There are plenty of reasons to feel anxious today. Whether it’s fears regarding how the coronavirus will affect our families, the ups and downs of the economy or something else, it’s normal to stress.
In such times, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, which is meant to protect us from danger and allow us to react more quickly to emergencies. Anxiety can also motivate us to achieve our goals and help us to remain focused.
But when stress becomes irrational and excessive, it can be crippling. Learning how to manage irrational anxiety is the first step in being able to determine the difference between irrational fear and justified anxiety. Managing anxiety is essential for living a more balanced and harmonious life.
Here are four tips to get started:
1. Observe and describe your emotions in a nonjudgmental way. This entails observing your surroundings or circumstances and then describing with words your observations. The purpose is to help calm strong emotions so you can think more rationally and act more skillfully.
2. Create a distress tolerance plan. Not all emergencies are the same. Some crises are more significant like going through a divorce, getting laid off from a job, or having a health issue. Create a distress tolerance plan for calming strong emotions when crises crop up. This can include making time for warm baths, watching funny movies, playing a game or exercising.
3. Make meditation a daily self-care practice. Studies show that meditation helps manage anxiety. Mindfulness meditation helps train the brain to stay in the moment, which decreases stress levels.
4. Accept that life is stressful. It’s part of the human condition. Simply knowing you’re not alone and that anxiety is a normal human emotion can help stop anxiety from becoming irrational.
Paula Durlofsky, PhD is a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Bryn Mawr. As a practicing therapist for over 18 years, Dr. Durlofsky helps individuals, couples and families reach their full potential for leading lives with passion and purpose. She is also affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital, Lankenau Medical Center, the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and the Women’s Resource Center. Her expert opinions, shared through “Thinking Forward” are based on over two decades of clinical experience and training. Her expertise has been featured in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, APA’s Monitor on Psychology, Exceptional Parenting Magazine, Main Line Health, Psych Central, as well as at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women and on ABC 10-KXTV.