Is the light finally at the end of this pandemic tunnel? It’s starting to feel like it might be. My older kids found out they’ll be returning to campus this fall and it looks like haircuts are a real possibility next week. I call these wins!
But even as we take these little steps forward, I sense that lots of us have anxiety levels at an all-time high. In fact, this last month has been really hard for me. I feel this heaviness that I can’t seem to shake. I don’t know if it’s the complete inability to make a plan, or the daily dose of things being taken away, or the news headlines, or the guilt knowing that what I’m going through isn’t as bad as what others are…whatever it is, it’s a lot and it feels heavy.
So, I did what I always do when I need a little practical self help and reached out to my friend and fellow Lake Forester, Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo. I met Elizabeth years ago after she wrote her book, Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. Since Covid-19 began, Elizabeth has been on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and countless other programs and webinars helping people and companies navigate this unprecedented time we’re in.
“There are always two strategies you have in stressful times,” Elizabeth says. “You can try to change the problem, or you can try to change your mindset. Obviously, we have control over our mindsets. To explain what I mean, I love to tell the story about an electrician I met years ago who had both of his arms amputated to save his life. When I met him, he had this huge smile on his face and I was kind of taken back by this. But he told me that he was so happy to be alive. He was focused on what he had, not what he lost. This mindset made him enthusiastic for his life and it empowered him and propelled him forward.”
Elizabeth says there has never been a time where people need to be more in tune with their mental health than now. Here are a few tips she shared to help with this:
- Focus on what’s going well. Look for the silver linings where you can and celebrate the things that you’re doing right.
- Get out of the red zone. If you’re feeling stressed, take a time out. You can’t see anything rationally when you’re completely overwhelmed. Take a walk around the block. Play with your dog. Whatever it is that changes your energy and restores your calm…do it!
- Don’t fight reality–try accepting it. While it’s important to mourn what’s lost, comparing what we had before with what we have now isn’t healthy. It’s better to accept our reality and look forward, not back.
“This is a time for self-reflection and self care,” adds Elizabeth. “We have to give ourselves and others grace. All of these resiliency skills that we’re learning today are skills we’ll have forever.”
I know these tips aren’t a magic cure for dealing with anxiety, but they did give me things to think about and work on…especially the last one about accepting reality. For me, a chronic planner, I’ve had to give up the idea that I can plan anything more than a day or two ahead. Just focusing on the day I’m in has gone a long way to relieving that heavy pressure I was feeling to know what’s coming next.
I’d love to know what’s been working for you! Even though we’re still apart, we’re all in this together.