Tools for dealing with fear and anxiety

Question of the Week

It’s that time again…Happy Five-Minute Friday!

How do you stay sane in a world that’s turned upside down? Right now, coronavirus is changing our world in unprecedented ways. The NBA and NCAA have suspended their seasons. My clients in Italy tell me their entire city is shut down. Here in Illinois, the governor and mayor of Chicago are mandating that all events with over 1000 people be postponed for 30 days and suggesting events with more than 250 people be suspended as well. People are panic-buying groceries, cleaning supplies and even toilet paper. Massive lines at the grocery store signal to me that fear and panic are taking hold.

I’m not going to tell you not to panic or even to set your fear aside. It’s completely normal to have these feelings. However, this week I want to give you a few tools that can help you deal with the emotions that are likely arising. I’m not a therapist. But I’ve dealt with significant trauma, and these tools have helped me face my fear and cope with the anxiety created by uncertainty and the unknown. I hope they can provide some comfort to you as well.


Focus on what you can control

Ignoring your fear and anxiety won’t make it go away. However, focusing on what you can control can help you release those things that you can’t. For example, you can’t control the overall spread of the pandemic, cancelled events or what any of this will mean for your money or your future. However, you can control preparation and exposure to the virus.

The CDC has offered the following advice to keep your risk as low as possible:

  • Wash your hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60-%-95% alcohol.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing and/or sneezing
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touch objects and surfaces
  • If you are experiencing any of these symptoms seek care right away.

You can find additional information from the CDC and World Health Organization. Overall, rather than worrying about all the events around you, keep the focus on you.


Take care of yourself

You can also focus on taking care of your physical and emotional health during this stressful time. That includes

  • getting lots of rest, eating healthy food
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • being physically active (if you’re not sick)
  • doing something that gives you energy and joy
  • limiting the amount of time you spend reading or watching news about the pandemic

For instance, you can get off of the Internet and go for a walk. Buy yourself some flowers. Or clean your house with Janet Jackson blaring in the background (an example that helps one of my friends). These small treats can make a big difference in your mental space and energy.

Also, it may be helpful to talk to friends or family to release some of your fears. Please reach out to me if you need a listening ear. I’m here for any and every emotion that comes up. If you find yourself getting extremely stressed or depressed, it may be helpful to consult with a mental health professional who can help you navigate the depth of these feelings. We’re all in this together and can help each other share the burden of dealing with the situation.


One day at a time

Lastly, one of my favorite mantras, is “one day at a time.” Yes, this coronavirus will have a lasting impact on our health, economy and connection to the world. But the only day we have is today. So rather than worry about what has yet to happen, stay focused on the present.

You can do that in many ways such as:

  • meditation
  • taking at least three deep breaths
  • mentally scanning your body for how you feel
  • creating gratitude lists (5 things you are grateful for today)
  • focusing on the thing you are doing in the moment

Being present and not dwelling on the past or the future, will help keep your problems right sized.


Quote of the Week

“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


Task of the Week

Try one of these tools this weekend. And if need be, try all three! I hope they can provide some comfort in these uncertain times. Also, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a message or note on the links below with how you’re feeling and what you’re doing to take care of yourself.