Let’s be real, a lot of us are feeling super stressed right now. During our everyday lives, we handle stress and anxiety in different ways. However, on an anxiety scale of 1-10, a lot of us start around a 2 or a 3 on most days rather than a 6 or a 7. Right now, with the amount of added stressors due to COVID-19, a lot of us feel like our stress and anxiety is closer to a 6 on the regular.
We become so used to being at a certain level, that we build up a tolerance. A 6 becomes NORMAL to us, that when we hit an 8 or a 9 we feel like we went from 0-100. A valuable skill to have at this time is being able to check in with ourselves so that we can work on lowering the effects of our normal anxiety, and slow it down before we hit an 8 or a 9. Make it less overwhelming and more manageable! Here are some steps to help with catching our anxiety before it feels unmanageable.
Step 1: identify your scale and what your signs are. Often anxiety is associated with fear and stress, and that can show itself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It helps to identify what would be a 1 and a 10 on our own individual scales. Thinking of what we would feel like at our most anxious/stressed- for example people often describe panic attacks as feeling like a heart attack. You want to take from your past personal experiences, and notice how your anxiety shows itself. Do you start breathing faster? Do you feel pain in your upper back/shoulders? Does your mind race? Are you irritable, maybe quick to snap at those you care about? What does your 10 looks and feel like?
Step 2: Think about a 1 for you, when are you most relaxed and how does that show up in your body? What do you notice when you feel safe? What are you thinking about, feeling, how does your body react? And lastly, identify a middle point. Think about and walk through a day where you felt super stressed out, and assign a number related to your stress for each event on that day from waking up all the way to going to sleep.
Step 3: pick a time or day where you check in with yourself. Walk through your day and assign your stress level to that scale, and be honest with yourself! Use the criteria you assigned- and half numbers definitely count. If at any moment your scale feels higher than a 5 or a 6- Take a moment to think about how you’re feeling. Where in your body are you feeling tense? Are you breathing? Put your feet on the ground and try to focus on how that feels. Have you taken any breaks, and if so, where are you feeling in your scale? Depending on your scale, think about if it would be a good idea to take one now so you can slow your anxiety down and breath. Begin practicing this regularly and identifying some of your earlier signs for being stressed out. Start using those coping skills earlier rather than later!
Even though a lot is out of our control right now, we can still take a breath and take care of ourselves. Slowing ourselves down and checking in can help to make those 0-100 moments feel more manageable and preventable. As well, now is as good a time as ever to look into seeking therapy, and learning even more tools to help for now and moving forward.