When Anxiety is the Norm – Right Now

posted in: Observations | 0

Hey guess what? Feeling anxious right now is probably the healthiest and most normal response to what is happening around us that you’ve ever had. 😉

Look, I get it, we are in uncharted territory right now and no one is really sure what comes next. We are seeing the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 continue to go up and up, and are constantly being told that it’s going to continue doing that as more tests become available. And every day there are more deaths, and no one can say for sure that any one of us, or someone we love, won’t be next.

If that doesn’t make you feel some level of anxiety, you may not be capable of it.

I feel it too. And, frankly, if you made a bell curve of the people least impacted directly by this virus, I’d be on that. I already work from home. I am already an introvert who doesn’t go out much, I already do a lot of my communicating online. I’m right there at that cross section of low-risk and low-impact, and I still feel plenty of anxiety. I feel anxious because I know a lot of people are not at that cross-section, family members who are quarantined, family members who’ve been laid off, friends who’s job and businesses may not survive this.

Mostly, I feel anxiety because no matter what I do, or who I am, I have zero control over what happens around the world with this pandemic. I’m pretty powerless, and I have no answers that will reassure everyone at this time.

What I can do, however, is set that anxiety aside and control the things I can control. I can’t save the world by finding a cure or a vaccination, that’s going to be up to people a lot smarter than me. But I can do what I do, and I can offer help where I can.

For example:

  • I can share as many tips about dealing with anxiety and mental health struggles during stressful times as I can find. (And if you follow the Sunday link posts here, or follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen a bunch of those.)
  • As someone who has worked from home, and even taught online classes, I can offer to share my knowledge about that, and if you follow my professional blog and social media you’ve seen plenty of that as well.
  • I can continue to maintain and grow the Child Abuse Survivors Group on Facebook as a safe place for people to keep in touch with other survivors.
  • I can take part in Twitter chats, and group texts with family, drop in on people I know using Facebook Live, keep sharing random distractions along with educational resources on social networks, use all of this technology to check in on folks, and make myself available for others to reach out to online.
  • I can try and find ways to make a difference and support each other.
  • And, maybe most of all. I can follow the advice in many of those articles I’m sharing about practicing good self care.
    • I can turn off the news and take a break from looking at social media.
    • I can go outside
    • I can talk to my wife now that we are both home working all day
    • I can find fun activities to occupy my anxiety-riddled brain, music, movies, books, heck there are a lot of things being broadcast online now, bands giving concerts online, virtual museum tours, educational programs, podcasts, etc. There are, in short, plenty of things that you could be doing instead of getting minute by minute virus updates.
    • I can follow the advice of medical experts, wash my hands frequently, limit contact with others, take vitamins, do some healthy eating, get some exercise, etc.
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As you can see, that’s a pretty long list of things I can do, things I have control over, and it doesn’t even include working all day, which I am also doing.

As we go through this strange and dangerous time, we really do have a choice. We are all feeling various levels of anxiety and fear about this. That’s normal when faced with so much uncertainty. I can’t change the uncertainty. It’s here, and its going to be here for a long time. We always have some level of uncertainty, but this is a whole lot more being dumped on top of all the normal things we are uncertain about, and it’s a rough adjustment. You can allow yourself to be overwhelmed by it, or you can find a way to set aside the things we can’t control, and focus on the things we can control, the ways in which we can come together, support one another, and take care of ourselves.

You can find a way to be a helper in this situation, or you can cause more anxiety for people. You can share helpful information that helps people be as safe as they can be, you can share encouragement and love, you can share of yourself, or you can share your crazy Uncle’s conspiracy theories, unfounded rumors, or your outrage at every single person who doesn’t deal with things exactly the way you do.

We are all anxious, we are all capable of overreacting and being less than gracious right now. But when this is all over, and regardless of what happens to me as an individual, I know what I want the people who are important to me to remember about how I handled myself. I want them to remember that I did what I could to encourage them, love them, and support them.

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In short, that I did my best on the things I could control, even while knowing that there is so much I cannot control right now. Since we can’t control all that other stuff anyway, it’s really the best choice we have.

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