Pandemic Anxiety

woman holding a poster with anxiety
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As our nation begins to slowly reopen state by state, I’m noticing a new flavor of heightened anxiety within our society. I find it fascinating.

There appear to be two distinct camps with varying shades in between.

There’s the Return to Normal camp that holds the belief that we should be able to go anywhere we want to go, requiring a mask is encroaching on freedom, and all businesses should be open fully.

There’s the Hunker Down camp that seems largely comprised of those who want to take a “wait and see” approach, not ready to dine in anywhere for months, and masks should be worn everywhere outside of the home.

There are the unemployed and the immune compromised.

There’s a lot of darkness and very little light, it seems.

The commonality between everyone is the anxiety in the air, seemingly heavier than any virus.  Everyone is struggling through the same storm in a different boat. Some are carrying anger and others are carrying fear. And everyone seems anxious.

It’s important to keep in mind during this phase of the pandemic that these highly charged emotions of ours are not going to serve our overall health when we need it most. We need to remain well both mentally and physically, with full awareness that it’s all connected. If our mental health is in a bad place, this can in fact impact our immune system negatively, and now is not the time to weaken our immune system.

Two crucial things that we need to remember during the reopening phase:

  1. We have no control over what other people do.
  2. We can reduce our anxiety levels by changing our thoughts.

While these concepts are always true, we can find them difficult to practice during the best of times. Right now? Now it seems as if we have no control over anything. And that makes us feel very freaking anxious and also helpless.

I’ve seen the videos of confrontations outside of stores that are requiring masks for entry. I have heard about the fights breaking out while people are queued up trying to get inside of a place that is limiting capacity to 25%. I read the posts about how privileged it is to want to neighborhood pools to open for the summer.

And I want to believe that we’re better than this.

We really are if we just focus on the things that we can control and allow other people to be who they are and do what they will.

Here’s where the Hunker Down camp is going to scream that other people don’t have the right to transmit the virus. That by refusing to wear a mask, they are willfully endangering the lives of others.

Okay, let’s explore that.

Why do you have those thoughts?

Could it be because the daily media reports are designed to stoke fear? Could it be the one thousand deaths listed on the front page of the New York Times? Could it be that this is the ONLY news story that has been in our faces 24/7 for three full months or longer?

Are you keeping in mind that the media has made it their mission to spread gloom and doom? This has been going on for some time. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the saying. Be wise to that tactic. For sure, be informed. But balance that information out with some self-care. Don’t just consume the bad shit all day, every day. It will literally make you sick. Your mental health is precious and it’s probably very frayed right now.

Listen, you are encouraged to perform your own research and form your own conclusions. You are certainly allowed to cite your sources, weigh your risks, and make your own decisions.

And if you are allowed to do that, aren’t others allowed to do the same? Do their conclusions have to align exactly with yours in order for everything to be right with the world?

We don’t exactly have laws around the lockdown. There are/were temporarily enforceable measures such as shelter in place, and now we have capacity requirements for some businesses as well as mask requirements that quite honestly can be compared to “no shirt, no shoes, no service.”

If a business has the right to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple, doesn’t it also have the right to require a mask be worn to enter the establishment?

I want to be clear that I am not picking a side here. I am simply making observations between circumstances (which are always neutral), our thoughts about them, and the feelings those thoughts generate.

I want you to know that no matter what camp you’re in, your time there can be more pleasant if you realize that you have the power to create your own experience – even during these unprecedented times. I want you to challenge your thoughts and explore them from a place of curiosity instead of from a place of being right.

If your thought is, “anyone not wearing a mask is willfully endangering the lives of others and that’s irresponsible,” then you’re going to see all kinds of evidence throughout the day of that very thing occurring and it’s going to compound your anxiety in rapid fashion.

It is in fact not the people who aren’t wearing masks that are doing that to you, YOU are doing that to you. Whether others wear masks or not is neutral until you have a thought about it. Until you assign wrongness or blame to the actions of others whom you have zero control over.

I know it’s hard. I get it.

If you flip the script, the person not wearing a mask may feel strongly that it’s his/her right not to. They honestly believe that the use of the mask is more detrimental to their own health than risky to others. They have done their own research and formed their own conclusions. They may have concluded that COVID-19 is a hoax. Guess what? They get to believe that. You have no control over the values, beliefs, and behaviors of others.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you can release your need to control the behaviors of others, you will be much more content. You will in fact enhance your own experience during an all-around shitty time in our history.

How are you coping? Are you raging about things other people are doing or not doing, blasting away on social media, drinking all of the alcohol?

Have you asked yourself lately how any of that serves you?

Allow the other humans to be who they are and do what they will. They’re going to anyway. Focus on that which is within your control and you’ll be in a better head space to navigate all of the unknowns yet to come.


If you’re ready to find your power and Light The F*ck Up, I highly recommend my new podcast. You can find it on Spotify and Apple.

I am happy to coach on any topic, including the current pandemic events.  I’m absolutely here for you! Book a free session with me here.

 

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