Here's a comment I received a few days ago & the impetus for this current post:
"I would love for you to do a post on the swine flu and how to handle anxiety symptoms related to something that's so out of a person's control. I'm having difficulty with it, with the situation in and of itself, but it also brings up symptoms related to the general fear that I've got no control over the future."
What's an anxiety super hero to do when the world feels out of control and scary and it seems like there's nothing you can do to protect yourself? And, I don't mean all the scary scenario's we regularly create in our brains - rather, things like terrorism, global warming and the swine flu.
I remember hearing about the avian flu a few years back and feeling terrified. Every time I turned on the news, there was another frightening report of how it would spread to a pandemic level. Newspapers printed full page stories about supplies you should have at home in case we all had to be quarantined. Picking up my children from pre-school, the avian flu was a hot topic among parents & many of us felt afraid. My husband & I talked about what we would do if a pandemic were to occur, thinking through how we could keep our family safe. (There's still a box of unwrapped, protective masks in our basement.)
So what can we do when life feels out of our control? How can we take smart precautions without going off the deep end and building a bomb shelter in the backyard - just in case? How do we sort out the necessary information from the fear messaging so prevalent in our world, threatening to limit and suck the joy out of our lives?
Here's what I do & some links that I find helpful:
*I greatly limit the amount & type of news I take in. Dr. Andrew Weil writes about going on a news diet in his book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health & I take it to heart!
*When something comes up that's bothering me, I might freak out a little bit first, to be honest. After I'm done with that, I find a trusted source or two & go to it for information. If I find myself anxiously surfing the web for every little article - any piece of information that might help me protect myself & my family - I recognize that for what it is - a symptom of anxiety. When anxiety arises, you know what to do - check out this & this. Scheduling a worry time each day also helps to decrease that feeling of constant worry weaving through your thoughts day & night.
*I try to plan and take control of what I can. With the swine flu, I talked to my kids last night at the dinner table (in age appropriate terms) and reminded them how important it is to wash their hands before eating, after going to the bathroom, when the come home from school, etc. It's such an easy, but extremely effective tool for keeping healthy. My husband & I have gone through what steps we could take if this flu became pandemic. Looking fears in the face & finding potential solutions can feel very liberating.
*I try to keep up with the basics -- exercise, a good night's sleep (I'm not so good there), & a healthy diet.
*Meditation, prayer/spirituality, progressive muscle relaxation, & yoga are all essential tools.
*And, finally, it's easy to take a healthy dose of humor each day when you live with a toddler. I try to laugh with my family, cuddle them up & be as present as I can when I'm with them. Life feels like it's going so quickly & I don't want to waste their growing up time preparing anxiouly for the "what if's".
I hope that helped as you strive for a balanced response to the craziness in the world. I'd love to hear from readers what works for you, too!