Covid Anxiety: Tools to Cope and Live a Good Life
Monday, December 7,2020.
It has been over eight months since the original lockdown was inflicted upon us here in the United States. I remember, also at that time, that they (the health experts) warned us that even if things get better during the summer months, a second corona virus wave will most likely hit us again in the fall. Which would mean strong lockdowns again.
Well, it happened. We are in our official second lock down. Whos knows how long this will take, right?
Cases are up. Job and business losses are mounting. Uncertainty about our future is worse than any other time I lived through. This includes the great recession of 2008.
I’ll be frank here. I was terrified when it first happened. I had no idea what I would be doing within two months. Our lease was up and our landlord did not want to renew. Business stopped cold. Our destiny was literally out of our control. I had experienced this to some degree when I went through a divorce…and later on when I had to file for bankruptcy, but never with the intensity of this pandemic.
My anxiety has never been higher or for as long as it is now. I had to use all of the tools I learned from my spiritual coaches, mentors, and the great support from friends and family.
At the moment, I am centered and at peace, for which I am grateful for. I can think straight again. At least for today.
That is the reason for this blog. I have developed some tools to help me release the anxiety, stress and fear about the future brought on by the pandemic. I would like to share them with you. Maybe these techniques can help you too.
We all know that meditation has many benefits for health and peace of mind. But how often do we do it? It is easy to overlook the importance of meditation, especially when we feel we have to do something…anything to get things going again. But it is so important. Before the pandemic, I would meditate two or thee times a week. Now I meditate every day. Sometimes more than once a day. There are many ways to meditate and it can get a bit complicated, but it does not have to be. After all, we just want to calm the mind and just get present. Here is how I do it:
- I lie down on a bio foam roller along the length of my back. I do this because it is a good exercise to help prevent rounded shoulder syndrome. Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. You do not have to be on a bio foam roller. Just find a comfortable place to lie down face up.
- I have spiritual/meditative music playing lightly in the background at a low volume so I can concentrate on my meditation. The music helps prepare my state of mind for the work.
- Then I start taking slow, deep breaths. Sometimes I’ll do a chant. Other times I just take the deep breaths.
- As I meditate, I focus on three things. Every once in a while, I would focus on my fingers and toes, maybe move them a little in a conscious manner. I learned this from one of my spiritual coaches. The intention behind this is to get out of our monkey mind and be in touch with “now”.
- The other thing I focus on is separating my thoughts from me, and for lack of a better description, I put those thoughts on a projection screen in my mind. Why? There is a saying in the spiritual community that goes like this: Be in the world, but not of it. For the longest time I could not understand what they meant, but eventually it made sense. If you stay present and not attached to the emotions you are experiencing at any given moment, you can fully experience all life has to offer. It does not mean checking out and ignoring your emotions. It means acknowledging them, experiencing them, but not letting them rule your behavior or perception of what’s happening around you. In other words, it is a way to stay present and grounded no matter what your emotions do.
- I pay attention to the imagery that comes up during the meditation. This, too, I learned from my spiritual coach. Often times the imagery that comes up are simply different colors. When my coach guided me through my meditations, he would explain what those colors meant. Green would mean healing, purple would signify intuition and so forth. I can’t say with authority if these colors would represent anything in particular, but watching them come and go really has a calming effect on me.
- Other times images of people, places or events do come up. I stay present as they do, understanding that these images are coming from something deeper. I watch them with no judgement. I just acknowledge them…and then let them go.
I take at least 30 minutes every time I meditate. Many times I take much longer. I feel so calm after a good session. Also, I do meditate after every workout. The benefits are even more heightened. I’ll elaborate more on that in a minute.
This is obvious, I know. Exercise is good for us. It is good for the immune system. We all should do it right? True. Very true. However, the type and intensity of your exercise program needs to be a bit more precise if you are very anxious, depressed, or any of the other emotions you may be dealing with. Understand that when you are anxious, afraid, or on pins and needles, you are in fight or flight mode. Both adrenaline and cortisol are way up…and they stay up as long as you feel anxious. Being in a perpetual state of fight or flight keeps those hormones circulating, which can lead to some very serious health consequences down the road. These hormones have to be worked out of your system. Meditation works sometimes, but not all the time. More often than not,. it has to be physically worked out of the body. Purged, if you will. If adrenaline and cortisol is racing though your body like that, there is no way you can calm the mind through meditation. This is where a good exercise routine comes in. An exercise program with the right intensity and duration can purge those hormones out of the system and get you back to homeostasis. Here are some guidelines that I found effective:
- If you are under a lot of stress, the workout needs to be less intense. Cortisol is coursing through your body, but adrenaline, not so much. If you work out too much or too intensely, you can run down your immune system. I find a moderate intensity strength training program done two or three times a week works wonders on that. Moderate aerobic exercise can be beneficial too. Just don’t overdo it. Maybe twenty to thirty minutes a day breaking a sweat.
- High anxiety is a different matter. If you are very anxious, you have both cortisol and adrenaline coursing through your veins. You are truly in fight or flight mode. Your body is ready for a fight, even though one is not coming. It will stay that way until you change the signaling to the body. You have to workout. Moreover, it does have to be intense, just like you are trying to run away from a lion. This is where a good intense strength training workout does wonders. I recommend having the weights heavy enough to where you take the sets to momentary muscular failure. Train above the anaerobic threshold, and just beat the body up in twenty to thirty minutes to fully exhaust the hormones running through you.
Exercising this way has worked miracles on me. I also use these protocols when I train my clients who are having stressful and anxious times in their lives. I cannot recommend it enough!
combine strength training with meditation
This is an unusual combination I admit, but it works wonders. My meditation routine with one of my spiritual coaches always started with me on a mat on the floor. He would have me pound my feet and fists on the mat in a rhythmic fashion for a bout 5 to 10 minutes to get my heart rate up. Then we would get into the meditation as I described above (without the bio-foam roller). When I asked him why we do that, he just said it made it easier to get into a deeper meditative state. I have adopted the idea and expanded on it. Now I will do a very intense workout, and then do my meditation, and I believe it has an even better benefit than just getting into a better meditative state. I believe that an intense workout can crack the tough veneer of the ego, opening up a gateway for the spirit to do some real work on healing the ego. Not only have I used it personally for several years now, but I also did it with my wife and a couple of other people. They all felt much better and more grounded after the session.
stay connected with friends and family
The stay at home orders, masking, social distancing and other measures that are said to help fight the virus goes against our very nature. We are social animals, and when we are isolated for long periods of time, well, it affects our psyche. We get depressed, anxious, and feel helpless. Do not give in to the isolation. Figure out a way to stay connected. If it is a zoom talk or getting together but wearing a mask, so be it. But do take the extra steps to stay in touch with those of your inner circle. It is spiritually uplifting.
Work on a project you have been putting off
Or better yet, now may be the time to learn a new skill. There are many you tube videos for free that show how to do any number of things. Maybe start a blog, or look into other potential business ventures. Getting involved in a new hobby or learning a new skill helps with keeping the mind from going off the deep end.
the inspirition for this blog
Just last week I had another bout of anxiety. I’ll go as far as saying it was a full on panic attack. My mind was going to very dark places. It impacted my sleep and my relationship with my wife (we had a small fight and I felt so bad afterwards). I tried meditation all week, but to no avail. I could literally feel both my adrenaline and cortisol sky rocket. I was full on fight or flight. So I decided to do a very hard workout, even though I was terrified and felt weak, followed by a meditation session. Sure enough, I was strong during my workout (that’s adrenaline for you), but I was still very anxious. So much so that, even with my best effort during my sets, I could only take in shallow breaths. This is the first time I experienced something like that! I had to stop about mid-way through my workout and practice taking deep breaths again. It took a few minutes to get my breathing back. I finished the workout and then right into my meditation. I actually spent over an hour just meditating.
It worked. After I was done, I was very calm and in a good place. The anxiety was gone, and I could think clearly again. I got back to my writing (hence this blog, along with working on my book). Sharon and I did a business brain storming session on Sunday, and I am engrossed in a new book I found on online that I find fascinating. It is talking about the etiology of AIDS and Cancer.
Stay grounded. Let’s get through this.
P.S. Sharon has encouraged me in the past to offer guided meditations for people who want the help. I put the idea on the back burner because I wanted to stay focused on the core of our business. However, seeing as how we are in crazy times, and the fact that it did work so well for me, I would like put it out there. If you are interested in some guided meditation, feel free to contact me.
E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org