Anxiety is so idiosyncratic that it’s difficult to pinpoint a “type” that’s most common. For some, it might feel like vines of dread roping themselves around you the night before a big work deadline, or maybe like a creeping cloud of unease that settles in during your morning commute. Maybe you cope by taking prescribed medication or going for a run; maybe you’ve gotten suspiciously into baking bread. And while there’s no cure for the heightened anxiety that’s all but inevitable in stressful, unprecedented times, there are ways to smarten your approach to dealing with it that can meaningfully reduce your overall sense of helplessness.
We’re living in a stressful time. It’s important to take care of our mental health.
In the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” The first step to mastering your anxiety is to recognise what it is when it happens. Instead of ignoring it and letting it build up and take over, simply note the anxiety as soon as you feel the buzzing in your heart, the spinning in your brain: This is anxiety. When we do this, we take the emotion, or the anxiety even, out of anxiety. Recognising the feeling of anxiety puts you back in control; instead of facing an amorphous threat that can feel once we recognize it, we can explore its source. Anxiety is an emotional response to an anticipated future threat.
Ultimately, anxiety is an inevitable part of life. No matter how hard you try to “hack” anxiety, it is still likely to seep in around the edges. Anxiety isn’t something to be conquered but something to acknowledge and manage. This is why it’s important to be realistic about its role in your life, and cut yourself some slack on the days you’re feeling bad — days, even, when things do seem unmanageable. We’re living through a global health crisis, after all; times are tough, they’re stressful, and struggling with dark thoughts or overwhelming feelings is to be expected.
If you’re having trouble quieting your mind on your own, there are a ton of great mental health resources that can help. Apps like Calm, Headspace and Brain.fm offer relief in the form of guided meditations, algorithmically generated playlists, and mindfulness exercises. It also should be noted that not all anxiety can be self-managed — that’s why mental health professionals exist. If the worrying and sleeplessness feel out of control, or you’re suffering from constant panic attacks — or if you are using alcohol or drugs to cope, or have other mental health concerns — call your primary home doctor to put you in touch with a mental health care professional. The government is also making it easier for patients to use apps like FaceTime and Skype to meet with doctors and mental health professionals.