Guest blog post by Melissa Perrin, PsyD
You are Not Alone. The suspense can be piercing as we wait to hear about one aspect of our collective future. Doom scrolling has switched from Covid watching to vote tallies and who will get enough electoral votes. Wondering how to manage anxiety? This is edge of the seat material! We can worry ourselves into health crises. We can scare ourselves into isolation. We can stroll so far into the “What IF’s” that we forget where we are now. Or, we can cool the worry by maintaining custody of our attention.
Related Reading: Therapist’s Go-to Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety
Where You Focus Your Attention?
- Pause and relocate your attention to the life you are living, the body you inhabit and all five of your senses. What delights you? What soothes? What is a trusty, reliable truth that you can rest in regularly? There’s your gratitude list.
- Gratitude becomes a healing action when we lean into appreciation for those things we list. A list is a cognitive task: I am grateful for the changing leaves; I am grateful for WIFI; I am grateful I did not need to take my Covid puppy to the vet after she ate that mess.
- Appreciation is when we see our gratitude list and choose to feel it: I am grateful for the changing leaves so I pause and look out the window and marvel, for a moment, at the clarity of color, the contrast between leaf and bark. Perhaps I go outside and revel in the color of the leaves, the smell of leaf piles, the crisp air and the blue sky. In my appreciation I take note of Life as it is expressing itself, fleetingly, in this moment. In my appreciation I am reminded that the world turns on its axis and the seasons present themselves. This time will pass and the next season will present itself. Before it does, however, the leaves on my Japanese Maple Tree are a glorious fire engine red. They’ll be that way for the next week or so.
Choosing to Appreciate those things I am grateful for, one item in a moment, eases worry and distress by reminding me that I am in my body, there is more happening out my window [on my street] than what is happening as my screen shouts “What If…?!?”
Be here, now, as this moment unfolds, free of the future and of the past. Simply Present.
Best Balm for Anxiety
Action is the best balm for anxiety. When we have been grateful, appreciative and present we are calmer and able to organize our thoughts. What to do? We are hoping that when the votes are counted and we know the tally that something will change. We will know a truth. In truth, we will know a tally. Change will be slow. It is clear that we do not agree on what should change or how directed change can come about. So we are left to worry, infer, predict and fear the outcome we predict.
Predicting a future based on inference, hope or fear makes worry and anxiety worse than being in the moment, knowing things feel dire, while appreciating what is in front of us.
Choosing an action and taking that action is balm for the worst worry or obsession. When we take an action we are choosing to participate in a way that gives us agency. As we wait for the tally to be announced, as we live through the battles over the next few weeks for legitimacy, as we wait for whatever happens next, there is still much to do that can drive a solution to the problems we see, experience and fear.
Related Reading: How to Manage Fear and Anxiety during Coronavirus Pandemic
Wondering How to Manage Anxiety?
- If you found energy and relief writing postcards encouraging fellow citizens to vote, you can write letters to people who are lonely and isolated. Call a local assisted living facility and ask how to have a pen pal you can trade letters with. Write your niece, nephew or cousin a letter they can receive in the post.
- If you are worried about people being laid off and struggling financially, there is much to do: there are diaper drives for families who can’t afford diapers, Food banks and pantries in need of food, there are shawls and blankets to crochet and supplies to donate to shelters. Use your screen to find links to your local donation groups.
- If you are worried about Covid-19 and the impact on health care workers in your community there is much to do: donate Personal Protective Equipment, sign up to deliver lunch or dinner to a hospital or Covid Care Unit, offer dog walking, pet sitting and child care if you know a family well enough. Use your screen to find links to provide these things. If you can do things in person, Food Depositories need sorters, volunteers, delivery options.
- Donate Blood. There is significant need. If you can donate, locate your local Blood Bank and make an appointment.
- If you are worried about school and the impact of e-learning on children, there is much to do for a family and the children: offer tutoring, screen time working math homework or editing a paper, running spelling practice, reading a book. The gift of time and presence is priceless.Allowing time and space for a parent to [rest, work, run an errand, do housework] is priceless. Use your screen to support the children who are elearning and the parents who are muddling through. Can you partner with another family to ease the stress or responsibilities? Crowd sourcing may be an option.
- If you are worried about the changes coming to your community because of the financial impact of Covid-19 restrictions or rioting from protests, use your screen to find how to donate to the businesses you like to visit. Restaurants and businesses that are not related to national chains are especially vulnerable. Can you assist in clean up or support of a business that has been impacted by protestors, Covid-19, supply chain or lost income?
- If you are worried about lack of solidarity, wear a mask. Greet the people you see, ask how folks are, continue to reach out and connect.
- If you are worried, please let someone know. Even better if you can let someone know what you need. Perhaps someone can help.
Related Reading: How to Teach Your Child to Cope with Anxiety
Anxiety Must be Channeled
Loving on Life’s Terms means seeing our worry, turning our attention to the present moment and doing the next right thing. Loving on Life’s Terms means continuing to participate with each other and remind each other we are not alone.
[P.S. When donating to a food pantry or food depository, money is golden. And if you are donating Food, remember to give food you would like to eat. I like to buy cans and dry foods that go into a recipe and package them together for drop off. For example: a shepherd’s pie uses cans of peas and corn with a box of mashed potatoes. All that’s needed is some ground meat and shredded cheese and there’s a delicious meal. Think of cans of vegetables and fruits. What would you like to have for lunch or dinner? There’s just so much macaroni and cheese one can eat. Be sure to check dates on the cans and boxes of food you plan to donate.]
Need help figuring out how to manage anxiety? We are here to help. Give Life Care Wellness a call at (630) 423-5935 to work with any of our qualified therapists at our Glen Ellyn, Sycamore, or Jefferson Park Illinois locations.