You know that moment in “Groundhog Day” – or “Edge of Tomorrow”, “Happy Death Day” or “Palm Springs”, depending on your pop culture preferences – when the main character has gone through too many time loops, the initial adrenaline has subsided and the madness sets in?
Is this how you feel right now? We were prepared for a normal Christmas season until Thanksgiving showed up with an uninvited guest: Omicron, the newest and most contagious variant of the coronavirus. As we listen to Christmas carols (which have been played since Thanksgiving) on KOST-FM 103.5 and wonder whether we should cancel our vacation plans, we wonder again what the coming months will bring.
We have been here before. And that kind of repetition, when out of our control – like watching COVID cases rise again – can make us anxious.
But repetition – when we are calm, analyzing what is in our control and working on better routines – is also a tool for dealing with fear.
Here are some reminders of what causes fear and tips on how to face uncertainty with a clear head.
1. There are real threats and imaginary threats
Omicron is a real problem, especially if you are unvaccinated or plan to be with a lot of people. It is a real threat to the hospital system as it prepares to become overwhelmed. Long COVID is a real possibility for otherwise healthy people who become infected.
But everyone has a different situation, so what is your specific risk? Are you older? Do you have any previous illnesses? Who is in your inner circle and are they vulnerable?
Keeping up on national and global events can be helpful, but what does your local case matter? Do you work in a workplace where your risk of exposure is higher? Do you work at home Do you have plans to fly
Make sure you respond to your real threat and not be overwhelmed by a story you read on Twitter and the context of which you are unsure, or an apocalyptic future entirely created by your imagination.
2. Identify your emotional triggers
A trigger is something that evokes an emotional response. Often times it’s something we can’t control, like a toddler crying or the end of a relationship or the day of death.
Is news with panicky headlines a trigger for your anxiety? While knowing the latest safety guidelines is important, you don’t have to spend hours reading articles, podcasts, TV shows, and TikTok videos that tell you the same thing. Instead, consider signing up for a newsletter from a trusted organization that will provide you with all of the key highlights once a day.
Understanding our triggers allows us to recognize them for what they are so that we can better deal with things that are stressing us out.
3. Notice the physical signs that you are becoming anxious
The days can be long and busy, and sometimes we don’t realize how much we are affected by our daily pressures. Maybe we have past trauma that we have avoided and that is starting to cause problems. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the millions of things on our to-do lists.
If we are not careful, our body will crash and tell us that something is wrong. But if we take a closer look, we can see the signs beforehand and remember to rest.
So do you have a headache? Is there a tightness in your chest? Is your jaw hurting because you didn’t notice how often you clench your teeth? Your body is sending you a signal and you need to heed it.
4. Find out your emotional cycles and patterns
According to psychologist Marlene Valter of the psychiatric firm AnaVault, when a threat is perceived it activates our sympathetic nervous system and triggers a fight-or-flight response. Other parts of our brain are turned off so we can cope with the stress that lies ahead.
When this happens, “we associate memories, emotions, and thoughts with this danger,” said Valter. “So when we see something similar, we’ve learned to consider it dangerous.”
Sometimes the new danger is real. Sometimes it’s an unhealthy habit and we may react unnecessarily to a past trauma.
A common practice in cognitive behavioral therapy is asking a client to identify unhelpful thoughts, patterns, and behaviors. So think of times when you’ve been anxious lately – what happened, what triggered it, how did you feel physically and emotionally, what did you do (or want to) and what happened next? Once you identify the cycles, you can work on breaking the ones that lead to fear.
5. Think about whether different measures will give you more helpful results
There are many things that we cannot change, such as the introduction of the Omicron variant. But sometimes we can change our actions to put ourselves in less worrying situations.
Get vaccinated (including your booster vaccination). Perhaps you were confused about the mixed message about the need for the booster, or you wanted to campaign for the US to send more vaccines to the developing world. However, currently research shows that the COVID-19 booster vaccine is your best protection against Omicron, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say all adults should get it. Log in to MyTurn.ca.gov.
Get tested before you meet people especially if you get into high-risk situations or meet with people in high-risk groups. You can get tested in your doctor’s office, a test center in the district or in a pharmacy. At home COVID-19 tests are in high demand and scarce with the winter surge – a situation that may not improve until next month when the Biden administration plans to make 500 million test kits available to Americans for free – but here’s how to get it and how to use them properly.
Other measures to consider. What more compassionate approach to talking to your vaccine-unaware loved one about the first dose? Can you buy better masks? Can you spend more time researching potential positive developments, like the Pfizer pill, which scores well against Omicron for blocking a key enzyme that viruses need to multiply in the human body, instead of just reading about doom and darkness ? Or eat better, get more sleep and exercise?
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by what you can’t do, think about what you can do.
6. How to manage your racing thoughts
Is there always an inner monologue on your mind? Some people naturally have more active, fearful minds than others. In a Psychology Today story titled “How to Tame Your Anxious Mind,” therapist Michelle P. Maidenberg said she loved reminding her clients that you were have Thoughts and feelings, but you are not your thoughts and feelings.
There is a difference between thinking something and acting on it, she explained. Sometimes it helps to just observe the thoughts, evaluate them mindfully, and let them pass without evaluation.
Maidenberg said the struggle to get rid of unwanted thoughts or wishing them away can create an even more strenuous cycle “in which we are ultimately challenged, thoughts about our thoughts, feelings about our feelings, thoughts about our feelings, and feelings about ours to have the thoughts. ”
Just as you wouldn’t love being on a time warp, watch out for mind loops.
“It can be a challenge to have self-compassion when all this ‘noise’ comes up and makes us question ourselves, fight back and want to avoid ourselves,” she wrote.
7. Focus on what you can control and accept what you cannot
When licensed clinical social worker Courtney Tracy spoke to The Times in August, the country was in a similar place regarding the pandemic, as uncertainty about the Delta variant threatened our return to normal. She emphasized the importance of knowing – and accepting – the difference between what you can control and what you can’t control.
“There is no other way to get through this time than by generally accepting that we are mortal and that we exist on a planet that is uncertain and unprecedented things are happening,” she said. “When we suppress things that we wish not to happen, we often suppress the emotions that go with them. When we accept what is happening, we also open the door to see what we feel about it, and that not only brings us closer to healing, but can also prevent it [us] be traumatized. “
8. Be nice to yourself
We are about to enter our third year of the pandemic. You don’t feel bad because something is wrong with you. You feel bad because it was bad. You feel anxious because Omicron induces anxiety.
To find out how to manage your anxiety and which habits are best for you, you need to experiment. Some things will work, some will not. You will have setbacks. It will take. Be patient with yourself.
A little fear is also good. It is what makes us pay attention, it protects us from danger, it motivates us and it helps us to develop empathy for our fellow human beings.