I am happy to share the unique perspective that Rawia Liverpool gave to COVID, using it as an acronym. Instead of only thinking of the devastation the virus has brought us, it is also important to recognise how it may have helped us grow and learn.
Are you feeling anxious and afraid? I expect in this time of a COVID-19 pandemic many of us are.
I know what anxiety and fear feels like. I witnessed that feeling and behaviour modelled in my dad on a regular basis while growing up. In fact many members of my extended family know what it feels like to be anxious and afraid. It’s not surprising as the experience of years of civil war in Lebanon in the 70’s and 80’s and a coup d’état in Ghana in 1979 only served to feed those feelings of fear and anxiety in us. As always my curiosity about human behaviours led me to explore these feelings of fear and anxiety and in the process gain some knowledge in addition to that from my own personal experience. The result has not necessarily been an anxiety and fear free life, but a life where I am able to understand and manage my anxiety in order to lead a balanced, insightful and meaningful life. This experience and knowledge has also proven useful when working with clients who presented with similar symptoms.
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” – Sonia Ricotte, author and motivational speaker.
Here are my steps on how to manage feelings of anxiety and fear. The acronym COVID makes them easy to remember.
The first step: Compassion, which starts with acceptance. It is perfectly okay to feel anxious and afraid, especially now when we are living in times of high uncertainty and unpredictability. Start by being kind and compassionate to yourself. Feelings of fear and anxiety as you may already know exist for a reason – to protect us from imminent danger. Symptoms of anxiety and fear were once smart ways with which we survived difficult childhood circumstances. So instead of always viewing them as a negative let’s try and remember their positives. Let’s accept them and attempt to gain insight and understanding about their root cause and the wealth of information that they carry for us.
“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it -just as we have learned to live with storms.” – Paulo Coelho, novelist.
The second step: Observation, in order to see where in your timeline, you are putting your focus and attention. Fear and anxiety are hardly ever about the present moment unless you happen to be chased by a hungry lion. Often when we feel anxious and afraid, those feelings are either rooted in our past due to a traumatic or highly unpleasant experience, or they are in relation to projecting our thoughts into the future about a possible upcoming event. That is why often when I ask my clients to replicate the anxiety and fear in the present they find that they can’t. Therefore, one way of managing your fear and anxiety is to bring your attention back to the present moment. It is the only moment that you have control over. I invite you to focus on the present moment rather than on the past or future, both of which are now out of reach, and therefore out of your control.
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Kahlil Gibran, writer, poet, philosopher.
The third step: Victories, from your past, which we refer to as resources: Take time to remind yourself of your strengths, because you have plenty, which you might have forgotten while you were experiencing your episodes of fear and anxiety. The chances are that it is not the first time you have had those feelings of fear and anxiety, so how did you manage them before? What positive qualities about yourself are you forgetting while focusing on your fear and anxiety? Perhaps you are a warm, engaging, funny and energetic individual. What is your family history and what lessons does that history teach you about overcoming challenges? What wisdom and strengths can you uncover from the stories you have been told about your ancestors? Remember that most of our ancestors have been through two world wars, famines, and other pandemics in times when science and technology were much less developed than now. Apart from past resources, you also have some resources from the present in the form of people who love you and support you. Lean on them a little and ask them to stop telling you to stay calm and instead just be with you, hold you and tell you that they are there for you every step of the way. They are your support network.
“Trust yourself. You’ve survived a lot, and you’ll survive whatever is coming.” – Robert Tew, writer.
The fourth step: Inspiration, which is available if you are willing to seek it. I mentioned above how you can be inspired by victories from your past. However, there is so much inspiration to be had in the present. Talk and share with others how you feel. You will discover that you are not alone. Be curious about other people’s experiences. Perhaps they can inspire you with their own stories of how they overcame these sorts of challenges. Listening to podcasts or online talks can be another source of inspiration. The other day, I signed up for an online speaking event by Elizabeth Gilbert, an American author who is best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. Her talk was about uncovering our resilience and I found a wealth of inspiration and motivation in the wisdom she shared about how to find ways to adapt in the face of adversity and times of threat and stress. These sources of inspiration can lead you to change your mind-set. This might be the first action that supports you in managing your feelings of fear and anxiety.
“We acquire the strength we have overcome.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, lecturer, philosopher, poet.
The fifth step: Discovery, achieved by becoming creative in finding new ways to cope and manage your anxiety and fear. This is not a distraction but a recharging of your batteries: whether it is music and dance, writing in a daily journal or blogging, taking up a new hobby like painting, regular exercise that helps in the release of mood enhancing hormones, a walk in nature or laughter-inducing activities like watching an episode of Friends as my daughters used to do in times of stress. Laughter is certainly a strategy that I saw my dad use regularly to manage his feelings of fear and anxiety. He possessed a wicked sense of humour and was often capable of getting a room full of people roaring with laughter. Incidentally Elizabeth Gilbert shared a creative tip on how to manage our fear that I would like to share with you here. She suggests that you stop fighting with your fear and instead grab a notepad and ask your “fear” to tell you everything that it is frightened of. Let your “fear” speak and you listen to it for a few minutes. Thank it for sharing those things and ask it kindly to step out and invite another voice in, the voice of “wisdom”. Ask the voice of “wisdom” to write an answer to “fear”, with regards those things that were listed previously. You will be amazed how much your wisdom has to say, if you give it a chance to speak. Your wisdom can then give you the best advice because it will be tailor-made to your specific situation. It doesn’t matter what it is that you decide to do as long as it provides you with some relief and relaxation. This is the time to start learning how to do things differently.
“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” – Wayne W. Dyer, author, speaker.
The next time you see the word COVID, instead of thinking of a virus that kills human beings, let it be an acronym that reminds you of steps that you can take to help you manage your feelings of fear and anxiety.
by Rawia Liverpool – www.recipes4change.com – Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash.