There’s no denying it: we are collectively in a season of uncertainty and change.
It has been one whole year since COVID-19 upended our lives here in California. That’s 12 months since the first lockdown. At this point, masks feel normal (making us comment, while watching movies, why are they so close together?), group gatherings are just a memory, and anxiety has become a daily reality.
Yet, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. With more vaccines becoming authorised and more people becoming eligible for vaccinations, there is hope that lockdown will end for good.
And, in some ways, that feels strange.
Like it or not, in many ways, we have gotten used to this way of life. We may not be thriving but we have adjusted, more or less. There is a certain amount of anxiety bubbling beneath the surface that makes normal life feel dangerous. And, in many ways, life is dangerous.
The past twelve months have flung the nation into unrest on virtually every front. Chaos, pain, and hurt have been felt in every tier of American society. Many of us have come to realize, or at least have been reminded, that change can descend at any moment and that misfortune could always be right around the corner.
If we are not careful, without us even recognising it, our internal monologue can start to become driven and defined by fear. We begin to make decisions through this lens of fear, and find ourselves tentatively stepping through life, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of the tragedy that could befall us, afraid of what the world could become. We become paranoid and desperate. Everyday things like health, friendship, and career become laden with threats and tragic catastrophes:
“What if I get hurt?” “What if I get sick?”
“What if my spouse gets sick, and dies?”
“What if I lose this job?”
“What if the world never goes back to the way it was?”
These fears and anxieties can become paralyzing, stopping us from doing everyday activities or trying something new.
We all have to grapple with both the present reality and the, hopefully soon to be upon us, post-pandemic future. When we get vaccinated, we might feel relieved but we are also wary, our minds are still hyper aware of any potential for infection. We may be thrilled to see our friends again but, on a subconscious level, we may be anxious about what to say or how to act, our in-person skills having grown rusty in the past twelve months.
All of this anxiety takes a toll on our health, both physical and emotional, and, if left unchecked, will seriously impact both our style and quality of life. The biological ramifications of stress are no joke. Thankfully there are many strategies you can use to alleviate stress. Here are a few.
In addition to affecting our body on a molecular level, health anxiety in particular can sabotage healthy habits, such as exercise. When we allow fear to reign unchecked in our minds, physical activity can become scary and we grow afraid of getting hurt. Add to this the reduced amount of exercise that we have gotten during the pandemic due to gym closures, and jumping back into a workout program might seem too hard.
The key here is to resist catastrophizing and to work towards large goals through many smaller, incremental ones.
First, resist catastrophizing. If you are afraid of getting injured, consult a physical therapist or a doctor to find out if the aches and pains you are feeling are symptomatic of a larger problem that deserves attention, or just a sign of being unfit. If you are nervous about your relationships, communicate that to your friends, remembering that they care about you. If you are battling health anxiety, use strategies like research and the “what if?” scenario to your advantage, instead of your disadvantage.
Second, work towards large goals through many small, incremental ones. Don’t attempt to become the next American Ninja Warrior right this second. You don’t need to wake up a triathlon or an Olympic athlete. Start small. Set a goal to go for a walk everyday, even if it’s just five minutes. Think about what your end physical activity goal is, and create a game plan that starts where you are right now and, through incremental steps, eventually reaches that goal.
Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Ask for help. If anxiety is ruling your mind, reach out to a Mental Health professional. If your body is achy and you are worried that you’ll get injured, call us for a free assessment. We’d love to help you figure out what it is you are feeling and what we can do about it together.
Don’t let your fears stop you from living your life.
We’ve made it this far. Let’s keep going. 2020 and 2021 won’t get the best of us.