0 In Health Coaching/ Integrative nutrition/ self-care

Pandemic Panic: Managing Anxiety In the Age of a Pandemic

Let’s face it. Many of us are anxious AF these days — between the headlines, looming health concerns about our friends and family (and ourselves), the never-ending barrage of social media posts, texts and notifications, we’re overwhelmed with an overload of information. Many of us are now trying to work from home, juggling jobs and childcare, home schooling, and more. Many of us are out of work, scared about finances and what happens if this continues any longer. Simply put – IT’S A LOT.

Despite all this, there seems to be a lot of pressure circulating that we should be “making the most” of this time — learning new skills, perfecting our best sourdough bread recipe, mastering a new instrument, starting new creative endeavors. And if you can manage to do that — good for you! But if that feels overwhelming to you, then I’m here to give you permission to let go of that pressure. This is NOT a normal time we’re living in. And if all you can do is survive day to day – that is huge. That alone is a win worth celebrating.

I recently started my new Saturday Morning Gut Check virtual support group series, were we spent our first session discussing this very topic, as well as some anxiety management techniques that work for each of us. Here is a master list with many of my own favorite methods, and some offerings from our group as well. Not every technique is right for every person, so I’ve included a lot here (it’s a long list!) in the hopes that one or more of these can help you, too. If you’re interesting in joining our next call, let me know!

Anxiety Management Techniques:

4-7-8 Breathing

  • breathe in slowly as you count to 4
  • hold breath at the top as you count to 7
  • breathe out slowly as you count to 8
  • repeat 3-4 times

5-4-3-2-1

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. Stop, breathe, look around your space and focus on:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can feel
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

Say a mantra with your hands on your heart and belly

A great one that’s helped me lately is “I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.” Putting your hands on your heart and belly helps you to stay connected and present in your body. Take some deep breaths and repeat this to yourself a few times.

Grounding (aka “Earthing”)

Connect with the earth’s surface to ground yourself – walk barefoot, sit on the grass. It’s said to help you reconnect with the earth’s electrons and has myriad health benefits, including relaxation and stress-relief.

Guided Meditation

Check out apps like Headspace and Calm to track daily meditations. I’ve been loving morning meditations with Robyn Youkilis on Instagram Live. One Down Dog, my favorite LA yoga studio, is now offering morning meditations every weekday over Zoom.

Practice Gratitude

One of the best ways to combat free-floating anxiety and negativity is to focus on what you’re grateful for — especially now!

Here are 8 simple gratitude practices to help reduce stress. I’m doing a 30 day #QuarantineGratitudeChallenge over on my Instagram stories. Join me with sharing your own on your stories & tagging me so I can see! (use this image to share yours each day!)

Move Your Body

  • go for a walk
  • dance!
  • practice yoga (my favorite studio is now offering online classes)
  • play tag in the yard with your kids or dog
  • find a workout on youtube (try something new!)
  • stretch

Movement not only supports your digestion, which in turn helps your mood, but also keeps your blood flowing and makes your heart happy!

Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve

The vagus Nerve is a central part of your parasympathetic nervous system (also known as “rest and digest”). By stimulating it, you can bring on a sense of calm or help to halt a panic attack. Try these 10 techniques!

Focus on What You CAN Control

This practice brings you out of overwhelm and into a space of being present in the moment with your body and mind. There are a lot of unknowns these days. So what CAN you control?

One thing you can choose to control is HOW you react to certain stressors or situations. You can control the food you feed your body. You can control the ways you respond to, interact with and care for your family, and you can control how you take care of yourself — go for walks, move your body, enjoy a food you love, call a loved one, take a bath to relax, etc. Focusing on what is in your control helps you feel less powerless during this time.

The Butterfly Hug

Someone in our group shared this technique and I love it! Not only does this technique employ a gentle pressure (“hug”) on your chest, but it also utilizes bilateral stimulation to help bring about a sense of calm in your body. This video explains the technique if you’d like to try it.

Set Boundaries

This not only applies to boundaries you set for yourself, but as someone in our group pointed out, you can also set boundaries on your interactions with others, too. Setting boundaries can look like this:

  • Limiting TV/Social media time to certain blocks of time
  • Stopping all TV/social media by a certain time of night so you can sleep better.
  • Asking friends and family to respect your wishes and to not send you triggering texts with stats or news articles throughout the day
  • Setting firm boundaries around your work availability. Just because you’re home and near your computer does not mean you have to work (or be available to reply to emails) all the time.
  • Choosing to focus on yourself and only your needs when appropriate

Celebrate Small Victories

Did you finally get to shower and blow dry your hair today? (only me?) Make it through a day without snapping at anyone, or crying? Connect more deeply with someone you love? Decide to cook a delicious vegetable dish instead of eating another cookie? Or maybe your win today was that you baked some delicious bread! Whatever it is — celebrate it. Every single milestone deserves celebration right now. We’re all surviving, and survival looks and feels different to everyone.

Connect Virtually with Friends and Family

Just because we’re isolated doesn’t mean we have to do this alone. This is a time to reach out to your friends and family even more over the phone, zoom or FaceTime. Plan zoom dates with girlfriends, family dinner nights, game night with friends, cook over FaceTime with your grandma… there are so many ways we can still connect right now. Yes, you’ll likely start by talking about how insane the world is today, but then it’ll be like old times and you’ll be connecting with the people you love.

Focus on Nutrition

As easy as it is to eat all the packaged and baked goods in sight right now (I get it, I’m right there with you), it’s important to balance these with good nutrition, wherever possible. Eating whole, real foods, if they are available to you right now, is so key in supporting your gut health, mental health and overall immunity.

Remember that this does not need to be PERFECT. You can have one meal of overindulging in sweets and the next enjoying a bowl full of kale. (Every little step is worth celebrating, remember?) Each of those meals served a different need of yours and that’s totally fine!

Talk Therapy

Just because you’re stuck at home does not mean you’re out of luck. There are a TON of online therapy resources. You can sign up and within 24 hours be linked up with a therapist and begin having on-on-one private virtual sessions. Don’t forget this important tool in your toolbox!

Prioritize Self Care

Along the lines of that last bullet, this one is key. You can’t pour from an empty cup! This is especially important if you live with significant others, children, dogs, whoever! You need to make sure your own needs are met before you can tend to and support anyone else’s. It’s hard to remember that sometimes. Whether it’s one of the things in this list, taking a relaxing bath, committing to a regular morning practice or skin care routine. Whatever it is that will make you feel good right now – do it – and communicate your needs as well.

What’s been helpful for you? What would you add to this list?

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