Managing anxiety can be difficult in the best of times, but is critical now. In a matter of days, our lives have drastically changed. Thousands of people are out of work. Many businesses have closed indefinitely. Travel is restricted. State services are restricted. Many cities and states have curfews. Some are operating only on emergency services. Every day, many more people test positive for the coronavirus, COVID-19. Hospitals struggle to cope with the sheer number of cases, for which we still have no cure. Some countries are operating on a triage system where only those most likely to survive are treated. And we have no idea how long this will continue.
It is hard to imagine any reaction to our current situation other than anxiety. We simply don’t know what will happen next. So how do we go forward? How do we cope? And how do we manage our anxiety? Here are four tips for managing anxiety during the uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus.
- Do Some Grounding. Grounding is an exercise that is commonly used to treat many forms of anxiety. Just like it sounds, grounding involves bringing you closer to the earth. The easiest way to practice grounding is simply to walk outside in your bare feet. Feel the earth underneath you, see the nature around you, take in the sights, sounds, and smells that surround you. Any form of nature will do. You can lay in the bare grass. You can walk in the sand. You can sit against a tree. You can go for a hike. The point is to connect to the earth you inhabit. Remember that you are a part of nature. Many studies have found that even short bouts of grounding come with numerous benefits including lower anxiety, higher serotonin levels, increased immunity (really important right now), and a greater sense of well-being. All it takes is a few minutes outside.
- Focus On What Is In Your Control. There are so many things in this world that are inherently not in our control, and nothing makes this more clear than coping with a national crisis like COVID-19. We cannot control how quickly it spreads. We cannot control the government response to it. We cannot control whether or not there will be the needed medical resources to cope with it. We cannot control the flow of information about the virus. But what we can control is how we respond. We can choose whether or not we read the media reports. We can choose how often we go out in public. We can choose what we do with our time. Do we perseverate over what we can’t control, or do we find something to do that makes us feel good? When we choose to focus only on what we can control – our thoughts, behaviors, and what we expose ourselves to – what we find is that we have the power to change how we feel. So, do something that makes you feel good, read or watch something that lifts your spirits, connect with people who make you feel good, and watch how much better you will feel.
- Check Your Attitude Toward Adversity. Adversity is an inescapable part of life. As much as we may want to believe that it should not happen to us, the reality is that adversity happens to everyone at some point in their lives. We cannot avoid it. But what we can do is change our attitude toward adversity. Do we see adversity as something negative? Do we think adversity is always bad? Do we think there is nothing to be gained from adversity? If we answer yes to those questions, chances are, coping with adversity will be difficult for us because we don’t see any option other than a bad outcome. But what if we change the way we look at adversity? What if we see adversity as the necessary resistance that creates strength? What if we choose to see adversity like the weight we would have to lift to create muscle strength? When we see adversity as something that offers the opportunity for strength, we can see that it does have a positive outcome. I’m not saying it is easy to deal with. No adversity is. But that is not the point. The point is to see that while it may be hard – really hard – to deal with, it may also offer the opportunity to build mental strength. And the outcome may be that you realize you are stronger than you ever realized.
- Find Your Flow. Flow, or optimal experience, is something that is easily identified by athletes, artists, and musicians as that time when you get lost in the experience, your mind is quiet, time seems to stand still, your awareness and actions seem to merge, there is a sense of intense focus, you feel as if you are in complete control, and the experience is extremely enjoyable. Many describe it as a feeling of transcendence when they move beyond their own experience into something much larger than themselves. They feel instantly more connected to the world around them, and many describe feeling changed by the experience. Flow also has many psychological and physical benefits including lower anxiety, increased serotonin and oxytocin, increased creativity, and boosted immunity. So how do you get into flow? All you need is an activity that you enjoy simply for the sake of doing it (not because it comes with any form of accolades, awards, or recognition), a challenge that matches your skills to the task (or is just slight beyond your skill level), and immediate feedback. For example, if you enjoy basketball, you could challenge yourself to learn how to dunk a basketball. Or, if you enjoy singing, you could attempt to learn a new song that is just slightly beyond your current ability. If you enjoy riding horses, you could try to learn a new skill with your horse. There are numerous ways to get into flow, all it requires is the willingness to try. And when you do, you will likely find that you will not just feel better, you will want to do it again. Flow, after all, can be quite addictive.
Managing anxiety in any form is not easy. However, by taking the steps above, you will likely find that it does get better. Just one step at a time.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
Anxiety: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a collection of ready-to-use tools for managing anxiety. Nearly every client who walks through a health professional’s door is experiencing some form of anxiety. Even if they are not seeking treatment for a specific anxiety disorder, they are likely experiencing anxiety as a side effect of other clinical issues. For this reason, a solid knowledge of anxiety management skills should be a basic component of every therapist’s repertoire. Clinicians who can teach practical anxiety management techniques have tools that can be used in nearly all clinical settings and client diagnoses. Anxiety management benefits the clinician as well, helping to maintain energy, focus, and inner peace both during and between sessions. Course #40-12 | 2007 | 41 pages | 30 posttest questions
Anxiety in Children is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that focuses on behavioral interventions for children with anxiety disorders.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2017), it is estimated that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children, but is often not diagnosed. Untreated anxiety can lead to substance abuse, difficulties in school, and depression. Professionals who work with children, including speech language pathologists, mental health professionals, and occupational therapists, frequently encounter anxiety disorders among their young clients.
This course is intended to help clinicians recognize and understand the anxiety disorders that frequently occur in children and learn a wide variety of communication and behavioral strategies for helping their clients with managing anxiety. Included are sections on types and causes of anxiety disorders, strategies for prevention, evidence-based treatments, techniques for helping children manage worry, relaxation techniques for use with children, and detailed discussions on school anxiety and social anxiety. Course #40-43 | 2017 | 69 pages | 25 posttest questions
In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a how-to guide on incorporating flow into everyday life. According to the CDC, four out of ten people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Further, the APA reports that most people suffer from moderate to high levels of stress, and according to SAMSHA, adult prescription medication abuse (primarily to counteract attention deficit disorders) is one of the most concerning health problems today. And while clinicians now have a host of resources to mitigate distress and reduce symptomatology, the question remains: how do clinicians move clients beyond baseline levels of functioning to a state of fulfillment imbued with a satisfying life purpose? The answer may lie in a universal condition with unexpected benefits…
This course will explore the concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, which is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t just help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible. This course, packed with exercises, tips, and tools, will demonstrate just how flow can be incorporated into your everyday life, and used to help your clients move from simply surviving to a life that harnesses and builds upon their own unique potential to thrive. Course 21-11 | 2016 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
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Target Audience: Psychologists, School Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), and Teachers