As many of us have settled into our work-from-home routines and continue to seek out ways to stay connected, our attempts to find some semblance of normalcy during the pandemic can often be interrupted by feelings of panic. Between a looming sense of uncertainty and endless news alerts, it’s a challenge to remain calm and carry on with our day-to-day tasks without a sense of dread.
“Given the widespread global impact and, most importantly, the uncertainty of it all, many people are probably going through the most stressful event in their lifetime,” Maria Beatriz Currier, M.D., the medical director of the Cancer Patient Support Center at Miami Cancer Institute and a certified psychosomatic psychiatrist, tells Thrive. In many ways, the pandemic is the perfect recipe for panic-induced daily life — but it doesn’t need to be.
As we grapple with intense, uncomfortable uncertainty, it is comforting to know that small interventions can help us ease those feelings of panic. On top of setting firm boundaries around news consumption, moving our bodies daily, and getting enough sleep, which according to Currier, is “ground zero” for our mental health, mindfulness and meditation can make all the difference. A 2018 study on cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation found that brief meditation sessions can ease the symptoms of panic disorder, reduce overall negative emotions, and lower our heart rates. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, or are familiar with the heart-pounding sensation that often comes with feelings of panic, it’s reassuring that just a few minutes of deep breathing and tuning into ourselves can help.
Adopting a short daily meditation practice can help us cope with intrusive COVID-related thoughts and help us control our panic, anxiety, and even the headaches that can come as a result, Currier says. She recommends starting with just two minutes of meditation each day so that it’s easily incorporated into your routine.
Try these Microsteps to help you find a sense of calm when panic sets in, and, when you can, prevent it from creeping up on you in the first place.
When you wake up, don’t start your day by looking at your phone.
Take at least one minute to focus on your intentions for the day, what you’re grateful for, or simply taking some conscious breaths instead of checking the latest headlines.
If you’re feeling stressed or panicked about what’s going on in the world, take a few minutes to meditate.
Pausing to simply breathe allows you to be less stressed, more present, and more resilient in the face of uncertainty.
When you receive a notification that causes stress, pause and focus on the rising and falling of your breath for 10 seconds.
Conscious breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for lowering our cortisol hormone and overall level of inflammation.
If you can, open a window and take a breath of fresh air.
Harvard research shows that allowing in fresh air from outdoors can actually help reduce the transmission of airborne pathogens. As an added bonus to your mental well-being, you’ll feel less isolated and more connected.
Write down a list of what you’re grateful for before bed.
Writing down what you’re grateful for at the end of the day will lower your stress levels, take your mind off the news of the day, and give you a greater sense of calm at night.
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