Everyone reacts differently to challenging or stressful situations. Our current state of affairs definitely qualifies as a stressful situation. Thoughts and feelings you experience during this time may be uncomfortable and completely new to you.
It is important to recognize that anxiety can present with both emotional and physical symptoms:
Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety
- persistent state of apprehension or fear
- feelings of dread without valid cause
- concentration problems
- inner tension and nervousness
- catastrophic thinking
- irritability or edginess
- restlessness and sleeping problems
- hyper-vigilance towards signs of danger
- absentmindedness and mind blanks
- intense/sudden feelings of panic or doom
- fear of losing control or going crazy
- feelings of detachment or unreality
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
- pounding heart/rapid heartbeat
- excessive sweating
- stomach cramps
- frequent urination or diarrhea
- shortness of breath
- hot flashes or chills
- muscle tension
- tremors or twitches
Self-Soothing / Five Senses
If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety you may try the following emotional regulation strategy, Self-Soothing/Five Senses. The best strategies for calming are the ones we are willing to try!
Make yourself feel better by using each of your five senses when you feel your "emotional temperature" rising (you are angry or frustrated) or you feel yourself about to reach for a dysfunctional behavior. Take a few minutes to really focus on the sense you choose to engage:
- Vision: Look at something that you really enjoy looking at. A flower or plant, up at the sky, a picture on your wall or computer, a well-decorated section of your home, a photograph of a happy event, or something that you've created, built, or taken care of (a well-polished car, piece of artwork, picture, decoration). Focus as much as you can on that visual image.
- Hearing: What do you enjoy listening to? Listen to music that is up-beat, or reminds you of positive times. If you like the sound of nature, find a nearby park or wooded area you can visit when you need to calm yourself. Buying a CD of nature sounds or using a nature sounds app on your smart phone is another option. Focus as much as you can on what you can hear.
- Smell: What do you like to smell? When at home you might spray your favorite cologne or perfume and savor the scent. Go to a florist or garden and enjoy the smell of the flowers, or a bakery to smell the bread baking. Try a strongly scented lotion or candle. You can also use aroma therapy oils or incense, whatever you find pleasing. Note, social distancing and quarantine changes some of this but be creative! Focus as much as you can on the smell.
- Taste: Have a small snack of fresh fruit and savor each bite. Enjoy a good meal or drink something very flavorful like a cup of good coffee, tea or fruit juice. Eat a piece of candy or gum and really pay attention to the flavor. Focus as much as you can on the taste.
- Touch: Sit in a hot tub or warm bath. Go outside and gently stroke the grass or a plant. Find a comfortable piece of furniture and relax on it. Put some lotion on your body. Lie on or wrap yourself in something luxurious like a comfortable bathrobe or gown, perhaps a clean crisp bed sheet or soft towel. Focus as much as you can on the physical sensations.
Another great resource: 10% Happier
10% Happier is a great digital meditation tool! Right now they are offering a free Coronavirus Sanity Guide, providing daily practical, actionable ways of coping with stress, fear, and anxiety. The meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks on this page will help you build resilience and find some calm amidst the chaos. Visit TenPercentHappier.com
or download the app.
*If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).