Did you know that (an estimated) 92% of the things we worry about are pointless?
One researcher found that only 8% of our worries are legitimate concerns.
The rest are composed of:
- 40% – things that never actually happen
- 30% – things that have already happened and cannot be changed
- 12% – needless worries about health
- 10% – petty, insignificant worries
Health worries have become increasingly common during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many people worry that they could contract the virus, that someone they love could become sick, or that they could unknowingly pass the virus on to others if they are asymptomatic.
We’re living in a time filled with uncertainty and sensationalized news, so it’s no surprise that many of us are filled with worry and anxiety.
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The Coronavirus is a serious issue, and of course we should take the necessary precautions (frequent hand washing, social distancing, etc.) to prevent contracting the virus.
That being said, worrying isn’t necessary or helpful. Worry simply pretends to be useful.
It often disguises itself as “preparation” or “wanting to be informed”, but as James Bryan Smith says, “worry is what we do AFTER we’ve already prepared.”
So…we know that worrying isn’t helping, but how do we stop?
This can be a challenge for anyone right now, and if you have an anxiety disorder, you may find it particularly difficult to stop worrying.
Here are a few tips to help you calm the chaos.
Side Note: The current global situation can be a trigger for many people who live with anxiety disorders. If your anxiety is flaring up and you’d like to seek help, you can do so from the comfort of your own home while you shelter in place.
Online Therapy offers cognitive behavioral therapy from a trained therapist for just $37 per month. You’ll chat with a therapist once a week, and in addition to that, you’ll receive access to videos, worksheets, activity plans, and interactive tools to help you overcome dysfunctional thoughts and emotions.
Turn Off the News
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the news does not exist to keep you informed. The news media profits by keeping you engaged – clicking, scrolling, watching, listening, commenting, and sharing.
How do they capture your interest? By sharing startling information.
Our brains are wired to pay attention to things we perceive as threats. This is a good thing because it has kept our species alive. Your desire to keep watching the news is simply happening because your brain is trying to keep you safe.
This instinct was useful at one time, but it’s no longer serving us in modern society. These days, we watch the news 24/7 and give ourselves panic attacks about things we have no control over.
Mass panic is what led to hoarding of essential items, like toilet paper, bread, canned food, and hand sanitizer.
If you’re feeling anxious about your health or the health of others, I’d highly recommend limiting your news intake. Find what works best for you – maybe it’s an hour per day, perhaps it’s 15 minutes, or it could be no news at all.
Balance It Out
The constant stream of negative, alarming information is not good for your mental health.
You might be watching the news every day, checking news articles for updates every 20 minutes on your phone, and constantly talking to everyone you know (virtually, of course) about how awful the COVID-19 pandemic is.
Is it any surprise that you feel worried, stressed, or anxious? Of course you feel that way!
Regardless of whether or not you’re watching the news regularly, I highly recommend looking for some positive “inputs” to listen to, watch, or read each day. You could listen to uplifting music, read an amazing book, or check out an encouraging podcast.
I’m obsessed with podcasts and here are a few of my favorite recent episodes. These might help you to adapt a new perspective during the pandemic.
(Side note: I am not compensated for promoting these podcasts. I talk about them only because they’re awesome! :) )
- The Life Coach School Podcast (with Brooke Castillo) – Handling Chaos series & Moving Forward series
- Design Your Dream Life (with Natalie Bacon) – When There’s Chaos in The World
- Things Above (with James Bryan Smith) – God is in This and Season of Lament
- The Next Right Thing (with Emily P. Freeman) – Speak a Good Word
- Unlocking Us (with Brene Brown) – Comparative Suffering, the 50/50 Myth, and Settling the Ball
- Elevation Church (with Pastor Steven Furtick) – Looking Forward to Normal
Limit the Research
Do you find yourself frequently googling symptoms of COVID-19 or any other medical condition you’ve convinced yourself you have?
These days, it’s way too easy to hop on WebMD and convince ourselves that a tension headache must be a brain tumor and that a mild cough is definitely cancer.
Cut yourself off from WebMD or googling symptoms.
During this pandemic, remember that colds, sinus infections, and allergies still exist.
If you have a cough, fever, or other symptoms of COVID-19, yes, you should self-quarantine as a precaution and seek medical care if needed. But there’s no need for panic – that’s not helpful.
There is only one thing you can control in this world: yourself. You can control what you think, how you feel, and what you do. That is all.
You can stay home most of the time, wear a mask to the grocery store, wash your hands frequently, and practice social distancing…but you can’t control what other people do or what this virus does.
Even if you’re exceedingly careful, you could still get the Coronavirus.
If you can accept the uncertainty we’re all living with right now, you can find some peace and freedom from worry.
Our brains hate uncertainty – when we feel certain about the future, this feels safe and comfortable. We crave security.
It’s okay to feel anxious or worried when faced with an uncertain situation. This is normal.
Here are some thoughts you may find helpful:
- I’m feeling worried (or anxious or uncertain) right now, and that’s okay.
- I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but that’s okay.
- Uncertainty is a normal part of life. It’s supposed to happen.
- This is how I’m supposed to feel.
- Uncertainty is uncomfortable, and that’s okay.
- Even if the worst case scenario happens, I’ll get through it.
- I am stronger than I think.
- I am capable of handling anything that comes my way. How do I know that? Because I always have in the past.
The Worst Case Scenario
When we worry, we obsess over “what if” situations.
What if I get the Coronavirus? What if I spread it to someone I love? What if I get really sick? Who will take care of my family if I get sick? How will I pay my bills?
First of all, it’s possible that you won’t get COVID-19 and that you’re worrying about things that will never actually happen.
Yeah, you might be thinking, but what if I do get it?
Telling yourself that “it probably won’t happen” isn’t that useful because your brain can always respond with “well, what if it does?”
The solution to the “what if” worries is “even if”. Anxiety says “what if?” Faith says “even if”.
Even if the worst case scenario happens, you will be okay. You are stronger than you think and you are capable of handling so much more than you realize.
If you can accept the worst possible scenario, this is where you’ll find peace.
Lean On Your Faith
It’s about to get a bit morbid here…the worst case scenario that most of us can imagine is death.
It’s natural (and perfectly okay) to be afraid of death, but if you believe that there is an eternal life after our lives end on this Earth, death holds no power.
We’re never certain about what will happen next, but we do know that it is in God’s hands.
Pastor John Piper said, “If you let me live, Christ will be honored on Earth in my life. If you take away my life, I get more of Christ in heaven. I can’t lose.”
The apostle Paul said it first in Philippians 1:21: “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
I’m Still Scared
You might read all of this and think “I still feel worried (or anxious or uncertain or whatever emotion you’re feeling)”.
Pastor Steven Furtick recently shared an insightful sermon called “I’m Still Scared” and I loved his message.
Sometimes, we read every Bible verse about not being afraid or we follow all of the tips we read in a blog post like this one…but we still feel anxious.
When we resist our emotions, we strengthen them.
Instead of fighting your fear or anxiety, try simply allowing it.
Make space for it, notice how it feels in your body, and observe it with compassion.
Don’t try to force yourself out of it.
Just allow it.
When we accept our emotions, eventually, they fade.
Remember: there is no emotion you can’t experience.
Allow the anxiety.
Allow the uncertainty.
Allow the worry.
Check out Online Therapy to receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) from a trained therapist – from the comfort of your own home – for just $37 per month.
One silver lining about the current pandemic situation is that many of us plenty of extra time on our hands – time we could put to good use by investing in our mental health.
One reviewer of Online Therapy said: “Wouldn’t be here on this website if it weren’t for this global pandemic. It’s also a blessing. I came across wooden dice. I wrote down all the emotional traps I get into and all the key things I need to do to live a happier life.
A global pandemic happens once in a century, maybe it was the time for me to live more fully for myself and for those who need me even though I think I’m not needed. Thx again.”
Get started with Online Therapy today. Stop worrying and start living!