Remaining Calm and Grounded During a Global Pandemic
Resilience Clinical Services Supervisor,
Becky S., LMSW
Many people experience anxiety and panic attacks from time to time, particularly if you have had past trauma, are currently experiencing trauma, have been diagnosed with PTSD, or are experiencing PTSD symptoms. During times of uncertainty, you may find that you are experiencing these feelings more often. During this global health pandemic, those with anxiety and/or PTSD may be concerned about whether their symptoms of shortness of breath is that of anxiety or symptoms of COVID-19.
I often use the “Bear” metaphor with survivors that have experienced trauma. Those having panic attacks experience a very real fear, similar to being confronted by a bear in the wilderness. Our mind, body, and brain need to be soothed and reminded that there is NO BEAR, though to the person experiencing anxiety, the fear is very real. When we feel threatened, our fight, flight, freeze response kicks in, prepared to help us survive. Each person is unique when it comes to anxiety and how they experience it, but there are coping techniques and skills to help keep you in the present moment and calm your nervous system while experiencing anxiety.
Have an emotional safety plan. Emotional safety can look different for different people, but ultimately it’s about developing a personalized plan that helps you feel accepting of your emotions and decisions when dealing with anxiety. Informing loved ones of the safety plan is crucial, as when our nervous system becomes hyper–aroused, our brain and body begin taking measures to survive. Our thinking brain is offline in heightened emotional states and we therefore may need someone to help remind us of our techniques.
Practice relaxation techniques daily. Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are three common relaxation techniques that you can incorporate into your routine. Daily relaxation practices assist your mind, body and brain to be more equipped the next time an anxiety or panic attack comes on.
Create an anxiety remedy kit. This could consist of essential oils, gum, a stress ball, fidget toys, or a calming app that you are able to quickly access. Mantras can also be helpful:
“I am safe.”
“I am having a normal response to anxiety/trauma/panic attack/ trigger/PTSD.”
“I am in control.”
“This feeling won‘t last forever.”
“I will get through this.”
It can be easy to shame yourself in moments of anxiety, but please try having compassion and love for yourself and remember that it is your brain choosing this, not you. In my practice, I tend to attempt holistic methods to respond to anxiety and trauma, but some may need to see a physician or psychiatrist for medicinal purposes to help them regulate anxiety symptoms until they are able to on their own.
If practicing coping techniques are not helping with anxiety or panic attacks, I’d encourage you to seek out a therapist to further process these symptoms. No one deserves to feel terrified or alone when experiencing anxiety or a panic attack.
Additionally, check out these articles with some great grounding techniques for those feeling anxious amidst our global pandemic:
Why You Aren’t Thinking Clearly: The Brain Science of Fear in Uncertain Times