We like certainty. We are hard-wired to want to know what is happening and notice threats, and when things feel uncertain, it is normal to feel stressed. And while this reaction is there to protect us, it can cause havoc when there is a sense of uncertainty and conflicting information around us. What are you thinking?
Are you feeling some anxiety? Right now, many of us are worried about COVID-19. We may feel helpless about what will happen and uncomfortable with our apparent loss of control, and this uncertainty can remind us of times when we didn’t feel safe and the future was uncertain.
In times like these, our mental or emotional health can suffer without our realizing it’s happening. Take time to notice … what are you thinking? You might feel more on edge than usual, angry, or sad. Or you might find yourself feeling depressed and less motivated to carry out daily activities.
I want to encourage you that you are not helpless, despite what you are reading in current news. You can always choose your response. If you notice that you are struggling here are some things you can do to take care of mental and emotional health in the face of uncertainty:
Separate what IS in your control from what is not
Focus on what you can do. Wash your hands. Make sure you sleep. Check out other suggestions I shared earlier this month, and limit your consumption of news (it’s not encouraging positive thoughts, right?).
Do what helps YOU feel a sense of safety
This will be different of each of us, and I encourage you not to compare yourself to others. It’s okay if you feel safer when you limit your attendance at social events, provided you are isolating yourself out of concern for infection and not because of depression.
Get outside in nature!
Even better, take a walk in nature. There are numerous studies that have documented the benefits of being out in the sun where you can see the signs of spring and hear the birds and the wind in the trees. This one practice alone will boost your mental, emotional and physical health. If you didn’t read my suggestions for supporting your immune system, check it out here.
Challenge yourself to stay in the present
Do you find your worry is compounding – you are not only concerned about what is happening now, but also the “what ifs” in the future? When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently shift yourself back to the present. To do this, notice sights, sounds, tastes and sensory experiences in your environment and name them. This is called mindfulness, and coupled with deep breathing, it helps to reduce stress. Here are more approaches.
Stay connected with people and reach out for support
Talk to trusted friends or family members about what you are feeling. It’s okay to reach out to a mental health professional for support. You don’t have to be alone with your worry. It can be comforting to share what you are experiencing with someone trained to help.
Parents be aware that teens tend to feel emotions more intensely. If you have a teen who seems anxious about current events, read this article for some tips.
There may also be a physiological reason for your anxiety or depression. The microbiome (bacteria in your gut) is a key player in making the neurotransmitters that govern our feelings. When it is damaged by medications or eating foods to which your body reacts, your body will lack the neurotransmitters that it needs. Thankfully, the gut can heal and the microbiome can rebound, and I can help identify what is needed to support healing.
Life is full of uncertainty and change. It is important, as part of your overall wellness, that you take note of your emotional and mental health and mindfully take action to support yourself.