Sadie Bingham, MSW, LICSW
  • Beware the Anxiety Virus – Tips for the Panicky & Worried Mind

    “It is our duty to spread calm & connection rather than infection.” – Dr. Jud Brewer

    The past few weeks have been an anxious persons’ worst nightmare. Anxiety – similar to the coronavirus – is contagious. Social contagion is happening as we are consuming the 24/7 news cycle & our social media accounts. If we are constantly checking these outlets, be wary about getting infected with the Anxiety Virus.

    We are so focused on physical hygiene; I am here to remind you about your mental hygiene.

    Uncertainty, coupled with the inability to control fate, is the Anxious Minds’ Dream Team. This is our current reality, but within this moment there is time to start a new practice. Mental hygiene means we care & take accountability for our mental state. While we can’t control our thoughts, we can control how much information we are consuming, where we choose to obtain this information (CDC anyone?), & who we choose to process with.

    My brain is certainly wired for anxiety & I have had to use all of these techniques at one point or another during this global pandemic. 

    The following tips are specific for panic & extreme moments of fear. This is when you are outside the threshold for tolerance. These tips are known to calm the nervous system.

    • Box Breathing: Inhale slowly while counting to five, pause for a moment while holding your breath at the top of your lungs & exhale slowly to the count of five. Continue for five-ten minutes.

    • Get Outside: Be amongst nature. If you step outside, you’ll see nature continues to go about Business As Usual. This helps to widen your perspective of life, while also practicing awareness at the sense doors: seeing, hearing, touching & smelling. Focusing on the sense doors gets you back to the present moment

    • Grounding Techniques: Bring awareness to your feet & feel the pull of gravity. You belong to this earth. Go outside & place your bare feet on the earth. My yoga teacher once said, “imagine you are like a tree – flexible & able to move but with a strong & steady foundation.”

    • Move Your Body: Walk, exercise, dance – anything to metabolize the stress chemicals in your system & begin to release those “feel-good chemicals.”

    If you are within the threshold of tolerance when anxious or stuck in a worry loop, I suggest a technique utilized by Tara Brach. This technique combines mindfulness & compassion through the acronym RAIN.

    • R – Recognize: Note or label what is happening right now. By noting what you are experiencing, the emotion begins to loosen its grip on you.

    •  A – Awareness: Simply allow this emotion & experience to be. You can gently whisper, “this belongs.”

    •  I – Investigate: What is the nature of this entire experience? What are the thoughts in your head? What is your attitude towards this experience? Where in the body do you feel this?

    •  N – Nurture: What does this vulnerable piece need? Tara Brach explains that instead of avoidance, the opportunity to “tend & befriend” arises.

    Curiosity is key folks.

    Train the mind to be more curious about this experience than consumed by anxiety, fear, panic. Research suggests that anxiety is the habit of worry that we have cultivated for years.

    What do we get out of anxiety? Well, it gives our minds something to do – a place to land. Worrying, obsessing & ruminating are interpreted as “actions” in the brain. But the bad news is, this mind state negatively impacts our ability to plan effectively, use the executive function of our brain, find humor or compassion & see the broader picture.

    This is a moment in our lives where we are reminded that to be human is to be completely vulnerable. This is a moment in our lives when we realize how little control we have over anything. And yet, it’s been my experience, that when the entire foundation dissolves, it’s time to begin building a new one.