Coping with Anxiety is Not One Size Fits All
Whether your anxiety predates the pandemic or not, the solution is unique to you.
During the pandemic I learned I am an ambivert. It was the A.Word.A.Day, word of the day one day and it fits. Neither introvert nor extravert, ambiverts, according Anu Garg, have qualities of both.
It brings to mind something I’ve been pondering during this pandemic — the notion that one size does not fit all, whether in clothing or people. Be it those one-size-fits-all running hats, how introverted you are, how you cope with your anxiety or how you grieve a loss, we are all different and we need and want different things.
My head is simply too small for those alleged one-size-fits-all hats. I am, as I mentioned, neither intro- nor extravert — it depends on the situation and my mood. I like to run to reduce anxiety, a passion not everyone can relate to for coping. I grieve quietly, privately, unobtrusively, and can still feel the pain years later as it if were yesterday, clearly not a mode of grieving that works for everyone.
Back to the pandemic, some of my clients and friends have been more anxious during the past year. Some previously quite anxious are, oddly, less anxious — the true introverts, I suspect. They do not mind working remotely, the absence of dinners out with friends or not having parties to attend.
The extraverts have generally seemed to be more anxious experiencing lock-down, missing the human connections that are so important to them, the same connections the introverts gladly do without.
Most people are grieving something, be it a loss through death, the collective loss of people in their community, the loss of jobs, the loss of face time — the list of possibilities is endless. Loss often generates its own kind of anxiety — consider losing a person or a job you relied on. Loss can leave a lot of worry in its wake. How will I do x, y or z without them? Will I get a job soon?
Coping, like hat-size, is unique to the individual. For example, my coping list includes running, practicing yoga, meditating, reading, watching movies, listening to music, working, writing, connecting with friends, walking, cooking and, newly discovered during the pandemic, cleaning (but that’s another story I’ve already told). And probably other things that don’t come to mind at the moment.
Figuring out what’s on your list, whether there’s overlap with mine or if it includes things like decluttering, organizing, painting, knitting, cycling, swimming, singing, dancing or painting your fingernails, is helpful.
On your list you want things you can do in a pinch. Not a class you have to wait to attend or a friend you will have coffee with in a week.
Having that list in mind give you the security of knowing what you can do in a moment of heightened anxiety or grief. If things don’t come readily to mind, as they often do not when you’re in a rough headspace, I encourage making a list you can consult, whether on paper or your phone. Sometimes one thing might jump out at you as the thing to do RIGHT NOW, and sometimes, another.
And I don’t mean stuffing your feelings. What you’re aiming for is noticing a feeling, taking a moment to experience it, and then releasing it, at which point it’s good to either resume what you were doing before your danged feelings interrupted, or pick an activity on your list, and go for it.
That’s coping. You haven’t erased the anxiety or grief, you’ve managed it in the moment. It will be back, maybe a little less insistently at some point, but it’s not as scary when you have some options for handling it.
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