It wasn’t that long ago that getting a parking ticket could ruin my week. Simple things could trigger me into a downward spiral of anxiety and depression. One thing could go wrong and suddenly everything is going wrong. But challenging those thoughts, focusing on my blessings, and literally walking on the “bright” side of the street could help me turn that spiral around. It took years of practice, therapy, and some help from medication to get to a place where I’m somewhere more in the middle than on a downward spiral.
These last several days have been a test of the tool box I’ve built to combat my anxiety. I’d like to share what that journey has been like for me in hopes that maybe it will help you too! And perhaps you might have some tips for me going forward.
My worry about Coronavirus took a while. I watched weeks ago as the story unfolded in China about a new virus and then watched as stock markets around the world started to plummet. There was talk about fear that the virus could spread. There were talks about the virus causing a worldwide recession. Like I’ve learned through practice, I challenged my thoughts. That’s worst case scenario right? And worst case scenarios don’t usually happen. Eventually the stock markets rose and fears eased. I escaped my anxiety.
I returned from a trip to Mexico around March 8th as the number of confirmed cases in NYC become more than just a handful. Upon my return our government officials were advising NYers to wash their hands and to avoid touching their faces. I told myself that there was no need to worry. Although, deep inside I questioned that thought. In my head I was imagining how the situation could escalate. My mind of course found itself in a doomsday scenario. I could feel the anxiety trying to show it’s ugly face. While reminding myself again that I’m fine and that I can’t predict the future, I continued on.
Days later, the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus grew quickly. Cries from government officials about lack of federal response, lack of proper testing, confusion about the virus itself and its ability to spread, all lead to my anxiety growing. But even as the virus began its community spread I remained calm because the one thing that always gets me through even my toughest days is a routine and sense of normalcy. And I still had that in my life.
March 12, 2020, everything was cancelled. And I mean everything. As all those cancelations scrolled across the screen I felt like my sense of normalcy was taken away from me. My anxiety started to take over. Typically, I get most of my news from online sources and just being in our newsroom. But on this day I started looking for as much information as possible and from anywhere. Being informed makes us feel better, right? No, not always. In fact, the more I watched other networks, googled things, and scrolled through social media, the more anxious I became. The more I let this engulf my life, the more chaotic it felt. Chaos causes me a lot of anxiety.
Because I’ve had years of practice, I recognized that my anxiety was growing pretty quickly and I was able to stop this from spiraling too far out of control. I turned off the TV, I turned away from social media, and I watched a comedy before going to bed. I took a few deep breaths, I reminded myself that I’m ok and doing everything I can to stay healthy. I reminded myself I can’t control everything and that in the long-run, all these disruptions are designed to help ALL of us get over this faster. Feeling calmer, and safer, I went to bed feeling my anxiety melt away. And here we are now. We are facing this Pandemic together. We are facing it as NYers, as Americans, as people of this planet. And we are all feeling anxious, at least a little. Now is the time to really remember that when your friend, coworker, family member, whoever, seems stressed, short-tempered, or maybe even sad, remind them we’re all feeling at least a little anxious. Tell them that, you get it.