry, to be angry, and NOT to be productive. Because I made space for my feelings, I was able to move through them and find a way to begin again within a matter of days. If I had denied them or pushed them down, I know it would have taken me weeks to build up a wall so I could function and then I’d have to address the feelings again at a later date. The point is to make room for the feelings allowing them to pass through, not set up shop.
Take Your Time
Time is measured differently in this pandemic. It seems like everything is taking twice as long to accomplish and using three times the usual amount of energy. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect to get everything done in the same amount of time without causing myself a lot of unnecessary anxiety. I had to make a lot of changes in a short period of time without a lot of the conveniences I am used to, so adding time to that schedule has become paramount for my mental and physical health. Most importantly, I have to work in time off. This has been harder for me to do. I am feeling the weight of what needs to be done and trying to figure out new ways to do them. Wrestling with the feelings of being lazy versus being productive has also been a drain. To reduce the stress of this battle, I forgive myself often for not meeting my own expectations by looking at what I have been able to do and pronouncing it, “good enough”.
Find A Way To Connect
I really enjoy my alone time but like most everyone else, I do miss visiting with others, especially my grown children. I miss traveling to see new places, meeting new people, and visiting friends, so I had to find a way to connect even if I cannot do it in person. I am making more Zoom calls than ever before and they have become an important part of my week. I look forward to seeing my friends and keeping in touch. I also find that the numerous Zoom calls force me to take care of my physical self which is easy to let go of in this time of quarantine.
I also let myself feel cut off from everyone because I couldn’t figure out how to keep others safe and still manage an in-person visit. My daughter recently surprised me with a socially distanced visit for Mother’s Day and I didn’t realize how much I needed that face-to-face contact. We sat about 8 feet apart and spent hours talking, laughing and sharing. Even though we couldn’t hug or get close, it was a gift for us both.
It is important in this time of a global pandemic and for our mental health to find a way to connect to the ones we love. Whether it’s a letter, email, Zoom call, FaceTime or a socially distant visit, we need to reconnect to others.
Set A Daily Goal
In the beginning of this pandemic when I was drowning in fear and anxiety, I couldn’t think straight or care for myself or anyone else for that matter. I reverted into being a victim to my emotions. I gave myself time to move through the overwhelming emotions but I realized that I couldn’t truly live there. I had to get on with living despite the fear. Setting a daily goal, even if it was just getting out of the bed and getting dressed, helped me begin to reclaim my life. Once I met that goal, I’d set another small one like taking a walk to get the mail or answering a few emails. Winston Churchill once said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Setting a daily goal for myself helped me keep going until I could get back into the routine of living.
It’s so easy to just become a hermit and stay in bed with Netflix all day! However, doing this for very long increased my anxiety, fear and pushed me deeper into depression. Getting outside in the sunlight and fresh air improves my mood and helps me look forward to something more than just staying in bed. I also feel less trapped in a situation that I have no control over and more empowered that I do have choices and am capable of making wise decisions. Adding a walk to my daily goals keeps my body moving but also keeps me in the present by noticing that the birds are still singing, the sun is still shining, and the world is still moving, even if it is at a slower pace. Our bodies and brains need the sunlight.
Very early in March when states began their shut downs, I noticed that the more I watched the news, focused on the theories and bought into the sky is falling mindset, the harder it was to even see a future at all, never mind a future without illness. I could feel the depression envelope me with each passing hour. I knew that I had to protect my mental health by limiting my exposure to new broadcasts or social media. The unfollow button has become my friend on social media and I now have three sources of news that I trust without all the drama.
First, I tune in to the daily update from the governor of KY (since that’s where we happen to be hunkered down for the time being). He is very transparent and gives the good news as well as the bad. I can also get much needed medical updates from the CDC and WHO through the Doctor that speaks daily as well.
You can view it here: https://www.facebook.com/GovAndyBeshear/
I also get a daily email from The Skimm. It is a brief email that just skims the news for the top stories and gives me links to read more if I want to without all the drama. See if it’s right for you here: theskimm.com/?r=7c7258fb
(this is a referral link and if you decide to click on it I don’t receive money but I will get a cool t-shirt. Thanks!)
Lastly and most recently, I found an incredible historian and political analyst, Heather Cox Richardson, who (taken directly from her Facebook page) “uses facts and history to make observations about contemporary American politics. I was educated at Exeter and Harvard, and am now a professor of history at Boston College. I write books about the American past, and write articles about modern politics. The past informs my work on the present, not the other way around.” She can break down what is happening like no one else I have found. She also lists her sources in each email.
She can be found on her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/heathercoxrichardson/
OR you can get her email here: Letters from an American.
Ask For Help
Asking for help is hard to do as a trauma survivor but as a trauma survivor in a world wide pandemic, it has become even harder but absolutely necessary to my mental health. There are things that I simply cannot do alone and I find myself needing to ask a neighbor for help now that so many shops and businesses are closed. I also am finding it necessary to lean on my business coach a little more since concentration and productivity were thrown out the window in a matter of a few short days. She can keep me motivated when I can’t find it within myself and I am so grateful. I find myself also reaching out to share my feelings more with my tribe via Zoom. They are an amazing group of people that help me keep my spirits up and I feel a lot less alone after the call.
If you find yourself in a bad place and need assistance, the hotlines are still operational with qualified health care professionals to assist you. You are not alone! Reach out to one of the numbers below either by call or text:
- Text: Answer to 839863
- Hotline Text: Help to 741741
- TTY: 1-800-799-4889
- LGBT Friendly Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
- LGBT Text: Trevor to 1-202-304-1200
- Transgender Hotline: 1-877-565-8860
- Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696
- Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433
- Self Harm Hotline: 1-800-Don’t-Cut (1-800-366-8288)
For a more complete list click here: https://alifeaftertrauma.com/find-professionals/hotlines/
I also find it imperative to help others especially now. The quickest way for me to break a depression is to help someone else. When I manage to gather up the courage to venture out, I always stop to ask others if I can pick up something for them. Recently during an outing, I stopped to buy a dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme (a rare treat for us) and they offered to give me a free dozen to give to someone who is shut in. It gave me such joy to deliver this treat to the owners of the campground we are staying at and they were equally as delighted to receive them. We are all being called to take care of one another and it is a honor to serve.
Clean Your Surroundings
This one, admittedly, has been a harder and slower process for me. I naturally feel better in a clean and clutter free home. Living full time in an RV, we don’t have a lot of clutter usually and everything gets returned to it’s rightful place each time we travel again. Since we have had to sit in one place for so long, it has become so easy to just let it go during this time of self quarantine. I find myself a little jealous of the people that have the energy to repaint, redo, or reorganize their spaces when I look around at the dust that has settled and the mess I have allowed to go untouched. These days, I give myself a pat on the back when I can get the dishes cleaned and put away after a couple of days of cooking.
I recognize how important it is to keep my surroundings clean and it is a slow process but that’s okay. This is not a normal time and these are not normal experiences so I’m giving myself permission to take my time. I notice that my mood and outlook improve every time I decide to clean something and complete the task so I keep going. I add one more small goal to my day. Sometimes I get it done and sometimes I don’t and that’s okay.
Learn Something New
When I hear the words, learn something new, I used to automatically think of learning a new language or taking on some huge new project. I have found that it doesn’t have to be that complicated or involved to release myself from anxiety over my perceived short comings or fear of something. When the mind is engaged in learning something new there is no room for anxiety. The anxiety comes from running scenarios in my mind of an imagined future and playing the negative version of the What If game. When I was deep in the victim frame of mind, you know, the whole woe is me mindset, I couldn’t even entertain picking up the mess around me, let alone, learn something new.
Here’s the something new I’ve learned recently. It’s so simple that it really opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking AND it lessens my anxiety every time I play it. I now play the What If game, the positive version. What if everything is going to be okay? What if we all just needed a pause? What if this is just a temporary state? What if I find something better to do than the job I didn’t like? What if I find new friends in this self quarantine? What if someone is waiting for me to step into my calling? You get the idea. This version of the What If game lightens my heart, improves my mood, energizes me and keeps my mind focusing on the positive thoughts instead of the worry and anxiety that keeps me depressed.
The point is that learning something new doesn’t have to be a big and complicated thing. In fact, it seems, the easier it is to learn, the more it opens my mind to new and more positive possibilities!
Pivot, Pivot, Pivot
The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, has been quoted as saying, “change is the only constant in life”. When the quarantines and travel bans began, I had to figure out a new way to do everything. It has been a massive amount of change in a short period of time. I am not alone however. Everyone has had to change. Change is always happening.
What changed for me was the way I reacted to the changes. Normally I am pretty good at going with the flow and allowing changes to happen without much of a fight. What sent me into a depression was putting up a wall to the changes. I became rigid and stoic. I was unwilling to entertain that there was a way through while I was busy allowing myself to dive head first into my emotions. I fought hard against the changes even when I knew that fighting against them was doing me no good. I was stuck in a loop.
Then one day while scrolling through social media, I came across this reminder from Socrates, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. This simple statement reminded me that I wasn’t helpless. I have a choice to fight what was happening or begin looking for a new way to do things. I can pivot.
I can no longer travel to speak in person but I can pivot and host a webinar or speak online to a world wide audience instead of just a room full. I can no longer offer BETAR rides so I had to pivot back to building websites. (What is a BETAR?) It is no longer wise to go out among crowds to shop but I can pivot to shop online or choose less crowded days to go and wear a mask. It is not wise right now to be close to my adult children but we can visit through social distancing and use technology like FaceTime in order to stay connected.
Pivoting or learning to change has helped me begin to create a new normal in these uncertain times. Doing all of these things, step by step, taking my time, allowing myself to feel my feelings and paying attention to the wise teachers around me, helped me work my way out of the debilitating anxiety that was steeling the life out of me.
If you are in a bad place, pick out one of the suggestions above and give it a try. The only thing you have to lose is the anxiety that is keeping you stuck. If you have other suggestions, comment below. I am always eager to learn your wisdom!