We are living in anxious times

We are living in unprecedented times. At least in terms of our access to social media and the 24 hour news cycle. It is very hard to stay away from the news even in the interests of keeping our anxiety at bay. 

Most people around me have voiced their anxiety about some aspect of the pandemic sweeping the world. Whether it’s about their elderly immuno-compromised parents, their business collapsing due to loss of contracts, or because of the empty shelves in supermarkets.

I am no different. As weeks go on and turn into months, I’ve been feeling increasingly more anxious and looking for ways to manage my anxiety.

I could make this post short and sweet and simply write “use plenty of alcohol and valium”. But that is neither sustainable nor healthy, so even though I have had a few more glasses of wine than usual and a tablet or two of valium at peak anxiety times, they are not my main coping strategies.

Keep busy

What has been really helping me is keeping busy. The adrenaline and cortisol fueling my anxiety have been pushing me to DO things, so I’ve been doing them. Not necessarily terribly helpful things, like making the kitchen sparkling, but I have put some of our excess Lego up for sale, have folded, packed and donated two bags of my kids’ clothing and have dug out one of my long-forgotten craft projects ready to finish.

I’ve also been working on my website copy, signed up for an email challenge and have been doing a few FB lives both on my page and in one of my groups. I have a new marketing book to read, an online course to revisit and more copy to overhaul on the website.

I have also been blogging on my personal blog – journalling about this journey we’re on and providing a platform for others to have a vent about the panic-buying hordes in supermarkets.

If you’re finding that business is slow or that you’ve lost work and are now sitting twiddling your thumbs, now is a great time to work ON your business. Revamp your website, rewrite your copy, do that online course (or six) that you purchased months ago and haven’t had time to actually look at. Go back to your business plan and see what needs to change as a result of what is going on. Develop a marketing plan, create some branding templates, review your offerings to see what needs to go, what needs to change and what new things you can offer, that now you have the time to develop.

Get a hobby

If you’re too anxious to devote any brain power to any of that (trust me, I know the feeling), then now is also the perfect time to take up a new hobby or return to an old forgotten one. Assuming you’re not busy looking after small children or homeschooling older ones. Our schools in Victoria have closed early for school holidays, but my kids are teenagers and pretty self-sufficient most of the time.

Another thing that helps my anxiety, even during normal times is crochet. I find that it keeps my hands busy while I watch TV and stops me from constantly looking at my phone. And I get to make beautiful things. There are so many things you can make, from blankets and throws, to shawls, dresses and even toys. If you’ve never crocheted or have forgotten how, I highly recommend the Crochet Crowd and Bella Coco on YouTube for great beginner tutorials.

Have I shown you my new craft space? Here it is:

I added a foldable trestle table to the end of my work desk and voila! Art and craft space. So far, I’ve only used it to play with some oil pastels, but at least I no longer have an excuse not to let my creative side out. I will set up my beading project on it next.

Get out into nature

Another sensible piece of advice I heard is to get out in nature and let it calm your nervous system. You can do this by going for a walk in some bushland, or a park, sitting in your back yard, if you have one, or even looking out of your window onto some trees. I accidentally went to our local Botanical Gardens this week to see the display of begonias left behind from the Ballarat Begonia Festival that happens each year.

If you’re a regular or lapsed meditator, meditation can help you to calm your thoughts and body, as well as make sleep easier. But I read somewhere that starting meditation in these anxious times is not a good idea as your anxious mind might be just too jumpy to train right now.

I would, however, recommend apps such as Smiling Mind and Headspace for short meditations that will help you get out of your head for short periods of relief from the anxious mind chatter.

Time travel

Another fabulous strategy which helps me enormously with any anxiety-provoking situations, such as job interviews, difficult meetings or appointments, or anything else that you’re dreading, is time travel. Yes, you read that right – time travel. I simply imagine the moment immediately after the unpleasant event is over in as much detail as I can.

So for example, if it’s a meeting or an interview, I will imagine the moments right after it’s finished. I will visualise closing the door on the way out, walking along the corridor, riding down in the lift, walking out the building, walking down to my car, maybe taking myself out for a coffee, etc. Actually, planning something nice for immediately after the unpleasant situation you’re about to face is also a great strategy.

Try thinking about what the world will be like after this pandemic is over. How will have things changed, if at all? Will employers become more comfortable with staff working from home and generally with more flexible work arrangements? How will the economy have changed? How will your neighbourhood have changed? What difference will months of homeschooling have had on your family?

Or simply imagine what it will be like when everything goes back to normal. Because it will. It is inevitable that this will become just a blip in our history books, a few crazy months in our lives and then things will return to normal. We will return to the cinemas and theatres, restaurants and cafes will be full again and we will gather together at parties with our nearest and dearest.

Personally, I find it fascinating to speculate about what the world will look like post coronavirus, but I suspect it will look remarkably like it did before. Humans are like a tsunami, nothing can stop them for long. As much as I love seeing what a complete lockdown can do for a country’s pollution levels, I know we won’t change our ways. Governments and industry won’t change anything. So if it helps you to imagine that the world will return to its relative normality, use your visualisation powers to do that, at least at the scale of your family and your home.

How are you coping with the coronavirus anxiety? Are your kids home, or still at school? How is your business coping? Have you lost work or are things humming as per usual?

Tell me how you’re getting on in the comments below.

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