If you struggle with uncertainty, the coronavirus crisis and other natural events in the world may only heighten your anxiety. If you tend to obsess about the future, your mind may be going a thousand miles a second providing a myriad of possible scenarios that could come true or not. Indeed, these are unprecedented times. The “what if” thoughts abound among all of us. You are not alone.
As you read the news about the virus spreading, the fight-or-flight response is evident. It’s easy to go down the labyrinth of fear. Social distancing is limiting, and this has placed extra emotional stress because of our natural need for human connection. So what can we do?
“To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and a time to every purpose under heaven.” A band from the 60s popularized this verse from the bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1). These extraordinary circumstances can be a time to panic, or to work on strengthening our mental flexibility. It can be the season to change our relationship with our thoughts and emotions. It can be a great opportunity to practice being present since our busy lives have been put on pause.
You can start with the following observing exercise:
Use Your Senses to Connect to the Here and Now The goal of this exercise is to help you connect to the present and allow the anxiety to move at its own pace. Breathe in deeply, then exhale slowly as you notice three things you see, hear, and feel.
First, find one object you see. Describe its every detail, either silently or aloud. “I see the table. It’s brown with scratches on the legs. I notice the brown color is opaque. I notice the top of the table is also scratched.” Once you’ve described that object’s every detail, move on to the second and third objects you see.
Next, listen for three sounds. Describe the first sound in detail. Where is the sound coming from? How loud or soft is it? Is there anything else you notice about that particular sound? Do this for each of the three sounds.
Last, notice three things you feel. Describe specific aspects you notice about them in relation to your body. “I feel my back against the chair. I’m noticing the chair is actually not very comfortable. I’m noticing my legs feel sticky against part of the chair.”
As you observe the objects with your senses, acknowledge when you become distracted, and continue noticing. There are various internal experiences going on in your body, and you can choose where to focus.
It takes time and effort to develop muscles at the gym. So, it is with your ability to connect to the time that matters most –the present. When you get stuck in the maze of fear, ask yourself, “How are my thoughts helping me right now? If I act on them, do they draw me closer to who and what matters most in my life?” If they do, go for it. If they don’t, acknowledge the thoughts and focus on the present moment by using your senses.
There is turmoil in the world today, and you can decide if this is a season to go with your mind’s default –fear, or to reflect on what you want your life to really be about. Connecting to the here and now can increase your awareness and help you recognize that you have a choice of how to respond to the events going on internally as well as externally.
“We should wisely live a day at a time because that is all we have.”
Marvin J. Ashton