Uncertainty is an inescapable part of life. At what point does uncertainty transform into Anxiety versus life transformation that brings on the “next” of our life’s journey? Anxiety is a response to perceived threat or danger which is felt by biochemical changes in the body that is supported by personal experiences that are undergirded by implicit and explicit memories. This memory bank stores up the feelings of the past which shapes anxiety into a feeling or augments the imagination of what might happen in the future. Does the difference between anxiety as a feeling versus anxiety as experience really matter?
Yes. It is the difference between feeling (being) and believing in that emotion. Feeling certainly is reminders that we feel although they may or may not be the truth. Try this ABCED technique for anxiety.
Attention: Sit with the anxiety and notice where you feel the emotion in your body. On a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is no disturbance and 10 is the greatest disturbance. How does your anxiety scale? Now, notice where you feel the emotion in your body. How big does the emotion feel in that area of your body? Notice the intensity. Is there any warmth associated with where you feel it in your body? Is it a throbbing sensation or heavy lingering sensation? Just notice that sensation in your body without attaching a narrative. (Don’t give the anxiety a story. An example of attaching a story is telling yourself you feel this way because you might get COVID-19) . Notice the feeling in your body without justification. If it helps close your eyes. If not focus on the area in your body where you notice the emotion. Do this for about 2 minutes and take what I call 4/6/8 count breathes. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 6 seconds, and breathe out slowly for 8 seconds. Do another scale check and notice what has happened to the emotion in your body. Repeat if the scale has not dropped to a manageable number.
Believe? Is this Anxiety believable (Based on logic) or based on an automatic thought process (Images or mental activity that occur as a response to a trigger). Sometimes our thoughts happen so quickly that we fail to notice them. Automatic thoughts fall into the following categories: Arbitrary Inference, Overgeneralization, Dichotomous thinking, Selective Abstractions, Magnification, Minimization, Catastrophic thinking, or Personalization. For the purpose of CORONA Virus, I would venture we tend to Overgeneralize, Have dichotomous thinking, Selective abstraction, Magnification, and or Catastrophize.
Challenge: Challenge the believability of the thought. What is the bigger picture? How might I think about this if I were calmer? Finally, think about the following quotes: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Epictetus. Don’t let your reflection on the whole sweep of life crush you. Don’t fill your mind with all the bad things that might still happen. Stay focused on the present situation and ask yourself why it’s so unbearable and can’t be survived.” Marcus Aurelius.
Discount the unbelievable thoughts which have been debilitating. Visualize them float into the air like a hot air balloon. Each word takes float. Practice your 4/6/8 count breathing three times.
Experience peace instead of Anxiety. This peace is in being and beholding the liminal space. Letting go of what was and availing yourself to what is next. We are a resilient people. We are a resilient Nation.
COVID-19 has ushered in change and awakened feelings of anxiety which are par to the course. Although we cannot control the anxiety from occurring my hope is that each of us uses the ABCDE techniques to quell to the emotion of anxiety instead of allowing the emotion to dictate how we are going to live out the COVID-19 crisis.