Having lived with anxiety and depression for much of my life, I’ve always been convinced that I’d fall apart if something truly terrible ever happened. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about disasters and how I’d cope with them. I’ve often thought that I’d have a meltdown or be unable to function. I’ve half expected that I wouldn’t be able to climb out of bed. But right now, despite the global pandemic that’s leading just about everyone to collectively freak out, I feel strangely at ease.
As it turns out, I was far more prepared for this moment than I thought. Over the years, I’ve gained skills to help me cope with and alleviate anxious feelings. So, when I realized that the constant chatter about COVID-19 on social media was going to be an issue, I decided to take a step back from scrolling. Part of dealing with anxiety is only giving your energy to things that you can actually control. I can’t control what people say on Facebook or Twitter, but I can choose whether or not to look at it. This way, I’m not giving power to the things that would otherwise cause me to worry.
I’m also one of the many college students who has been forced to finish the semester through “remote learning,” and like so many employees, I’m unable to work now that my retail job has closed its doors. I know I don’t thrive in structureless environments, so to combat this, I’ve been making to-do lists in my planner, and for the first time, I’m including simple tasks like “wash sheets” and “fold laundry” to give me a sense of structure and a feeling of accomplishment when I get things done.
While I have no choice but to sit idly by as this all unfolds, I keep reminding myself how important it is to practice the things that keep me centered and calm. Lately, I’ve been setting up a picnic blanket under the tree in my front yard so I can enjoy the sunset and run my hands through the grass, without worrying about breaking the rules of social distancing. I’m also considering ordering an inflatable pool for my backyard, so I can spend some time out in the climbing Florida heat. Being outside has always helped ease my feelings of depression, and right now it breaks up the mundanity of my day, which for me can cause heightened anxiety.
I keep reminding myself how important it is to practice the things that keep me centered and calm.
Like most people I know, I’m also working hard to maintain my relationships with friends and family, even as we’re forced to spend time apart. It’s more important than ever for me to call my mom or Facetime with my best friend, because feelings of isolation do absolutely nothing constructive for my anxious brain. My friends and I have even started a virtual knitting and crafting circle on Google Hangouts, which is especially helpful because being creative eases my anxiety.
I’m surprising myself every day with how well I’m coping in the midst of a pandemic, but I feel confident in saying that, if you have prior experience in dealing with anxiety, you already have everything you need to get through this. And if you don’t have those skills locked down, you can always reach out to someone for help. None of us have faced anything quite like this before, and we may as well find the path forward together.