Dear friends, these days I am seeing more and more share that they are in a state of worry and fear. But that fear and worry wreaks havoc on your physical wellbeing.
During these times especially, we need to be doing all we can to keep ourselves in a mental state of ease and calm.
Here are a few things you can start doing today to guard yourself against fear and worry:
Be mindful of the media you consume: watching the news, scrolling through your Facebook feed, and even binge watching dark Netflix series. The songs you listen too with the killer baselines but have negative lyrics. Limit these as much as possible for one week and experience for yourself, the difference it makes.
Immerse yourself in uplifting books, watch shows that inspire, and maybe trade your fearmongering Facebook in for the lighter inspiring feelings of Pinterest or Instagram or TikTok.
Do something creative. Being creative requires you to be present and it’s the most wonderful distraction from thoughts that concern you.
Meditate. This probably should have been number one. If you are finding yourself in a state of fear and worry, meditation has this wonderful way of shutting those emotions down. When you quiet your mind, you block your thoughts, including those negative ones. And no thought is better than negative thought. Meditation is like hitting a reset button for your emotional state.
Reach for activities and things that calm you and are satisfying: get outdoors, take a walk, take a bath, light some candles, breathe in calming essential oils like lavender or those that are grounding like frankincense. Do some gardening or baking if that’s something you enjoy.
Some studies I read when I was preparing to write this post emphasized the importance of staying connected to friends and social networks. Text or FaceTime a friend. Organize a zoom call.
Make positive lists. Journal. My daughters and I have been doing this more and more often. We make lists of things we would like to do, where we would like to go, places we would like to travel, meal ideas/recipes we want to try, birthday ideas, things we can do for others.
Learn something new! Learning a new skill is empowering and also helps you to be more present.
Whatever you choose to do, choose something that will get yourself to a mental place that feels better. I hope that these suggestions can help point you to some ideas that will bring you more peace. ✌🏻
*Curious about how anxiety affects the body exactly? Here is a Psychology Today article that’s a bit older, but explains it pretty well. And there is this one as well.
I was watching a series on Netflix with my kids called “The Healing Powers of Dude.” It’s about a middle school kid named Noah who has an emotional support dog named Dude…and social anxiety.
I was explaining to my almost eleven-year-old daughter that I could relate to Noah in so many ways. That I was very much like him at that age. As a young adult I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. My daughter couldn’t believe it. She said, “But Mommy you seem extroverted.” I thanked her for the compliment and started sharing some ways that I overcame it.
I wondered if other young people might benefit from the wisdom I’ve gained and maybe wouldn’t have to struggle like Noah did. Like I did.
So here they are, five things I did (and still do) to cope with and eventually overcome social anxiety:
1. Stop nightmaring. Nightmaring is where you go “worst case scenario.” You come up with all kinds of imaginary possible outcomes in your mind, and many of them are utterly absurd and irrational. I totally had a habit of this, and still catch myself doing it from time to time. In “The Healing Powers of Dude” Noah imagines losing Dude or his schoolmates turning into Zombies. Some more common examples of nightmaring would be imagining that everyone is looking at you, or talking about you. Somehow I felt like imagining all of the possible negative outcomes would help me be prepared, but what I realized in time was that those negative things rarely ever happened – I was just imagining for nothing. The key word though is “imagining” and it’s good news because that means it isn’t real. It’s fiction. And you cut it out by staying present which is number 2.
2. Stay present. The term anxiety means that you are focusing on imaginary negative future outcomes. They are illusions only in your mind. You can eliminate them entirely by staying present. But how do you do that, you ask? When you can’t shut your thoughts off? There are several strategies I use: conscious breathing. Meditating. Yoga. Go outside and be in nature. Tap into any one of the five senses. Finding joy in what you are doing in this moment, which is also number 3.
3. Find joy. Look for things that are satisfying. Make lists of things that bring you joy. Lists of your hobbies. Create vision boards. Find a couple of safe people, like Noah did.
4. Recharge your battery daily by taking some quiet time for yourself. Chances are, if you have social anxiety, you also are an introvert. Your energy gets depleted around others and especially new social situations. You need to know when you need to withdraw and recover. In one episode of “Healing Powers” Noah realized he needed to step away from the party and be alone in a quiet room. I still to this day will withdraw from a group when I feel low energy. It’s self-care when you have social anxiety.
5. Take comfort in routine, structure and schedules. Those of us with social anxiety are often triggered by the element of surprise. The unknown. The unexpected. On the flipside, routines and structure are calming and reassuring for us. This is how I am able to teach middle school. I need structure and routine for my own well-being and it makes it very easy to create it for my students. I generally feel safe with my groups of kids, we know each other and the sequence of events from day to day is predictable. I am writing this during the 2020 quarantine and even here at home, without realizing it, I have created a very predictable routine and schedule for our family. It becomes second nature with practice. Noah enjoys going to concerts and I do too. He says he feels like he can blend in with the crowd and I totally get that. After you’ve been to a concert you know what to expect and you feel at ease with the whole show routine.
I have come to accept that I will never be an extrovert, and I don’t know that I want to or need to.
Final words of wisdom?
🐾 Practice staying present and being in the moment! Remember that life is supposed to be fun. Plan fun and exciting things for yourself.
🐾 Try as much as you can to replace your nightmaring with daydreaming. It’s great to flash forward and think about what might happen in the future – but make sure they are good things.
🐾 Give yourself space when you need it.
🐾 Remember that structure and routine are your friends. They are comforting! The whole reason anxiety exists is because it is fear of the unknown. By creating predictable routines for yourself you lower the anxiety for yourself and those around you. This does not mean you have to live in a box. Our family goes on lots of adventures! But I make sure I do lots of planning beforehand and that I am with people I trust when I do them.
🐾 And one final thought. Give yourself permission to just stay quiet. So much of my social anxiety as an adolescent came from feeling like I had to know what to say. But now as an adult I realize it’s perfectly acceptable, if not preferable, to stay quiet.
Stay off social media to the extent possible and avoid CNN and FoxNews. My dad used to refer to the news as “the bad news.” The older I get, the more I see he was right.
Stay calm. We do need to stay home, to flatten the curve. But don’t panic. People get worked up in numbers and blow things out of proportion. This only contributes to the negative energy and attracts the unwanted.
Be proactive. Do things you should do anyway. Wash hands. Avoid shaking hands and other unnecessary physical contact. But not to the extent of anxiety.
Stay positive. The more upbeat you are, the higher you are vibing, the less at-risk you are of attracting unwanted. Focus on positive aspects as much as possible. Make lists if needed.
Self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be any good to anyone else. Have a nice cup of tea. Give yourself a facial or mani-pedi. Take a bubble bath. Read a good book.
Meditate. I questioned myself if this should be number one. Why? One of the biggest stumbling blocks for most of us is negative thought. And what is the best way to get off that wagon? No thought. In other words, meditate. Negative thoughts and feelings are such a big component to this whole situation if we are honest. If everyone could take a big deep breath and clear their mind, we could put a brief stop to this collective panic and get a grip. For REAL.
Gratitude. Honestly, when I was watching Oprah Winfrey as a teenager and she gave the advice to keep a gratitude journal, it changed my life. I practice it with my children. I have them tell me five things they are thankful for when we say prayers. I want the best possible thoughts in their minds as they drift off to sleep and their brain goes in to recharge mode.
Prayer. If you believe in a higher power, ask for what it is you want and ask big. Our God is in control and those of us who take rest in Him can rest easy.