Anxiety and Coping Strategies

October 7, 2021

We all have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. Some more than others. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion that is characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.” We think it’s safe to say that the pandemic has caused a huge wave – okay, more like a tsunami of anxiety – for our society and the world. And guess what? We are still experiencing the aftermath (and the perpetuation of) the pandemic many months later. We’ve all accepted these circumstances as the new normal.

But how can you cope with the heightened emotions and anxiety we all feel on a regular basis now? Here is what a few members of our team had to say.

Amanda Beyland, Licensed Clinical Social Worker 

There have been some big transitions for families recently as many kids returned to school in person, activities started back up, and it was time to start socializing again! These may be big adjustments for some and could be causing some anxiety. It’s important that we all have the tools to help us deal with these worries. Some of my go-to coping strategies center around mindfulness and staying grounded. These activities will help us to gather our emotions and shift our focus to the present moment. Here are just a few things to try:

  • Use your senses! What can you see? Any smells or tastes? What do you hear? What are some things you can feel or touch?
  • Pick a color and name things in the room that are that color
  • Focus on your body: feel your feet on the floor, press your palms together, pay attention to any physical sensations you feel
  • Try a breathing exercise. Imagine that you are blowing up a balloon or cooling down your hot chocolate.

You’ll find these all to be helpful when coping with big emotions or stressful situations!

Coping Strategies for Anxiety

Whitney Taylor, Resident in Counseling 

Our brains were not made to exist in a state of emergency for long periods of time. It is extremely difficult to expect yourself to be able to rest, recoup, and process the loss and change of the Pandemic… because it’s still here.

Anxiety is the nervous system’s way of communicating that it feels unsafe. And we’ve all spent the last 19 months feeling trapped inside of an unsafe world. Now we are asking our bodies to go back out and exist the way we used to before we were woken up to how unpredictable our world actually is. We are asking our brains to put aside its love for predictability and help us thrive in unpredictable conditions.

We were in our homes with Zoom and wifi and AirPods. We had dinner because grocery delivery exists. The island in the kitchen became the central location for breakfast, Board meetings, science presentations, sibling arguments, marital conflict/repair, studying for the SAT, and virtual goodbyes to loved ones.

Now we’re back in classrooms with desks and pencil sharpeners. We’re on airplanes eating free bags of mini pretzels. We’re in the office with our therapist. We’re worrying about who to sit with in the cafeteria. We have to stand up in front of actual human beings to share our ideas and present the solar system we made out of styrofoam.

All of a sudden, everyone has access to us again.

And we are asking ourselves to be ok with it– even though the pandemic isn’t over.

What can you do to cope with these big emotions?

  • Reframe. Anxiety doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. It means your nervous system is trying to speak to you. Listen to your symptoms. What are they saying?
  • Set boundaries. Limit the information you absorb and decide when other people have access to you (For example –  try setting a set time each night where you cannot be reached by phone).
  • Notice what you can control and have the power to plan.
  • Normalize that there is no near end to the Pandemic and this is the new normal. Humans are resilient. You are human. You can continue to adapt.

Let us know if you found the above coping strategies to be helpful!

Until next time, Be Wise!