Stress & Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Harnessing Anxiety With the Power of Presence & "The Pause" by Jennifer Coken

3 years ago

Stress & Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Harnessing Anxiety With the Power of Presence & "The Pause"

I'm no licensed health-care professional, but there is no denying that anxiety is on the up and up. And I'm not talking about your clinically diagnosed kind (because again, I'm not a certified psychologist or anything). I'm talking about your routine, day to day, ordinary anxiety – except there's nothing really ordinary about living during a pandemic. Let's just be clear on that. But I do know a thing or two about anxiety from my 20 plus years coaching people.

What I know about anxiety hasn't changed in the face of this invisible enemy (COVID-19). So, let me tell you what I know about anxiety with a catchy little acronym (ABCD) I just came up with to help you remember the basics. Anxiety is the Automatic way your Brain tries to Call out Danger.

Anxiety is a normal response to stress or threats. It's there for a reason. It's designed to keep you safe. It's designed to make sure you can continue in your existence. Please know that you come by it naturally. There's nothing wrong with your anxiety. In fact, you don't want it to go away because you want it to be able to help you determine the threat. We all have smoke detectors in our houses. I don't want to get rid of my smoke detectors, do you?

The point isn't to figure how to get rid of our anxiety, but to learn to recognize it, reframe it and then keep going. Lucky for you I've got something handy to help you with that, too. It's called Prediction or Present, now Pause.

Consider that anxiety is a thought or collection of thoughts about a threat. A threat is "a communicated intent to inflict harm or loss" (thanks, Wikipedia). The keyword there is "intent." Intent means it hasn't happened yet. If something hasn't happened yet, then it's not real. It's not a fact. It's a prediction. Or a projection or a possibility. You're concerned about something that may happen, but that isn't happening now. Which is where presence comes in.

I suggest strengthening the muscle whereby you can distinguish the difference between what is anxiety (a thought that is predicting a threat) and what's really happening in your life right now. The quicker you can detect your emotions as themselves, separate from what's really going on with you, the more power you will have to create who you're going to be in that moment instead of living in a massive reaction state. That's called the Power of Presence.

Now, Time to Pause.

OK, so you are anxious. Write down all of the things that you are anxious about right now. Now, go back and look at what you wrote. Circle the words or strings of words that are factual. The facts are your who, what, where, when. These are the elements that are happening right now. You may be surprised how much of what you wrote is simply hypotheticals and not actually happening right now. Just doing this piece of writing your thoughts and then identifying the facts will loosen the hold anxiety has on you. You'll start to get present in the now – and in the real.

Get more tips on handling anxiety.

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Elisa Schmitz
Wow, this is incredibly helpful, Jennifer Coken . What a well thought-out explanation and exercise. So many are suffering from anxiety now more than ever before. Thank you for all you share with us!

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