How to Handle Anxiety When You Are Not in Control of the Circumstances

I am a mother of four girls. My oldest is a soon to be 21 year old and a senior in college and my youngest is 9 and in the 4th grade. On my journey as a mother there have been some pretty trying times, but none as great as when my youngest was born with Sickle Cell. There were so many moments when my family and I had no idea that some illness was lurking until it bubbled up to the surface. During the early years of her life, there were so many unknowns that caused a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety. But, after over 12 hospital visits before the age of 2 and 3 surgeries, we learned to prepare for the unexpected because there were so many times we were not in control of our circumstances.

Everyone has had some form of anxiety in their lifetime. Whether it was being anxious about a first date, a new job or even the stage of life that you’re currently in. Anxiety can feel like a sense of dread, apprehension, or tension you feel when you’re about to embark on something new. Some forms of anxiety can signal to you that there’s something you need to pay attention to and your body is trying to let you know to do something about it to ease some of the tension. But, what do you do when you don’t have control over the circumstances that are causing you anxiety? In light of the current circumstances across the world because of the Coronavirus, it’s important to understand how to manage your anxiety. Here are six tips that I used for myself and my family during our times of uncertainty and I also share with my counseling and coaching clients.

Know your physical signs that point to anxiety.

Anxiety can show up in different ways throughout your body such as headaches, irritability, trouble concentrating, negative thoughts, heart palpitations, sweating, muscle aches and pains, tension in the body, breathing issues, lowered sex drive and even stomach or digestive issues. If left unaddressed these issues can affect your immune system.

Root out what’s causing the anxiety.

Understand what in particular is causing your anxiety so that you can address it head-on. For some people, at this time it may be from inundating themselves with the news. For others, it could be an increased concern for a child or an elderly parent. Still, others may have a general sense of anxiety and this situation has only heightened your sense of tension.

Take the focus off what you can’t control and focus on what you can.

What in your environment can you control? You can control the way your home looks, how you take care of your body, what you eat, what you watch and what you listen to. You can control your thoughts surrounding all of this as well. When you feel yourself going down a negative thought spiral, stop the thought in its track and refocus on what you can control. Take measures to plan for you and your family should the need arise where there is a heightened need to circle the wagons as I like to call it and shelter, love and support your family.

Talk it out with supportive friends and family or a professional.

Just the act of sharing your thoughts with supportive friends and family can help release the valve of the pressure you may be feeling. Notice I said supportive. Please recognize that certain people in your life will only help to take you further down the anxiety rabbit hole. Avoid talking to them about this. If needed, seek help from a professional who can talk you through where your heightened sense of anxiety may be coming from beyond the general level of concern.

Remind yourself of what you are grateful for.

Gratitude and positive emotions actually change the brain. You know when you’ve said I’m going to buy this new car and before you thought about buying it you never saw it on the road, there’s a part of the brain that allows you to see more of what you focus on. If you focus on negative emotions, you’ll see and feel more negative emotions. If you focus on more positive emotions, you’ll see more positive emotions. It may seem simple, but this is a very central part of training your brain to focus on what you can control.

Surround yourself with the things that support your mental wellness.

I alluded to this before, but I call this Circle Your Wagon. What I mean by this is that in times where you need to get grounded and find your bearings again, surround yourself with people, activities, things and peace and quiet to support your mental wellness. When things feel out of control, you need to have a way to recenter yourself, circle your wagons. Whether that is spending time with loved ones, watching a movie, reading a good book, meditating, reading your bible or praying, do what you need to do to support your mental wellness during this time of uncertainty.

Protecting your mental wellness will not only help you survive this of when things feel out of control but thrive in the face of it.