There have been many elements of uncertainty in recent times—a global pandemic, warring conflicts, social unrest and racial discord, financial crises, and more. All of these factors contribute to increased stress levels amongst people. In addition, the recent economic and political climate has many people feeling uncertain about their future and circumstances. While uncertainty is a natural part of life, many struggle to deal with such uncertainties. As anxiety rises, people can find new and creative ways to combat this feeling.
The Brain and Anxiety
According to research, the human brain is designed to experience and regulate emotions—a vital part of our everyday lives. The brain, however, is unreliable when it comes to anxiety. When the brain perceives a lack of information in unfamiliar or uncertain situations, it interprets this as a threat and kicks into survival mode. This may happen whether the cause of the threat is real or imagined, such as losing one’s job or getting sick during a widespread epidemic. In either circumstance, the brain causes a person’s heart rate to increase, blood pressure to rise and prompts what experts in the field call “fight or flight” mode. Regardless, anxiety itself is not necessarily an unhealthy state – it tends to our body’s natural reaction to stressful situations.
The good news: There are various ways to deal with anxiety, according to the CDC. Here are some tools for managing stress during these challenging times:
Acknowledge Your Anxiety
Recognize that you may have difficulty concentrating or feel tense, irritable, depressed, or exhausted. These feelings are very typical during stressful and uncertain times. Recognizing that you’re feeling anxious can help you get through it faster than simply trying to ignore the feeling.
Subsequently, strive to maintain a positive outlook when coping with complex or unexpected life events. You can help yourself by cataloging positive aspects of your life and expressing gratitude for these aspects in writing. This can help you recover from stress.
Assess if the Fears Are Justified
When people experience anxiety, they tend to think about the future pessimistically. They assume the worst will happen and fear they won’t cope with a negative outcome. However, when you push back against these thoughts by questioning their validity (i.e., “Is this true?”), you’re better able to deal with it. To assess your anxiety, ask yourself:
- Is my anxiety based on fact or my imagination?
- What am I worried could happen?
- What are the chances that it will happen?
- What is the worst that could happen?
- How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will occur?
- If this happens, what would I do?
If you write down your answers to these questions, you’ll probably realize there are steps you can take to cope even if something terrible happens.
Focus on What You Can Control
While you may not be able to control what happens in the world around you, there are plenty of things within your influence that can help keep you calm and safe. For instance, take small steps to practice self-care activities like eating regularly, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks from work.
Or consider taking control by helping others. For example, you may want to check up on elderly relatives or friends who might be struggling with their anxiety during these difficult times and need some extra support.
Regarding your financial fears, consider using this time to check in with your finances. Then, review your budget and see if there are any areas where you can trim spending — that way, if financial difficulties do arise in the future, you’ll have minor trimming to do.
Practice Media Distancing
We have competing demands for our attention, from the 24-hour news cycle to social media. The endless dissemination of information leaves many feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what is real and what is not. While staying informed of the news is essential, one should avoid obsessively checking headlines several times a day. Stay informed, but don’t obsess over every development. The research shows the effectiveness of limiting your news viewing to a single daily session of no more than one hour and sticking to that limit. If you check in frequently throughout the day, you’ll do more harm than good by allowing fear to take over your life.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help reduce anxiety by bringing your mind into the present moment. These techniques involve breathing exercises, mantras, or visualization techniques. You can practice it in nature or your room. For example, some people use mantras such as “I am loved” or “I am safe,” while others might use prayer like the “Our Father.”
Turn to Spirituality
People turn to spiritual practices as an outlet for their anxiety because they can help provide peace within uncertainty. In addition, the concepts involved in spirituality can give wisdom, insight, and happiness even from difficult times.
Do One Thing Each Day That Brings You Joy
You may feel like there’s nothing left but to tread water and survive during extreme stress—but there’s always something you can do to lift your spirits. The first step is to get yourself out of the house, if only for a while. Here are some ideas:
- Call someone who makes you laugh.
- Take time to pet your dog.
- Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate (or coffee or tea) and relax with a good book.
- Call someone or text someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
Seek a Mental Health Professional
If you feel like you need help working through your anxiety, it’s worth seeking help from a professional. Mental health professionals can treat anxiety disorders with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or other interventions.
Stress, Worry, Anxiety – it’s like the flu. It takes many forms, and adequately treating the problem requires patience and effort. There’s no single solution for managing stress, but rest, exercise, and good nutrition will serve you well. Additionally, we recommend pinpointing the stressors and triggers occurring in your life. With some work, diligence, and support, you can defeat anxiety and reclaim joy and peace in your daily life. At Restoration Recovery Center, we facilitate the proper space for individuals with a substance use disorder to build the best coping skills to manage their stress. Here, our clinicians provide the tools like evidence-based therapies, holistic services, and psychoeducational counseling for you to gain the freedom to properly manage your stress and anxiety without turning to substance use. We instill confidence and self-esteem in a compassionate, supportive environment. Contact us today at (888) 290-0925 to learn more about our treatment program.