I am full of worry. Aren’t we all? After all, we are experiencing what will be one of the most significant periods in our lives – the COVID-19 pandemic. But, I needed to get that under control and here is what I discovered about how to stop worrying.
WHAT I WORRY ABOUT
First, let me share just some of the things I worry about.
I worry about people getting sick. Both those I know and those I don’t know.
And, I worry that people still don’t get it. That they aren’t doing what is necessary to keep themselves safe, to keep others safe and to get us on the other side of this pandemic.
Then there is worry about my personality changing. That I’m too judgmental, losing my willingness to trust, dimming my light.
I worry that face masks will become a North American accessory. That I won’t see smiling faces anymore. And, I’m bracing for being annoyed that people will start trendy names for this accessory – face covers, face garments, face shields, face art. That sponsors are grabbing ahold of this ‘opportunity’ to plaster their logo onto face masks. Celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon too. Why wouldn’t they? Kim Kardashian is leading the charge and even though there is a charitable piece to this ‘new line’, it feels yucky.
In the beginning, I worried about people hoarding supplies. Just because it created a scarcity mentality and a toxic attitude that they are more deserving than others. Now, I worry about the price of food, supplies and everything else. Except gas. It’s cheap now that we don’t need it.
AND, I WORRY ABOUT OTHERS
I worry about the people working in essential services: health care workers, those in grocery stores and everyone else that has stepped up to take care of us and our needs.
Plus, I worry about the upset that people have endured with all the the loss: jobs, clients, projects, contracts, businesses. Loss of income. Their homes. Even loss of freedom.
I worry about those struggling with mental health and anxiety. And, that they will sink too deep and not have the resources for help during a period of isolation.
Certainly, the loneliness is something I worry about. People isolating in their homes alone. Those that are struggling with working from home and co-parenting their children with exes. Feeling alone and being lonely are hard things to bear.
AND THERE’S MORE
I worry about my town. Whistler is a tourist town and it is shut down.
And, then there are the upcoming political power plays. I worry about the demands for more money. Where will it all come from? In addition to the posturing, infighting and grandstanding.
I worry that people will keep accepting mainstream media’s agonizing push for drama and trauma. That they will never repel negativity and demand positivity.
I worry about racial prejudice. This coronavirus supposedly originated from a seafood market in China but there is no excuse for the racist attacks happening against Asians. I was unsettled after listening to CNN Host’s Lisa Ling interviewing CNN Commentator Andrew Yang. Both are Asian Americans who, along with others they know have experienced racial attacks because of their ethnicity. Likewise, Canada has seen a spike in anti-Asian racist outbursts, graffiti and assaults.
In the same vein, I worry about the cruel character attacks on people. In short, death threats targeted to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US top medical expert on the coronavirus because people don’t like what he has to say. Moreover, on the President of the United States of America. You may dislike his politics, policies and inappropriate behaviour – and I defend your right to speak out against those – but I draw the line at attacking his appearance and his family. Above all, I abhor reading posts whereby people wish him physical harm. I worry that type of verbal onslaught says as much about those delivering it as anyone else.
AND STILL MORE WORRY
I worry that people have not appreciated the gift of time enough. And, I worry that they are being criticized for it too. Further, I worry that people aren’t taking time to connect with each other. Or, taking time to do nothing. Time to sit at a dinner table together and talk.
Most importantly, I worry that when this is all over they will leave this slow living mode and go back to burying their heads in their phones and overscheduling their lives.
Certainly, I worry that people will forget the lessons learned. That the kindness and deeper connection and community support will become a distant memory. After that, they will go back to judging and being mean to each other. Using words that are not helpful. That all the gains in kindness will be forgotten.
And, I worry about how to stop worrying.
EVERYONE IS WORRIED ABOUT SOMETHING
This pandemic is having a profound effect on the health, social and economic activities of Canadians. Statistic Canada recently shared results from an online questionnaire about how COVID-19 is affecting the lives of close to 200,000 respondents.
As a result, at least 80% of survey participants in all age groups reported being very or extremely anxious about overloading the health system. Similarly, the vast majority of participants reported that they worried about vulnerable people’s health.
However, other worries were more specific to older Canadians. Specifically, close to 6 in 10 people aged 65 and older reported that they were very or extremely concerned about their own health, compared to 23% among those aged 15 to 24 and 28% among those aged 25 to 34.
Younger participants were less focused on personal health worries, and more focused on social stressors resulting from the pandemic. Precisely, participants 15 to 24 were very or extremely concerned about stress from confinement at home (41%), and about the possibility of civil disorder (43%).
Stat Can’s crowdsourcing results have also found young women are more likely to be concerned about violence at home.
THE IMPACT OF WORRYING
While mild levels of worry can be helpful to prepare for what’s to come, it can reach a level that drains your energy and instills fear.
According the The Chopra Center, worrying too much can affect both mind and body in a variety of ways such as: disrupted sleep, headaches, difficulty concentrating, nausea, muscle tension, irritability and many other side effects.
Certainly, eliminating worry from your life altogether is nearly impossible, not to mention unnecessary since worry can actually be helpful in motivating you to live productively and achieve your goals. The goal should be to find the proper balance between worry and ease.
Cultivating well-being can give you strength to minimize the negative impact of worrying.
One such technique pulls from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Scott Kittleson was ahead of his time when he created a wellness centre in Whistler a few years back. His registered massage therapy practice partnered with a Chinese Medicine Practitioner to create a pathway for patients to explore alternative healing solutions. Recently, he shared the 5-element theory of Chinese Medicine, in that there is a positive and a negative emotion attributed to each organ system.
Specifically, some of the positive emotions of the spleen are trust, acceptance and balance. Conversely, the spleen’s negative emotions are worry, excessive thinking, pensiveness, remorse and self-doubt. So, as we explore the concept of worry there is an opportunity to manage that emotion by closing your eyes, breathing deeply into the upper left quadrant of your abdomen (location of the spleen) and asking yourself, “How can I apply trust and acceptance to my worry.” And, feeling for that area to relax.
However, If you worry excessively, it could signify an anxiety disorder and should that stay at high levels, it may be necessary to seek professional support to cope.
HOW TO STOP WORRYING
Surely, there is so much out of our control. To illustrate, here are the coping mechanisms that have worked to damper my cycle of worry. Maybe some will work for you as well?
Adopt practices that nourish my mind, body and spirit. Get outside. Listen to music while walking because it uplifts me. Walk with my head up to soak in the beauty of nature around me. After all, life is still beautiful.
Read. Write. Words soothe my soul, use my brain and connect me to learning and teaching.
Take care of myself. Eat well, drink more water, take my vitamins, exercise. Breathe. So simple but just learning to sit still and breathe deeply. All those things that I know are good for me and that when I do consistently, make me feel healthy.
Cry when I need to. It’s okay to cry. The amazing Tara Mohr wrote a blog encouraging us to Let The Tears Come. She writes, “When you need to cry, or when something helps you to cry, let the tears flow – and – not just for a moment, but until you are done. The well of tears has a bottom, and there is something waiting for you there.”
Talk about it. Reach out and share your thoughts. And, listen too. This is a rare event where we collectively experiencing trauma and fear. Open your mind and your heart to ideas and solutions and emotion because everyone is looking for strategies for pandemic survival.
Follow the rules diligently. Social distance, self-isolate, wash my hands, don’t touch my face. wear a mask in certain situations. It is simple.
Limit my news and social media consumption. Silence the toxic noise. Don’t allow myself to sink into doubt or despair as I watch or listen to mainstream news as it focuses almost exclusively on drama and suffering. Seek out the uplifting and inspiring news because it is out there. Read ‘feel good’ stories.
Stay connected. Isolation is hard. I miss hugs. But I can still connect virtually to see the faces of friends, family and clients. They uplift me!
Give. How can I give back? My immediate reaction when this all started was to create a way for people to come together so I started free online co-working sessions.
Focus on positivity. Use kind words. Stop judging others. Accept their choices. (Full disclaimer: this has been a process and I need to constantly strive to do better on this.)
Use my voice. It’s okay for me to kindly point out when people are breaking the rules. When they are coming too close to me and not respecting my space.
Recognize my fear and anger. And accept it in others. My pandemic mantra will go down as this:
Where there is anger, there is always fear. Love is the antidote to fear.
To sum up, all the trendy catchphrases kick in here. We are in this together. This too shall pass. We are all doing the best we can. Be patient and kind. Be of service.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? We learn from each other so I also want to share my 8 essential strategies for your pandemic survival. So, what worries you? How do you create ease from that worry?