Your social media feeds, news outlets and email inbox have probably been flooded with COVID-19 updates. For many of us, the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the disruptions it has caused to daily life might be causing feelings of anxiety and stress. While these feelings are normal to experience—feelings of worry should not consume your life. When you’re experiencing anxiety or stress, your thoughts can get into a cycle of worries which can often exacerbate these feelings. When you are experiencing these feelings, the anxiety and stress can lead you to overestimate the likelihood of bad events and negative consequences.
So how do you change the way you think and break out of the worry cycle? It takes time and practice to develop a different lens through which to view the world, but it can be done and in doing so you can reduce your anxiety and stress. You can start by learning to:
- Recognize when you are thinking anxiously or negatively
- Recognize what is in and out of your control
- Identify ways in which your negative thoughts might not be accurate
- Actively challenge negative, anxious thoughts and emphasize more balanced ways of thinking
When you recognize an anxious or stressful thought, try to think about how you handle it. Are you thinking about the problem constructively or destructively? For situations out of your control, remember that uncertainty is part of everyday life and feeling uncomfortable or scared is okay. However, for situations in your control think about how you can respond constructively. In all situations it is important to make space for your emotions and figure out how to manage the situation as best as you can.
For example, instead of worrying about finding the cure to COVID-19, think about what you can do in this situation. Are you practicing social distancing to stop the spread of this infectious disease and following the prevention and control guidelines?
- It’s okay to state a problem without solving it
- Try to focus on the constructive – don’t sit in a problem
- Try to keep busy, distractions can be a positive thing (engage in parts of your life that bring you joy, e.g. take a walk outside, try crafting, or call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while)
- Make intentinal space to feel the emotion or address it
- Practice constructive thinking about a problem (be critical and check your sources related to COVID-19)
- Remind yourself “I’m doing everything I can do in this situation”
These skills take time to develop, so take it easy on yourself as you build up these new ways of thinking. If you’d like to learn more about thought challenging and other strategies for reducing anxiety, try taking our Alleviating Anxiety seminar.