Our precious world is in the midst of global anxiety...and anger…and panic!
These are far more contagious and destructive than any pathogen, including Covid-19.
In fact, research shows that our brains are built to panic, to prepare of us for earth-shattering situations like the ones we are facing today.
However, sustained anxiety can be destructive! The more we panic, the less functional our immune system becomes.
The science of anxiety is this: in the face of a real or perceived emergency, your sympathetic nervous system kicks on, triggering the release of a stress hormone called cortisol.
Over time, cortisol suppresses your immune system, causing a decrease in white blood cells – the cells that help you fight off viruses, including Covid-19.
This puts you at greater risk of infection. The more you panic, the less able your body is to fight off illness and the more prone you are to getting – and staying – sick.
So…here are some tips to manage the anxiety…and the anger…and the panic.
1. Stop obsessively checking the news.
Establish a time ONCE A DAY to read the news, watch TV headlines and check social media. Constant updates are stressful and you don’t need them. Want the news? Here it is:
• The virus is still spreading
• We’re in a global state of emergency
• Don’t hang out in big groups or travel
• Wash your hands
• Wear masks
• Stay home
• Protest…but peacefully.
Scary, yes? Great. You know the news, my dear reader! Check it once a day, then go to other things.
2. Don’t contribute to the panic.
By all means, talk to friends and family about your fears. But do NOT flood Facebook and social media with your anxieties. Avoid SHOUTY CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!! As tempting as it is, please don't attempt to predict the future. If you have friends who are posting inflammatory posts, temporarily mute them.
3. Maintain social relationships.
What’s the worst punishment you can give a human being? It isn’t prison and it isn’t Thanksgiving traffic. The answer is solitary confinement, otherwise known as social isolation.
What does it say about us that the worst thing you can do to us is isolate us from others…? Humans are social animals. We’re genetically wired to need each other for food, shelter and protection against predators.
This is never as true as it is during this crisis. In the presence of others, your brain releases chemicals like serotonin (which raises your mood, dopamine (confers feelings of pleasure and reward), and endorphins – your natural pain-killers. So even though we're avoiding group gatherings, make sure to keep in close touch with friends and family.
• Schedule FaceTimeFaceTime dates and make phone calls.
• Start group threads.
• Make virtual dinner dates, online coffee dates and attend meetings online.
• You can even virtually watch movies with friends who live far away.
• And don't forget to cuddle your pets. Fuzz Therapy works.
4. Leave the house.
Don’t fall into the trap of endlessly sitting on the couch in your pajamas for days on end. It will only make you feel imprisoned and increases the likelihood that you'll get ‘more’ anxious and depressed.
Get out and see the sky, even if you just stand in the sun for 10-minute intervals. Drive to a remote location and take a walk, or park at your favorite lookout. Go for a "socially-distanced" walk, water your garden, bring the dog to a park. (To dispel a rumor: pets CANNOT give you the coronavirus.)
Don't forget your mask!
5. Get out into nature.
Research shows that nature – trees, birdsong, sun, sky – improves mood, lowers stress and anxiety, reduces blood pressure and improves overall sense of well-being. Stand outside in the sun and breathe fresh air. Go on a solo bird-watching walk with binoculars. Study bumblebees in the backyard. Read in your garden. If you need to stay inside, jump online to YouTube to witness the UC Berkeley falcons hatch their eggs (there are four)! Or download an app like Rain Rain and listen to soothing nature sounds.
It can really help.
Please share this post with anyone who needs some anxiety-relief. Stay safe and stay sane, dear reader.
This, too, shall pass. (It already is beginning to!)
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available on line at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.