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  • Writer's pictureJosh Killam, LPC

Anxiety in Uncertain Times (Dealing with the stress of COVID-19)

With all that is going on in our world, I find myself becoming less and less comfortable sitting with myself. The constant stream of news surrounding COVID-19 and the election year has me feeling more anxious and less grounded with each passing day. At times I find my breath and I can center myself which leads to a feeling of calm and peace. Yet, these times feel fleeting and few and far between.

I find myself asking this question “What do I do when my anxiety feels too big for me to handle?” Honestly, the initial response was I don't know. That is a reasonable response when my world feels too big to handle. I work through grounding exercise, kind eyes (positive self-talk), and breathwork. All of which feels like I'm holding back a tsunami of anxiety with no real relief. If you have ever been to the beach, picture yourself standing at the water’s edge. The sense in your body what it feels like when the waves pull back and take all the water and sand with it and then without warning comes sweeping back with force splashing water over your feet and legs. This is a good mental image of what it feels like to try and ground myself when I am experiencing anxiety during this trying time. The majority of the experience feels like a fight, it is a struggle to focus on the breath for more than 2-3 breaths before the flood of anxiety comes rushing back in. It is strenuous and stressful to attempt to stay calm and practice kindness with myself while these intrusive thoughts are standing at the doorway waiting to come surging back so they can have their way with my serenity. Truthfully, I am one to look for a hard and fast answer and aim for the solution as quickly as possible. Given these difficult times and all that our world is dealing with, I have discovered that this tendency to skip straight to the end and obtain this inner peace has led me to feel more stressed. Feeling hopeless that these once proven grounding techniques are failing me. Which then leads to an even deeper aloneness and anxiety spiral.

Back to the beach metaphor, when these feelings of helplessness and powerlessness overwhelm and I feel the pull to an even deeper sense of despair I am reminded of this Disney+ short film called Piper. I won’t go into detail here but I highly recommend you watch it when you can. When my feelings seem the darkest, even the smallest glimmer of light shines through. When the water is rushing back and your feet are sinking in the sand right before the waves come rushing back there is a brief moment of stillness. In this stillness, I saw light. I saw a moment where I could catch my breath. I well my heart swell with joy and I felt peaceful.

We cannot stop the waves. We cannot stop trials and tribulations that ourselves and the world will throw at us. We can, however, find our true selves in this sea of tragedy. However brief the contact with your peace may be. I hope you find comfort in knowing that at your core you are safe, worthy of love, and deserving of peace even when the world feels like it is crashing around you. In these times of uncertainty, rifled with anxiety find solace in the brief moments right before the wave comes rushing back at you. There will always be a break in the waves.

Comment with your preferred anxiety relief tools.

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