Many of us have felt more anxious in recent weeks than we have in decades. It’s not surprising that the current situation makes most of us feel worried and afraid. Anxiety is one of the basic human emotions. Its function is to help us survive and protect us from physical and psychological suffering.
However, although anxiety can be helpful, it can also easily become paralyzing and dysfunctional. There can be a fine line between protecting ourselves and panicking. How can we find a good balance in these uncertain times?
Focusing on the positives
We have control over what we say, see, hear and do. This might sound banal, but it gives us a huge advantage. It means we can decide which issues we want to devote energy to and which we want to leave aside.
Stimulus control is a method used in psychotherapy to promote mental well-being. You can apply this method to the current situation by doing more of what makes you feel good and distancing yourself from things that fuel your anxiety.
Distancing yourself from anxiety
Using the principle of diffusion can help you to distance yourself from your fear. We’re often so wrapped up in our thoughts and feelings that we completely identify with them (fusion means merging or being one). Diffusion involves changing our perspective so that we distance ourselves from our feelings and observe them from the outside.
Try to observe your anxiety as it increases and decreases again. In the role of a spectator, you automatically develop a certain distance to your feelings, which prevents you from being overwhelmed by them.
What if my anxiety does take over?
These methods are not intended to prevent or suppress your anxiety. Rather, we want to find a healthy way of dealing with anxiety in order to regain control in the long term. Anxiety or even panic are bound to come over you from time to time. You can use a short breathing exercise to calm yourself down. Try to make your outwards breath longer than your inwards breath; for example, inhale for four seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system, causing your anxiety levels to drop.
You can find more tips for dealing with anxiety during the coronavirus at “Fear and Corona: 6 ways to deal with fear of the coronavirus“.