Along with an increase in covid cases comes an increase in worry and anxiety*. The number one issue at work these days is “how do I deal with this?” As a public service announcement I will tell you. Pay attention: people pay me big bucks for this sort of stuff.

The first step in dealing with stress is to not try whitewash or deny things but recognize these are tough times. Anxiety is like an unwelcome family member Thanksgiving – in this example I will personify a/w as Uncle Joe. You wish he weren’t there but he is; the task is to keep Uncle Joe’s dinner table shenanigans to a minimum and not let him to run and ruin things. 

The second step is to remember bad things and times always happen; the current set is indeed a nasty one but this isn’t unique. You have more strengths than you realize. 

The third step is learning and applying something called mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention to what you are experiencing/what is happening in the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness takes time to practice but it is simple to learn and it has one of the best track records for dealing with the Uncle Joes of life. Mindfulness has four general parts:

#1 – Recognizing what your are feeling/experiencing. “I am experiencing sadness/anger/panic/confusion” puts you at a little but crucial distance to not immediately act out on these feelings**

#2 – Allow the feeling to happen. This advice is often met with aghast as most patients want the anxiety/worry/panic/confusion to go away or not to have happened in the first place. Yes it feels bloody awful and certainly you would rather not have it but it’s there. Like Uncle Joe if you try to eject him he becomes more dominant and ensconced.

#3 – Examine it. Start asking the questions: Why now? What is contributing to it? What things from the past are playing into it and coloring it?  

#4 – Disengage from it. Anxiety is not ‘you’; it is what you are experiencing. You are not Uncle Joe nor are you responsible for his being there or for his shenanigans. You can do something about his influence on him. This is where the patient’s individual strengths and approaches are applied. Perhaps your best method is take time out/walk away; perhaps it means applying the approaches you know have helped in the past. 

Through recognition, acceptance, examination, and action one can get through a lot including these worrisome times.

 

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*’Worry’ is a state of mental agitation while ‘anxiety’ is worry with somatic symptoms such as shortness of breath, palpitations, and restless. This is straw-splitting but I like the discrimination. 

**Feelings vs. emotions. This is another psychobabble straw-splitting maneuver. Feelings are conscious while emotions are not conscious.