Enlivening Ourselves

Managing anxiety and fear aroused by COVID 19

The current COVID-19 pandemic has triggered feelings of anxiety and fear for most of us. To address this, I am sharing some practical techniques for managing anxiety.

The quickest way to cope with feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety is to learn how to settle your nervous system. This requires body awareness. When you focus your awareness on your body, one result is you are no longer caught in the whirlwind of the thoughts that are feeding your fear and anxiety. Focusing on body sensations also brings you into the present moment and brings you into an observer mentality.

As the observer of your physiological sensations you are no longer caught in the maelstrom of the experience. In this way you can shift from feeling overwhelmed by and caught up in your feelings and again feel your feet “on the ground”. This “grounding” experience will give you a means of managing your nervous system.

Focus on sensing how the floor beneath you is supporting you. You can even imagine that your energy can extend through the floor and into the earth, providing you much strength and stability – stability that allows you to sense that you cannot be knocked off balance by your emotions. You can also do this exercise by sensing the energy coming up from the earth through your feet into your chest.

An alternative tried and true technique for calming yourself is to focus on your breathing. Try this first when you are alone and practice it until you can comfortably use it when around others. Start by noting your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Notice how your body feels as your chest expands and then contracts. If thoughts arise, name what your mind is doing (thinking), then return your attention to the sensations associated with breathing. Over time this practice will help you to create a state of inner calm.

You can also help your body settle through calming touch. Try resting your left hand on your chest by your heart, and your right hand on either your belly or your forehead – whichever seems the most tense. Sense the support this supplies your body, allowing it to move into a more relaxed place. Many also find it helpful to place their right hand under the left armpit, by the heart and then place the left hand over the right upper arm and shoulder.

I invite you to try out these suggestions and see which is most helpful to you. In this way you can start to build a box of tools that you can use to manage your feelings during this pandemic, or any other anxiety producing situation.

Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog  GrowingThroughParenting.com

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ  07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanyacounseling.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2020 Chaitanya Counseling Services