When I looked at the post we planned to run next, I discovered it was already about worried thoughts. As my children liked to say, “You must have ESP-N.” Actually, it’s more about the fact that so many of us, myself and my clients included, worry about what’s to come which we can’t predict and often doesn’t occur. Likewise, the more we follow the pack and get caught up in the crowd hysteria, the weaker we become at controlling individual anxiety and concern. While I am totally convinced that COVID-19 is real and that we need to take precautions to stay well, I think we need to take steps to lessen our fear or we’ll be carried away by it.
Here are 5 tips you can use now to tame your worry and anxiety:
- Thoughts are NOT facts. Worries and fears become convincing because the more anxious we feel, the more they seem real to us and the more we tell ourselves the bad event will happen. Think about the last time you were convinced that something catastrophic was likely to occur. Speaking to a client on Friday, she was able to tell me that two of the last situations she decided would be unfortunate, never occurred. Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never occurred.”
- Thoughts come and go like the weather. Close your eyes for a moment and notice how often what you’re thinking about changes from one moment to another. Then picture your changing thoughts like clouds passing through the sky, leaves flowing down a stream, waves peaking and diminishing on the ocean or any image that comes to mind for you. Practice this every time a worried or fearful thought occurs and try instead to think of something pleasant or neutral like saying your ABC’s or counting backwards from 100 by sevens.
- What we think about expands and what we don’t think about gets smaller. This is why so many people are frightened by COVID-19 because that’s all they’ve been thinking about. I know that by the end of last week when there was so much conversation about it inside and outside of my office, I had moments when I felt convinced we were all going to perish. Be careful with social media and what you talk about to friends. Limit your listening or watching or reading the news to 15 minutes twice a day or less. Stay off your phone and close your computer. There is nothing to be gained!
- Control what you can and let go of what you can’t. Practice good personal hygiene including washing your hands thoroughly, using hand sanitizer, and wiping shared surfaces down. I went to a home and garden show a week ago and I was the only one in our group of 4 that used the hand sanitizer that was available on the way in and out of the show, and one of the few people using it at all. Be certain to sleep well, stay physically active, be mindful of what you think about and nourish your body with healthy foods and thoughts. Doing these things will improve your immunity and strengthen your mental health even when there’s not a crisis.
- If you really want to be prepared for what life brings, practice these four tips routinely. In my book Stress Less Live Better, I often say that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” However, if you’re not actively practicing the tips above or in my book, they won’t work. As Nike says, “Just do it.” If you follow these tips daily or at least several times for the next few weeks, I’m confident you’ll feel better and less fearful. It will keep you from following down the rabbit hole of despair and allow you to be more clear headed whatever comes your way.