Managing Fear and Emotions Through Uncertain Times
Managing Fear and Emotions Through Uncertain Times
As creatures of habit, we prefer when everything goes smoothly and as expected. However, when there is any sort of turbulence in our daily lives, it tends to stress us out, and makes us feel anxious and vulnerable. During recent times, Americans have been dealing with a great deal of uncertainty, from the political front to the economy, as well as our own personal trials and tribulations. We may worry about health care costs, coverage and availability, the plethora of traffic accidents, when the next mass shooting will happen or the latest crisis we see on the news. Currently, COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, has caused a tremendous amount of fear, anxiety and unrest in the United States and around the world.
Worry may be all-consuming for those people who have anxiety disorders, while the concern that people are infectious may elevate symptoms of paranoia for those who have schizophrenia. For people who suffer from depression or lack social engagement, symptoms may increase significantly due to the disruption in their routines. In the instance of COVID-19, older people, and people with auto-immune or other chronic diseases, as well as first responders like doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers may feel an overwhelming amount of stress.
At Greystone, we understand that some occasions can be more chaotic and unnerving than others and want to do everything we can to help you through these tumultuous times and the bumps in the road along the way.
When you consider that our brains are hardwired to protect us from danger and uncertainty, it’s no wonder that we have strong reactions in an effort to ensure our survival. When we perceive danger, our natural human instinct provides the flight or fight response, which means during these times, our limbic system is in charge. This is the area where our anxiety and fear are generated, when what we really need during these times is to use our rational brain to stay on course.
In short, fear tends to prevent us from making good, sound decisions. As humans, we need to override our natural tendencies and use logic to determine how we will react to questionable or scary situations. As Tony Robbins, known as the nation’s top life and business strategist once said, “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.”
How can you deal with adversity and uncertainty? One key factor to remember is that there are times when feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are perfectly normal. Although there is a never-ending list of stressors that can make us worry, cause anxiety, and put a strain on us physically, mentally and emotionally, it is how we choose to handle these situations that matters most.
When navigating through turbulent times, use sound strategies to help you along the way. Make sure you get the latest information from trusted sources. In the example of COVID-19, you can get updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. Make sure to take stock in what you know and what you don’t and assign a level of importance to each. Analyze the facts on the surface level and don’t interject emotion into the situation to make it better or worse than it really is. You may want to limit your exposure to news stories and/or social media about the stressful topic, since getting bombarded by the same negative stimulus over and over can cause even more emotional unrest.
Take time to remind yourself that nothing lasts forever, good or bad, and this too shall pass. In due time, the stressful situation will be resolved. You’ve been through difficult times in the past and were able to overcome them. Consider what you did in other stressful situations that helped you to be successful and apply the same type of productive reaction to the current state of events.
Know that you cannot control of everything and it’s okay. Find the things you can do and stay focused on those. There is no time or reason to dwell on anything that is not within your control. Take care of yourself and your needs, and focus on the positive aspects of your situation, especially your loved ones.
Step back and ask yourself how you would respond to a friend if they asked you what to do in this situation. Then, take your own advice. Sometimes looking at things from a different perspective can give us fresh ideas and help us figure out what we need to do now.
Make sure to take care of yourself by steadfastly sticking to your healthy routines, including eating well-balanced meals, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. You may also want to try some stress relief practices like yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises. Spend time doing things you enjoy, along with your daily obligations.
Reach out to family and trusted friends via telephone, video chat, email or social media, especially if you are in need of support. Share your thoughts, feelings and concerns with them and ask about how they are doing as well. Focus on positive thoughts. Surround yourself with pictures and music that bring you joy. By focusing on positivity, you will be able to calm your fears and reduce any irrational thinking by focusing your attention (and your brain) on something that is stress-free and beneficial. Even at a time when nothing seems to be going your way, step back for a moment each day and identify at least one positive thing that happened. Even if it seems insignificant in comparison to everything else going on, it’s important to look for that silver lining in an otherwise dreary situation.
Go outside and soak up some vitamin D. Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine (making sure to protect your skin) can help give you a boost both mentally and physically. Sunlight is renowned for improving mood, increasing energy, enhancing memory and cognition, as well as a variety of other advantages.
Stay away from ‘what if …?’ statements and challenge yourself to stay in the present. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t even happened to you, stop and gently bring yourself back to the current time. Slow down, take a look around and notice the sights, sounds, smells and other sensory experiences in your immediate vicinity. Engaging in this type of mindfulness activity helps you feel grounded at a time when you may otherwise think you’re out of control.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may want to take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing. Seclude yourself by putting away any distractions, closing the door and purely focusing on your breathing. Pay attention to how it feels to breathe in and breathe out. If your mind starts to wander, stop and then start to continue focusing on your breathing again. Try to do this exercise for several minutes. Once you feel calm again, enjoy the moment and go back to your normal activities with a new, clearer mindset.
The strategies above should help you to be able to better handle the turbulence and uncertainty you’re facing or at least be one huge step in the right direction. If you find that your stress is getting in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row, contact your healthcare provider to discuss other options.
As always, we are vigilantly ensuring the safety, health and well being of all of our residents at our Greystone Health Care Centers and have processes in place to provide the utmost care for our in-home clients. From all of us at Greystone Health, we wish you all the very best and are here to help you have the best quality of life.