Five Simple Ideas To Make You Feel Less Anxious
If you’re not extremely privileged, or well connected and you happen to be living in India right now, chances are you are inconsolably anxious because of COVID 19. The degree of your misery depends on how badly the virus has wormed its way into your life — personal tragedy, watching people close to you suffer partly because of the illness and mostly because of a failed administrative system, or having fallen ill because of it, it is clear that there is no escaping it.
After the initial feelings of outrage and fear disappear, your heart is overrun with despair. It’s impossible to deny that while the situation is rapidly evolving day to day, the end is nowhere in sight.
Looking for external sources of security is no longer a viable option. The doctors are living their own personal hell trying to decide which life to save, the bureaucrats and politicians can’t be trusted to have a conscience even at a time like this, and the only real source of comfort is the kindness of strangers who, despite the sorry state of affairs, have taken it upon themselves to act with dignity and offer help in any way that they can.
The first wave of COVID 19 in India clearly does not hold a candle to the shockingly morbid second wave. There is no pill that can dissolve your fear or transmute your anxiety into peace, but there are things you can do right now to get a grip on the situation at hand.
I’d like to invite you to explore these 5 ideas to regulate your mental state during protracted crisis.
5. Define a routine and do your best to maintain it
Try and wake up at the same time every day, eat your meals on time, do the dishes and the laundry on time, maybe exercise and meditate every day, even if you aren’t feeling up to it. The subliminal message to reinforce is that even if most things are outside your control, your routine will always be there to ground you. Ruminating about the state of the world might make you miserable and not change the reality that you inhabit, but steadying yourself and having a schedule to stick to can do a lot to improve your immediate situation. Feeling like whatever you do can make a difference can do a lot to lift your mood.
4. Do justice to the role you find yourself in
Friend, soothsayer, employee, boss, parent, child, sibling, caretaker, patient, or whatever else. You don’t always choose who you might have to be on a particular day. If you are lucky enough to find yourself healthy, safely at home and employed, do your best to make the most of what is given to you. Tables turn and fortunes change with little warning. Wherever you find yourself today, I invite you to fully immerse yourself in the experience, give it the respectful attention it deserves and move on, one task at a time.
3. Cherish the little things and the things that cannot be taken from you
Taking a moment to be grateful for the hot breakfast on your table, the money in your bank account, the clothes you’re wearing and the roof over your head can reset your emotional state to one of quiet confidence. Take this a step further and remind yourself to also be grateful for the things that will always be yours — the ability to do the right thing under pressure, the humility to learn from your mistakes and the grace to accept setbacks and keep moving forward. All these are attributes that can be cultivated and nurtured by anyone irrespective of where they are right now. Remind yourself of the timeless values that reside within you and exercise them in your daily life.
2. Expend your energy only on what you can control
“A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work”. Weeks of worrying and working deplete your life force and leave you feeling hollow and unfulfilled. All of this is self-inflicted harm. One exercise I’ve found particularly useful in trying to combat the gravitational pull of negativity is to ask the question — “will worrying about this help me get closer to the solution?” The answer is always no. Worrying might take you away from the solution but it rarely useful. No amount of worrying is going to change what is going to happen. You can’t will yourself to stop worrying, but you can ask yourself, “If not worrying, what else can I do in this situation?” You won’t always have an answer when you ask yourself this question, but do this enough times, and you will find some interesting answers emerge. You might be alerted to some specific action you can take — exercise more regularly, talk to a friend, see a therapist. The point of asking yourself the question is to allow room for exploration instead of falling into the default habit of worrying.
1. Use action to cure anxiety
If you’re on edge because you’ll get sick, take action to improve your immunity — exercise, do some breath work or cook one healthy meal a day. If you’re stressed about your family or friends falling ill, check on them and see what you can do to keep them safe. If you’re worried about the state of the world, see if you can help with the relief efforts. Do whatever you can right now; if you don’t have the bandwidth to physically volunteer, consider donating to charities or just feeding stray animals in your locality. Everything counts. No matter how small the action, doing something that directly addresses your anxiety is a powerful antidote against feelings of powerlessness.
You don’t need to have all the answers to manage or improve your mental state. Small actions repeated consistently can take you a long way. You only need to start and keep the momentum going.
This too shall pass.