With each new day, it’s easy to let our fear and anxiety grow. That’s why it’s so important to focus on what you can control.
There are four things helping me right now with quieting my fear and lessening my stress: paying attention to my thoughts, practicing self care, expressing gratitude and serving others.
Watch Your Thoughts
Notice the fearful thoughts swirling through your mind. Right now, many thoughts are “what ifs.” Others may be black and white. Some thoughts are focused on the uncertainty of the future. Many times these thoughts are repetitive, so the fearful thoughts play over and over in your head.
Once you pay attention to your thoughts, then you must separate yourself from your thoughts. You don’t have to believe all your thoughts. Thoughts are just words going through your mind.
You have the power to change your thoughts, which will change the way you feel and the way you behave. Act as if the thought is an intruder. Talk to it. “I hear what you are saying. Thanks for trying to protect me. I got this!”
This may seem a little silly at first but the more you train your brain, the less fear you will experience.
This isn’t about eliminating negative thoughts from your thinking. You would have to be superhuman for that to happen. This is about taking control of your thoughts so you don’t get sucked into the downward spiral of fear and anxiety.
Next, get curious about your thoughts. If your thought is “I’m never going to be productive working at home while trying to be a teacher for my kids,” then ask yourself open-ended questions. “How might this be possible? I wonder how I could be productive while also helping my kids with their learning. Would creating a schedule help?”
Once you have raised your curiosity, get into action. If you’re wondering how you are going to pay bills, your next step might be calling mortgage or credit card companies to see if you can defer payments.
Don’t get stuck in fearful thoughts. Use your mind to move forward.
Practice Self Care
Self care looks different for everyone. Creating a craft project calms me but it may make you break out in hives. Get curious about what you need. Do you need comfort? Calm? Energy? Fun? Spiritual connection? Brain boost?
Identify three self-care habits that will match what you are craving. I crave moving my body, spending time with family and having time alone in the mornings to pray and meditate.
As a family, we sat down and created a schedule for each day. In the mornings, I read a daily devotional and listen to a guided meditation on the Calm app. This helps still my swirling thoughts and gets me focused on the day ahead. At 3 p.m., we stop whatever we are doing and spend time together as a family for one hour.
We all joined in on activities we could do: basketball, Uno, soccer, Minecraft, board games, puzzle, kickball, ping-pong. We wrote them all down and threw them in a hat. Each day, we take turns drawing from the hat.
After family fun time, I move my body by taking a run, doing a workout my gym has posted on Facebook or riding my bike. Whatever feels like love to you, schedule it and do it!
Gratitude is so simple yet it has profound effects. Research has shown that practicing gratitude can add up to seven years to your life.
Gratitude increases your happiness, improves your health and strengthens relationships. Being grateful for what you already have instead of what you lack allows more good and positive energy to come to you.
Gratitude cancels out fear. It strengthens your faith and gets you into victory mode rather than victim mode. When you are feeling thankful and blessed, this lowers depression, lowers blood pressure, increases cardiovascular health and increases your immune system. All that goodness should make you want to do a happy dance around your house.
Being under the same roof day after day with nowhere to go can leave you feeling a little stir crazy and irritable. Right now, it’s important for us to focus on what the people around us are doing right rather than what they are doing wrong.
When your kids decide to bake and the kitchen counter is splattered with eggs and flour blankets the floor, be grateful they are trying something new or giving you a yummy treat.
When you need quiet but everyone else is being loud, be grateful you are all together and healthy.
We all can help others and spread joy. What can you do to brighten someone’s day? How can you put a smile on someone’s face?
Call a friend or elderly person who may be feeling isolated and lonely. Order carry-out from a local restaurant. Purchase a gift card for a local store or boutique. Spread inspiring words on social media. Send a text to a nurse or a doctor you know thanking them for risking their lives. Say thank you to the grocery worker for stocking the shelves. Give the delivery driver a bottled water or bag of chips for getting your package to you.
When we serve others, not only does it make them feel loved and appreciated, it also lifts us up.
When the fear, anxiety, and stress start creeping in, remember to focus on what you can control. We are all in this together and will come out stronger.
Amy Wagenknecht is a certified life coach specializing in helping women and girls live, bigger, braver lives. For more information, visit amywagenknecht.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.