As Omicron Looms, Here Are 5 Ways To Relieve Anxiety – KION546
By Jelena Kecmanovic, CNN
Just when we thought we could breathe out and enjoy the holidays, the latest variant of the Omicron coronavirus gave us another punch. With this renewed uncertainty striking when we are already exhausted, it becomes harder and harder to keep calm and keep going.
As a psychologist, I hear every day from my clients how anxiety-provoking it is to be thrown into the unknown again, worrying about health and safety, the lack of hospital beds, school closures and travel issues. Besides getting vaccinated, masking, and taking care of our health needs, there isn’t much we can control about the pandemic – or the other things that make us anxious. But there are things we can do about our responses to these events. Here are five science-based strategies to reduce anxiety and help you find the ground in the middle of the storm.
1. Get fast relief
The best way to recognize that your fight-or-flight system has shifted into high gear is to listen to your body. Is your stomach in a knot? Are your muscles tight even though you can’t remember the last time you exercised? Does your pressure headache persist beyond usual remedies? If the physical signs of anxiety sound the alarm bells, fast-acting relaxation techniques can break the cycle.
My favorite technique is to lie on my back and place a hand on your chest and a book on your stomach. Then breathe so that the book moves as much as possible while your hand remains still, for at least seven minutes. Keep your thoughts on your breath so that your mind is not working against the grain. You will be surprised at how much calmer you will feel at the end.
You can also fill a bowl with ice water and soak your face up to your ears. Hold your breath and keep your face in the water for as long as you can take it. This powerful practice activates your “mammalian diving instinct” and works quickly to reduce your anxious arousal.
2. Resist toxic positivity
You might think that you need to banish anxiety altogether and force yourself to look on the bright side, especially if you’ve been criticized for being a nervous Nellie. But it does not work. Trying to suppress or avoid anxiety only makes things worse in the long run, research has shown.
Instead of judging yourself for being stressed or anxious, be self-compassionate. You can channel your favorite loving grandparent or another family member whenever you blame yourself. What would they tell you? How would they treat you? (Choose only a supportive family member or friend.)
You can even stroke your own arm, cradle your face, or put a hand over your heart. Or write yourself a kind letter as you would a dear friend, then read it as needed. These approaches are much more effective at reducing suffering than buying toxic positivity. Remember, it’s OK to feel anxious and it’s good to seek relief.
3. Reduce behaviors that fuel anxiety
You’ve probably noticed that spending hours mindlessly browsing your Facebook or Twitter feed makes you more anxious than you started out. And scientists found that frequently checking information during the pandemic was harmful – 2.5 hours or more per day was linked to significant anxiety.
But it’s so hard to stop! Tracking the time you spend on social media sites is a first step in motivating change, and there are many smartphones that can help. Then try removing social media apps from your phone so that you can only access them from a browser. Finally, use a timer to stick to a predetermined period.
Other behaviors that increase anxiety include repeatedly seeking comfort from others, procrastinating, and binge drinking. Sleeping or exercising inadequately is also likely to make you more vulnerable to a bad mood. Keep this in mind when trying to reduce your anxiety.
4. Zoom out to take a step back
While the Omicron variant threw a very real key into our pandemic recovery, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Our minds often spin on âwhat ifsâ and we end up worrying about worst case scenarios. To counter this trend, also think about the most optimistic and likely scenarios, and then develop a strategy to prepare for the most likely scenario.
You can also visualize what your current worries might look like a day, a week, a month, or a year later. Or ask yourself how badly things are on a scale of zero to 100, zero being a perfect world and 100 being the worst event imaginable.
Finally, talking to yourself in the third person might sound silly, but it’s worth a try. This method and referring to yourself by your own name has been shown to provide some distance from your current situation so that you can consider it more calmly.
5. Get out of your mind
The best long-term antidote for anxiety isn’t relaxation, but engagement in something meaningful that connects you with others and the world around you. Writing down our concerns briefly, then identifying values ââand planning long-term goals ultimately reduced worry and anxiety, the scientists found.
Try getting into nature, immersing yourself in art or music, or exploring a new corner of your neighborhood – all of these can activate awe and transcendence. It can also help you immerse yourself in the game with kids or pets, get lost in a project, or focus on how you can help others. The key is to find something that you can control and do right now.
We can go out of ourselves on purpose even though we bring anxiety to the ride. Paradoxically, the more we let the anxiety be there, the less power it will have over us.
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