If you are experiencing extra anxiety during these everchanging times, you aren’t alone. Covid-19 has us all struggling with more stress, uncertainty and change than usual. It has a lot of us wondering how to tend to our feelings and how to stay calm during an extremely challenging time.
As we try to find various ways to navigate anxiety about Covid-19, a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, a revered mindfulness teacher, continues to pop into my mind: “When crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”
So how can we calm our nerves and quell anxieties?
Breathe: The first step we can take when we are feeling our anxiety is to calm our sympathetic nervous system: A simple way to do this is with long, intentional breaths. Take at least 3 deep breaths, counting to five with the inhale, and counting to five on the exhale. Notice tensions being released.
Senses: Use your five senses (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell) to notice what is around you in the moment. What do you see? What do you hear? Can you taste anything? Touch something near you and describe it to yourself. Can you smell anything? By doing this, we can come back to our bodies in the present moment.
Presence: In times like these, it is easy to go down the path of the “what-ifs” and get lost in our narratives and projections. Create a space and time designated specifically for news and media. The rest of the day be where your feet are. Ask yourself — what am I getting from constantly looking through the sad and frightening stories all day?
Non-attachment: If you are experiencing negative thoughts, notice them and feel them, and then let them go. Think of your thoughts as a twig in a river: you can notice that it is there, and you can also watch it pass. You can feel fear, sadness and frustration, but avoid attaching them to your own narrative, this ultimately leads to suffering.
— Maddie Mihalich, MSW, May 2020
Biographical Note: Maddie is a psychotherapist based in Vienna, VA and is working to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She earned her Master’s in Social Work from Fordham University, where she served in the communities of The Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester County before returning to her roots in Northern Virginia.
Additional Note: You may also find this little visual helpful.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog