Navigating Anxiety and Uncertainty during COVID-19
It seems we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a monumental historical moment. Unfortunately, these ‘unprecedented times’ also come with some unpleasant repercussions. In our 2020 Community COVID Survey, brain tumour survivors and caregivers in our community reported feelings of stress, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and disconnection. I know I certainly have felt these as well.
It is incredibly difficult to navigate a brain tumour diagnosis, especially during a global pandemic. Professional help is not always available or accessible when it is needed, adding to these already distressing feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. You may feel like emotions such as sadness, frustration, anger, and loneliness have started to negatively affect your life, and negatively affect YOU! Remember, you are not your emotions, you are experiencing your emotions. Don’t make a judgement about them, but rather be curious about them.
When I am feeling all tangled up inside, I tend to follow some of the insights below. I invite you to try some of these suggestions to help you to manage heightened emotions during difficult moments.
FYI: The tips below are not a ‘quick-fix’ and will take some practice (like anything!) in order to benefit you. You may try them one after another, or choose whichever tip resonates best and start there.
When it feels like everything is crashing around you, just pause. Be conscious of your surroundings and identify what you need in this moment. Try to focus on your immediate needs, such as moving to a different space, doing some deep breathing, or simply identifying your feeling(s) to yourself. If you are not able to identify how you are feeling at the moment, the next tip may be helpful to you.
Notice your thoughts, but remember, don’t judge them. If they aren’t helpful to your wellbeing in this moment, let them pass by. Combining difficult emotions with judgemental thoughts only makes a bigger mess! Consider how your thoughts are making you feel. Speak to yourself like you would speak to a friend; be kind to your mind!
Feel your feelings! This one can be tough, because feelings can be tough. Our emotions might even seem like they contradict each other. It may be uncomfortable, but we must let ourselves experience our emotions so that we can process them. Putting your thoughts and emotions into words can be a starting point. Say it out loud if it feels right for you. Some people find journaling helpful, others might phone or text a friend.
Connect with family, friends, pets, nature; the choice is yours! Talk it out, or enjoy some silence, but try your best to take a few moments and make a connection. You can even connect with yourself! Sometimes, feeling ‘connection’ can be difficult, especially when certain emotions are ‘blocking’ you or making it difficult for you to experience other emotions. One of my favourite ways of connecting with my body and re-engaging with my emotions is through movement.
A change of scenery can make a huge difference in helping us gain a new perspective. Get outside, go for a drive, or try moving your body in a way that feels good! On days that are particularly difficult, this can be hard, especially if you have little to no energy. Personally, I keep a yoga mat rolled-out in my living room as a reminder to do some gentle movement or stretching when I am experiencing difficult emotions. Finding what sort of ‘movement’ works for you, your body, and your abilities is key.
Here’s a Tip: Back to the Basics
When all else seems to fail, simplify! Sometimes, you may feel like there is nothing you, or anyone, can do to help you to feel better. In these cases, try your best to plan your day around meeting your basic needs. Taking time to focus on food and drink, movement and rest, and personal hygiene can help us to tackle those difficult emotions more effectively by ensuring our physical ‘base-line’ is settled.
Along with the tips included above, and in the Notes to Self Infographic, something I have found incredibly helpful for my mental health and daily wellness is to create ‘predictable’ moments that I can expect or even look forward to. For me, this might look like a stop at my favorite coffee shop for a hot drink on Wednesday afternoons, or sitting outside on my deck in the evenings (in all sorts of weather, might I add!) The mere fact of knowing that I will soon be in the company of familiarity creates comfort within me.
What ‘predictable moments’ can you create for yourself? In these unpredictable lives we live, creating experiences for ourselves, no matter how small or simple, reminds us that we matter. That joy is possible even alongside despair.
The unpredictable is the salt of life, the flavour and the sting. The predictable is what makes it sweet.