From Stress and Anxiety to Personal Empowerment during the COVID-19 Crisis

We are resilient people who know how to rise to a challenge when we are given one. We are undergoing a crisis that we have never experienced and it is testing us all on many levels—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The question is, how do we “rise” to this particular life changing experience and in a way that releases us from our tumult? Well, there is absolutely a way.

The answer, however, will not be found from a place of fear or anxiety. It will be found in being creative and innovative to find solutions and a new way of living as we adjust to what eventually will be the new norm, one that no one yet knows what that will be. Your answer, believe it or not, can bring you meaningfulness and purpose in your life, which psychologically speaking, delivers long lasting joy. To get there, let’s first start with learning how to overcome the emotions that weigh you down.

Unless you are currently in a moment of life and death or your basic needs are unmet, the emotions of fear and anxiety arise solely from worrying about what will happen in the future: Will you have a job? Will you or someone you love succumb to COVID-19? Will the food supply dwindle? What about school? 401K? Retirement? The list is endless but the solution is one—simple at its core, difficult at first glance, but achievable with practice.

Practice the art of “living in the now.” If you stop and observe your thoughts, as mentioned earlier, you will notice that your feelings of fear and anxiety are almost always based on scenarios you create about the future. Here’s the problem—no one knows with certainty what that will be, not even what will happen one hour from now, much less a month or a year from now. I bet you never predicted this “future” that we are now experiencing. So let’s not continue creating unnecessary stress imagining circumstances that will likely never be the way you are picturing it. Instead, practice catching yourself when you are predicting and, instead, choose to focus on the “now.”

In this” now” moment, you have a beautiful opportunity to turn your attention elsewhere. You and you alone have the power to choose to fill your thoughts with something different—thoughts that can bring you peace and calm. Instead of fear, focus on gratitude. Instead of fear, focus on compassion. Instead of fear, focus on what you can do.

What’s to be grateful for? Look at your life now compared to what it used to be before the shut down. Perhaps more time for yourself instead of having to commute; more time with your loved ones instead of racing around on the giant hamster wheel of life; time to be more creative; time to explore interests that you were always too busy for. Are you grateful that there is less pollution? Less noise? Every day, there is always something to be grateful for. Look for it. Focus on it.

How about compassion? At the core of so many of us, is the innate desire to reach out and help, whether another human being, the animals, or our planet. When we give a lending hand, it gives us a sense of control because we are doing something instead of flailing around as helpless ”victim.” This, in and of itself, is healing. More significantly, however, beyond the healing, we also experience “feel good” emotions because doing for someone or something outside of ourselves brings meaning and purpose to our lives. As I mentioned previously, finding meaning and purpose is what ultimately creates long lasting joy. If you haven’t experienced this, try it. You will feel the uplifting and positive energy, replacing stress and anxiety with a level of joy and peace.

Finally, focus on what you CAN do. With living in the now from a place of gratitude and compassion, you will find yourself becoming more open to a different way of living and new ideas and solutions as the world around us changes. Herein lies the place of birth when you focus on what you can do instead of what you no longer can do. 

It is highly unlikely that we will be going back to the old life, and I would hedge a bet that no one wants to go back to it exactly the way it was. So in this time of a forced slow down, we have been given an amazing gift to choose how we want to shape the future. Ask yourself: Who do you want to be, and what do you want to do. Create from your place of gratitude and compassion. This is what you CAN do. This is how you and all of us will rise from the life changing catalyst called COVID-19.

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