Resiliency During COVID-19:
5 Recommendations to Manage Anxiety
Dr. Lydiana Garcia
Being sheltered at home can be really tough depending, too, on the different circumstances you are in. Here are five simple recommendations I consider to be helpful in managing anxiety so we can work towards building resilience during this pandemic.
1. Use of your five senses.
When you're on a train of thought or worries about certain things and you’re having a hard time fighting those thoughts off, that would be a great time to do a mindfulness pause. This is one of good example to orient yourself back to the present using your five senses or using the 5,4,3,2,1 skill. The easiest way that I usually recommend is naming and identifying. Identifying and naming five things that you see, four things that you hear, three different textures that you can touch around you, two different smells, and then take a sip of water or any drink and just swallow and notice that. You can also alternate however you want the senses. Doing these things using your five senses can bring you to the present and interrupts your train of thought and worries.
Another way that you can use your five senses is just to use it to your advantage. You can start thinking about different things that you enjoy via your senses and you can have them around. For example, images of things that you like, or videos that bring you a sense of comfort. Little things like that could greatly help. The same goes with music or any kind of sound. This is a great time to just have music in your background playing all the time. Music is a really good tool and it will also be really helpful if you can look about binaural beats. The different kind of frequency and hertz of the binaural beats can also help with kind of regulating the brain.
The other thing is smell. It is one of the most primitive senses as it goes straight to your brain. It will be really helpful to find a smell that brings good memories or cozy and comfortable feelings. Identify those smell and have them accessible. If you have candles, or essential oils, or anything else like herbs, or anything else that you like then have them around during the day, have them in the background as well.
Then we also go about texture. This is something that for many of us, it varies and for you to kind of explore. Some people like things that feel heavy, so like heavy blankets. Some people like to feel like they're swaddle in, something like a scarf and you just tie it tight or having some kind of fluffy texture that you enjoy. It could also be having a special pillow or a special pair of socks that feel very comfortable in your feet. In general, just finding whatever feels soothing for you as you touch it and that could also be really, really helpful.
The last one would be about different tastes. Having a special drink throughout the day like tea, coffee, juice, sparkling water, whatever is your favorite. It could also just be about different temperatures, like having a cold or a hot drink, and just slowing down and being really focused in about what you're drinking. Some people also like having texture in the mouth, like crunchy or mushy kind of foods. Identify which ones you like and try to have access to them throughout the day.
These are different things that you can have throughout your day and in your setup, because as you're doing shelter in place which it is for most of us, you can have the music playing in the background, lighting the candles, having that texture as you’re working, or seeing something that you enjoy. You can have just one or two of these and just noticing how you feel before, in the middle and right after. That way you can start exploring what works for you and what doesn’t especially in specific moments. You can explore what works best for you and one way that could be helpful is to have a self regulation plan. You can access one on my website and the link is also on my Instagram account. It can help you identify via your five senses the different things and that way create a self regulation plan that you can carry with you could really be helpful.
2. Make a list of what you can control.
This whole pandemic is bringing a lot of uncertainty and bringing back the awareness that we don't have much control of the many things out there, in terms of our world and the pandemic. But there's things that you can control like the thoughts that you may be choosing to pay attention to, not necessarily which one comes but which one you are paying attention to. It could also be about the food that you're putting in your mouth which varies person by person because of different socioeconomical factors. But even in the midst of that, we still have some kind of control over something.
Making a list of things can help you feel somewhat more grounded and realize how there are some things that you can still control. Because as soon as our body start to interpret uncertainty, and that can be perceived for most of us as a threat, then our bodies or nervous system is just going to be reacting into that kind of trauma response. Make a list of things as you start creating some kind of a new normal. Even if it's something predictable like a routine to sleep, or choosing things and being aware of how you are choosing those things, like choosing to eat now instead of later or choosing to sleep now. It varies person by person and because of different circumstances, but the whole idea is figuring it out what you do have control at. It would also help if you just notice again what happens right before you do the list and as you’re doing it and right after.
3. Connect to others.
Right now, a lot of people are in physical isolation, people that are by themselves with their kids and haven't necessarily interacted in person with any other adult, some are by themselves and there are so many different stories and different circumstances. But in general, it's extremely important in times like this to connect with other peoples and we’re are just thankful that technology is where it is because it makes it way easier. Try to find different avenues like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype. Find something so that way you can connect and kind of transform the things that you’re doing, like having online brunches, an online happy hour, or a watch party.
You can get creative and still be able to connect with others which is very essential especially that most of us are in physical isolation. This way, even if we are physically isolated, we can still connect, be able to connect deeply about how you are doing, be able to be there for others and also feel like they’re there for you. Connect to feel and make others feel that we're all in this together.
Find different things that are helpful for you, and this can also be via the five senses. Find things that can bring you back a sense of coziness. Having that in your image, you can use it as a guided visual imagination or you can just write down different things that are resources for you. Here in California, a lot of people likes hiking and going to the beach, so like these kind of things that bring a sense of comfort and then finding a way to recreate them in your home. Something as simple I've recommended to some people, if they have access to go to the nearest beach, to go and collect some of the sand and bring it in a box. And then put your feet in the sand, close your eyes, maybe put on music, or Google ocean waves.
You can also recreate smell with different things that can bring your memories to the beach and be able to create a little safe haven within your home and could help you have a space that you can come down and kind of just be in the present. If you have any pets, just having them in your lap or however you want them and just really focus on how it feels to pass your hand and to pet them. You can go into so many different ways but in general it's anything that it provides you that sense of comfort and coziness. If it’s being in a place that we cannot go right now, there are resources like watching videos of the beach or kind of listening to ocean waves that can help you bring back and calm down.
5. Distracting with a purpose.
This is a time that there's so much bombarding of news and about new findings about the virus. It will be very helpful to practice some distraction and that could be watching TV shows, playing video games or some board game. Distracting with a purpose means being mindful of whatever you are doing. Get into the show that you’re watching and try to be mindful of it instead of watching the show while also doing something else because that’s not necessarily going to be a full distraction from a mindfulness perspective. It will be more busyness and more about doing stuff that it might not actually, at the end, help you feel less stressed or less anxious.
I hope any of these skills are helpful to you and that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.
If you want to listen to the full episode, please visit https://www.thebeyondresiliencelife.com/blog/bono-resiliencia-durante-el-covid-19-5-recommendations-to-manage-anxiety