Life can be uncertain at the best of times but the times we are living in are beyond uncertain. Add all the worries and concerns any one of us have during our lifetime and a seemingly never ending pandemic and it can make the most laid back person worry. If you add in economic and relationship issues as well as children and our elderly then its no wonder that stress and tension are at an all time high.
We shouldn't underestimate the unique worry we are all dealing with. The only question is finding a way to deal with it.
I want you to realise that it is normal to be worried. Normal to worry. You have permission. You are allowed. But. Worry in a productive and safe way.
Mental health, energetic health and physical health all rely on a balance between rest, exercise, nutrition and psychological care. It is down to you to take responsibility to ensure that you are taking care of all those elements and it is also important to teach yourself to worry in a way that suits you.
So pandemic aside lets look at worrying and using it as the tool it is designed for which is for you to recognise a perceived danger and find a way to stay alive. Worrying is a great way to look at all the options and eventualities of a situation which is crucial to survival. Often, but not always, mothers are seen as the biggest worriers as they are safeguarding the future safety of their offspring in a dangerous world. And often I will hear women say 'I never worried before I had children...'
Often 'worry' is another way to describe thinking about something. Checking the air for a whiff of danger, trusting our gut. Thinking of alternatives to having a fight, an arguement, or surrendering.
We can all speak of our worries, concerns but what happens if it starts to get out of control and you are feeling overwhelmed, scared, frightened and spiralling as your thoughts take on a world of their own.
Here are some ideas for you to try but remember there is no shame in asking for help, mental health advisors and counsellors are there to talk to. To support you. You are never truly alone its just a question of finding the help you need and having the courage to ask for it.
Give yourself time to think. Set time aside to think of your worries. But limit the time to a specific amount of time. Set an alarm if need be. And unleash the worries. It's always useful to have a notepad next to you and try and articulate your feelings. Your fears and worries. I have used pandemic examples but you can write whatever worries you need to.
'I'm worried I can't protect my family'
'I'm scared that I'll get ill and end up in hospital.'
'I'm worried that I'll lose my job'
Here are a couple of examples but write as many as you need they could also include
'I'm worried I can't get to a hairdresser if we go back into lockdown'
* If you are in the mood to wallow in your worries embrace your teenage 'always and forever' mentality and let the worry flow.
* You have a limited time, 15 minutes is a preferred time frame.
* Stay in control.
Do you feel better for actually looking at the problem rather than having it buzzing around in your head, niggling away. Can you see that the worries have merit or that they are self indulgent and obsessive.
Next part which can be done at the same time or independently depending on your mood .
Look at what you've written and for each worry counteract it with 3 statements written by your inner adult. Be sensible. logical and detached.
* In the pandemic I will follow Public Health England guidelines as they have the most up to date information.
* I will trust that I am able to cope with anything that I have to deal with.
* I will use sanitiser, wash our hands and follow social distancing.
* I have explained to everyone that I am worried with the world at the moment and asked them to help me by being gentle, calm and reassuring.
*Ultimately I can only protect my family to my capabilities,
* I am not in control of keeping everyone safe and can only do what I can do.
* I can only do what I can do at any time with the information I have.
Feel the lifting of responsibility and control off your shoulders and readjust what you can actually control and what is out of your hands.
Recognise if you are enjoying the horror of a situation and feeding into its drama. Are you doom and glooming? Negative thinking is so much easier than positivity. We are all going to die. The end of the world is nigh. Yup. We are all going to die. One of the few certainties of life is death. It doesn't mean we want to seek it out but nor should we see it as the ultimate disaster. The thought of loss is horrific so why borrow tomorrows grief for today? To deal with heartache, suffering, grief and loss is hard enough when it happens, we don't need to use our precious time now indulging in the horror. We won't thank ourselves later for it. I have never heard anyone say,
'The best thing about ( insert worry eg losing my whole family) was that I had been so worried about it for so long that actually I feel fine now as I was totally prepared for it......' However much you can try to prepare by worrying it's a wasted use of energy. Unless you are prepared to put solutions in place.
* I will limit my screen time viewing of the news to only once a day - Decide a time and your preferred medium.
* I won't spend time discussing it with everyone all the time.
* I will find other things to do to motivate me.
* I want to make sure that everyone in the house uses sanitiser so I'll put it by the front door.
* I need to find someone to help me with a specific problem, eg: call a GP, a solicitor, a Governing body to shed light on a worry that they have more information than I do.
* I'll call my best friend/ brother / family member ? work collegue as they have a way of saying things which help me find clarity.
* I will think whether I need to call my GP or counsellor.
* I will have a conversation with the person I have a problem with and I will resolve the issue, in a calm, measured and structured way.
Add as many as you can including who helps you and who doesn't. what helps and what doesn't. Maybe its worth also writing what you are learning about yourself. Does worrying make you feel reclusive, over eat, or under eat and bounce off the walls. Do you need to calm down or speed up, find a balance.
You don't want to think about it. You can't find a solution. So off you go, do something.
Clean the house. Nothing is as therapeutic as a good clean. If the basis of all fear is anger work it out of your system.
Get out in the fresh air. Walk. Run. Cycle, feel the air. Notice three things whilst you're out. What the trees are like, wildlife, birds, the clouds. Notice that regardless of what you're going through the world still turns. Nature carries on doing what it does best, surviving.
Go to the sea if you are nearby and watch the unrelenting waves as they carry on and find peace in the rhythm.
Go and hug a tree. Find the biggest oldest one and give it a hug. I'm not sure if anyone at the moment would find it odd and actually might join you. Sit with it and feel the bark, look at the leaves.
If it wasn't the middle of winter I would recommend the same distraction a friend of mine was told as she struggled through an awful divorce, her brother told her to 'get her hands in the soil' and although not a natural gardener it was a good distraction.
Maybe pot some seedlings or buy some plants to tend to.
Put some music on and dance and sing, release.
Find something funny to watch or listen to, plug in and zone out.
Can you meditate or do a meditative yoga practice.. can be wonderful if you are able to focus on the practice and not allow yourself to be distracted.
Call a friend and have a chat. Or skype to see their face. As much as people are reaching out to one another so people are also becoming more reclusive. Don't lose your art of communication. Set up a skype call with a friend living alone and watch a tv show together and have a laugh.
Learn a new skill.
* Always wanted to speak another language? What better time than now, we will travel again, the world will open again and you will be able to speak the language you choose or atleast have fun trying.
* Learn a new instrument. Always wanted to play the guitar? Maybe not something too loud like drums unless you have somewhere that won't drive the neighbours nuts, remember they may be suffering with worries too and the last thing they need is noise.
* Knit, crochet, sew, cross stich, with google and enough on line stores now is a super time to learn your art.
* Paint, draw, write poetry, get out the manuscript and write.
The bottom line is that you are going to have more time on your hands as we are unable to have the social lives we are used to, (that is if you had one before the pandemic) so instead of sitting in the dark worrying use this time that you look back and say 'That's when I learnt the.... insert amazing new skill.
Worries won't disappear straight away but you may be able to give yourself and your mind a break. Stress, tension and worry are the leading causes of illnesses so try and find ways to release and rest, sometimes that can be enough to lighten some of your load. And don't forget to sleep. Your body needs it. Your mind needs it.
One last thing to leave you with that may resonate,
'An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”