“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
Quarantine Day 51. Alright, I know it’s technically not quarantine, and I do actually feel bad complaining because my situation could be much worse, however, I think we all have a right to feel whatever it is that we are feeling right now, and deal with it to the best of our abilities..
2020 has been quite the year. Definitely not the year I was planning for or expected, and I’m sure you could agree. Weddings, parties, birthdays, graduations, baby showers, jobs, vacations, the list goes on and on and on of the things that have had to come to a halt in light of our current situation.. Some mornings I wake up and truly cannot believe that we are going through what we are going through. I think about those on the frontlines risking it all, those that are so selfless and strong and caring and go into battle every single day for their fellow human beings. From doctors to nurses, grocery store employees, delivery people, any essential worker that is having to face all of this, while the rest of us get to stay home and protect ourselves and our families. My heart breaks for our world every day and I have had my fair share of trying to figure out how to navigate this situation.
Like everybody else in the world, I had a plan for what my life was going to look like this year, and just like everyone else, that was completely shattered into a million pieces. What I thought was going to be is no more and the uncertainty of the future has sent my anxiety sky-rocketing. It’s a lot to share this in a blog post and if you are easily triggered, I’m not sure this is the right place for you to be because to be honest with you, as much as I wish I could share a million tips and tricks and fix yours (and my) anxiety with the flick of a wand, the truth is, I’m not a mental health professional and what we are dealing with is bigger than both you and I.
A few days ago, I posted to my Instagram story asking how many people had felt some sort of anxiety throughout this stay at home order. A whopping 86% had said that they have, that’s over 150 responses to the question. That is a lot of people. It’s crazy because when this thing started, I had never really dealt with any anxiety before, however, over the course of the past 7 weeks, it’s like my brain has completely morphed and I’m now battling something that I had never thought I would. The fear, health anxiety (hypochondria), anxiety, and panic attacks that I have been experiencing have been no joke and I guess by sharing this, I hope that I can at least let you know you aren’t alone and that we WILL get through all of this together and be much stronger for it.
When this all started, I was glued to my phone a ridiculous amount, I’m pretty sure my screen time went up about 200%… no joke. YIKES. I was stuck on scrolling through countless articles with every detail about coronavirus, making sure I knew every story and every detail that would come out.. yeah, this was not the move. About three weeks in, I started getting the most insane panic attacks, I thought I was having a heart attack or drowning. It felt like both in one. That unpredictable feeling where it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, while your heart beats a million miles a minute, half of your body goes numb, you feel like puking, you can’t stop crying, and your head is pounding..? yeah, that’s the one. If you have panic attacks or have ever had one, my heart is with you, it’s one of the craziest things ever. So of course this sent me into a slew of other things, because during a panic attack, these things all come at once, but when they come randomly and sporadically with every day anxiety, as your anxiety continues to spiral, so do your thoughts of thinking something insane is wrong with you like having some crazy disease or that something horrible is going to happen to you or a loved one. It’s wild. Our brains are INSANE. I had read one too many horror stories about things going on in the world and had convinced myself that these things were going to happen, sending me into an absolute tornado of fear and panic.
So, I’m sharing this because there’s a few things I have taken from this…
1. THERAPY. It is OKAY to ask for help and to get help. There are so many people out there that are prepared and trained and educated on how to deal with these things and are so willing to help, especially now. You can call, text, FaceTime, whatever works for you, many of them can work with any of these mediums. This is important. Some of the most recommended and best sites for this are Psychology Today and Better Help. They are willing to help and get you through this in whatever way they can.
2. CONNECTION. Zoom can be stressful with so many people, each person is different, for some it’s beneficial and for some it is detrimental, but whether you are virtually meeting with one person or 20 people, taking time out of your day to ensure that you are having connection with others is integral. Solidarity is the environment for mental health issues to THRIVE, and unfortunately in our current situation, there isn’t much of an option to get out of that. There are options such as socially distanced picnics, or car meetings though, these are all good things, and sometimes, even from far away, it does help to see other human beings.
3. EXERCISE. This can be in any way that works for you and makes you feel comfortable. Don’t like running? Try dancing. Don’t like dancing? Try yoga. Don’t like yoga? Try jumping rope. There are a million and one online classes going on right now and just getting up and moving your body does a lot of good for the mind and brain. Trust me, I’ve had many many MANY days where I just want to lay in bed and do nothing, but this is something that can truly help.
4. FURRY FRIEND? My sweet kitty boy passed away in February and it left an absolute hole in my heart. I am feeling so blessed that we have the means to adopt two little kitties and get to bring them home within the next three weeks. I totally understand this is not an option for everyone, but if you have the means to do so, even short term, many places are looking for fosters even throughout the stay at home order and having a furry companion is proven to alleviate some stress and anxiety.
5. REACH OUT. If you are feeling stuck and you feel like nobody understand you or what you’re going through, reach out to someone or anyone. Nobody needs to feel alone during this time. There are so many millions of people that are stuck at home doing the same thing you are, driving themselves into a mental hole. I promise if you reach out, someone will be there to hold your hand through this. You are not alone and you are loved, so don’t let yourself sit there and feel abandoned.
6. FRESH AIR. Another luxury, I realize. Not everyone has the chance to have a backyard or front porch, however, if you can get outside for a walk, or even open a window, the fresh air can do a lot for a soul. It has the ability to give you a refreshing breath that makes you feel alive and well.
7. FIND A PASSION. I don’t believe that anyone needs to be productive during this time. Productivity looks different to every single person, and for some people, getting through the day without enormous bouts of anxiety is an accomplishment all on their own, however, I think that finding things that bring you joy and meaning each day can be extremely beneficial. That’s why I’m here, back on the blog. Whether one person reads this or one hundred people read this, writing is something I love, and if I can give any sort of hope to anyone, then that means the entire world to me.
8. GIVE THANKS. Start each day being thankful for 5 things that day. The health of you and your family, your friends, your favorite blanket, a warm cup of coffee, whatever it may be, count your blessings and remind yourself of all of the wonderful things in this life.
9. LET GO OF CONTROL. This is the hardest one for me, and this is why I’m having such intense anxiety. I worry about my family, I worry about my friends, and I worry about everyone out there. I’m scared of what’s happening and I’m scared of the what-ifs, but we will never be certain about the what-ifs so learning to let go of what we can’t control is imperative to changing our thinking.
10. BREATHE. The thing that sounds the most simple, is not always the simplest. This is the number one thing that my friends, family, and therapists have told me to do… When you feel it building and you don’t know what to do, take a second and take a four count breath in, hold for four, breathe out for four, and hold for four. This box breathing method can give you some peace, it really can.
Like I said, I’m not a mental professional. I’m just another one of the millions of people trying to navigate this entire experience in the best way that I can. These times are unprecedented, they aren’t something that we could have ever planned for, and there is so much unknown… but we aren’t alone, everyone is dealing with this in their own ways, and there is still so much beauty in the world. There are people that want to help, people that care, and love to go around. We WILL get through this, we will use this to change the way we act forever. I pray that what this will teach everyone is to be a bit kinder, a bit gentler, a bit more caring, and pour themselves into things that make a difference and have meaning. I pray that we will take this time to reflect on all of the good that we can do and the power that we have to change the world. I pray that when all of this is over, we never forget how precious life is and that it is so easy to be kind and loving to every single person we see and to never complain about or sweat the small things. Sending my love to each and every one of you. Everything will be okay.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene