Pandemics increase anxiety and fear in large part due to the uncertainty principle. We don’t know the future, thus cannot control it. Our temper can flare and emotional reactions can feel overwhelming. Some key questions to ask yourself are: What is beyond your control? What are you able to influence by choices you make? For example, you may not be able to control the news about what is happening in the world, but you can control the amount of time you spend watching it. (Matthew 6:25-34)
Accept changes. A “normalcy bias” leads people to think things won’t change, but will go back to things as they were in the past. This may not happen.
Accept this possibility, and evaluate different potential scenarios. You can then plan for different contingencies to regain your balance in life. (Matthew 24:32-46)
Grow through new challenges. Fear and seeing the threats ahead, especially when health and financial crises are already present, can paralyze people and lead to unhealthy coping strategies. Turn your “threats” into “challenges” to think creatively about different options that are within your power to manage. Make specific plans for growth in different areas. Explore new ways to earn income. Read again, selecting various types of books. Write. Learn a musical instrument. Sing. Develop your spirituality. Explore your options for growth. (II Timothy 1:6-7)
Practice mindful empathy. Care for yourself and others requires an awareness which we can call loving mindfulness. Tune in to your own struggles, emotions, and physiological sensations (such as rapid heart beat, perspiration, etc.) with compassionate acceptance. Then turn this empathy toward others. Isolation can be extremely detrimental, and crises can bring opportunities to address the needs of others. When others need food, for example, drop some off on a porch without physically handing it to them. Love your neighbor as yourself. (I John 3:11-4:21)
Develop your faith. Crises often bring opportunities for spiritual growth and development for people. Explore your religious tradition more deeply. Read your Bible. Discover new ways to pray. Read the writings of spiritual leaders whom you respect. Meaning, purpose, and a valued direction in life, can grow out of your renewed relationship with God. This foundational arena of life can help you find peace that passes understanding, establishing your equilibrium regardless of what life throws at you.
(II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:2-8)
Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who now does teletherapy for clients in New Jersey.
Photo by NBC News