Anxiety is in my blood. I come from a long line of introverted worriers who feel anxious at the first sign of a stomach ache, when we travel more than an hour away from home, and if a call home isn’t returned within 15 minutes.
But now that we’re in a global pandemic? It’s so much worse. We’ve all been watching the unfolding news with horrified fascination, and every time I scroll through social media, I feel my heart rate speed up until I think my chest might burst.
Over the years, I’ve built up numerous strategies and techniques to help keep my anxiety at bay, but nothing prepared me for the unique tension that comes with a crisis of this magnitude. Not all introverts have anxiety (and many extroverts experience it too), but if you’re an introvert with the added challenge of anxiety, this situation may feel overwhelming — even on a “good” day.
When I began feeling the anxiety bubble up in my chest to unmanageable levels, I decided to go back to basics and put together a list of ways to cope. Since starting to implement these different tactics, my anxiety has significantly decreased, and I’ve felt my thoughts stabilizing.
If you’re like me and feel your anxiety kicking up, here are some ways to cope. Hopefully one of these suggestions will work for you!
Strategies for Quieting Anxiety During the Pandemic
1. Make a list of the hard things you’ve overcome.
Write down every single thing that has ever felt insurmountable. It’s a helpful visual to show yourself that you’ve been through difficult times before and you’re still here. What’s on my list?
- When I was unemployed for four months after leaving my job to move in with my then-fiancé. We tried to balance living together for the first time in an expensive area on one paycheck.
- Having an ex-boyfriend dump me while I was recovering from a particularly horrific tonsillectomy…via text.
- Finding a way out of a job that had made me miserable but complacent enough to stay for years.
These instances are now only mildly painful memories. I’m able to marvel over the person I am today. Things are hard now and may continue to be hard for a while, but we can prove to ourselves that time and again we’ve made it through to the other side.
2. Break out your journal and track your patterns.
Before you start groaning, hear me out! Part of feeling anxious involves frequently struggling to turn off my brain. My thoughts whip around in my mind and require untangling from time to time. I can spend hours or days stuck in the same repetitive thought patterns, and I can’t figure out how to get out of it — until I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.
When I write down my thoughts, stream-of-consciousness style, I feel unbelievably better in, like, five minutes! Just getting those thoughts out of your head can be freeing. You don’t necessarily have to keep the paper or what you’ve written, but I’m a huge fan of looking back at past journal entries to see thought patterns, words you gravitate toward to describe your emotions, or cycles of your life that you might have otherwise overlooked.
3. Create a treasure chest of self-care.
My therapist in college taught me one of the most valuable self-care lessons I’ve ever learned. During a time of particularly high anxiety during my sophomore year, she had me create a list of things that I found soothing or relaxing, which we cut into strips of paper and put into a box. Whenever I felt anxious and needed to redirect my focus, I pulled a slip of paper from my treasure chest and did what it said. Some of the items I included in that treasure chest were:
- Coloring in a coloring book
- Walking the dog
- Listening to a guided meditation
- Phoning my mom for a deep conversation
- Taking a bunch of random Buzzfeed quizzes
The key is finding simple tasks that don’t require a lot of time, but which allow you to break the cycle of your thoughts so you can redirect that energy. And it doesn’t have to be a box! If you’re more digitally-minded, create a list on your phone and pick one at random when you need to reset.
4. Escape reality with the lost of art of daydreaming.
I’m a daydreamer who frequently gets lost in thought. I’ve even been called flaky a time or two. I used to hate being considered “lost in the clouds,” but really, it’s a lovely place to be when you’re introverted and anxious.
Meditation has its perks, but daydreaming is a lost art. I frequently daydream about the characters of future books I want to write, coloring in their different personalities. Lately, I’ve been struck by the idea of walking through a rose garden during a bright spring day. In fact, it’s become so vivid that I can almost smell the roses. (Admittedly, that may be partially because I use a lot of rose-scented products!) Whatever it is that transports you, take the detour and get lost in a world that isn’t worried about the pandemic.
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5. Watch something mindless yet wholesome.
I like a good garbage TV binge as much as the next person — yes, I even jumped on the Love Is Blind train — but right now, shows like that or ones with conflict are enough to amp up my nervous energy.
Instead, I’ve turned to two categories of tried-and-true programming that help calm me down: 1. cartoons and 2. things I’ve watched and know the ending to. I admit this is very simplistic, but it’s allowed me to escape into another world that I know has a happy ending. Familiarity can be your friend in times of uncertainty.
6. Clean like you’ve never cleaned before.
If you feel your anxiety acutely in your body, many experts recommend tidying up and getting your home in order. It’s an especially helpful way to adjust to quarantine. And while I think they’re 100% correct, I suggest cleaning in a slightly different capacity.
Sometimes my anxiety shows up in different ways — it can be paralyzing or it can be a lot of pent-up nervous energy. When it’s the latter, I need a way to get out the excess energy and tire myself a bit, so I turn to cleaning. I’ll find something in my house that’s been annoying me for awhile (something like wall scuffs or a disorganized closet) and put all of my energy into cleaning up that area and making it sparkle. By the time you’re done, you’ll have both accomplished something and used up some of your anxious energy.
7. Don’t forget to set boundaries at home.
Part of my anxiety right now stems from how much my life has changed — like work. My husband has started working from home, and while he’s my best friend and I love him dearly, I know we’re bound to get on each other’s nerves, especially since he’s an extrovert and I’m a highly sensitive introvert.
Luckily, we both have a clear idea about the space I need, and he’s more than willing to take the dog for a walk or let me shut myself in the bedroom for an hour when I require time alone. If you have a loved one working at home with you, or your living situation has changed and there are more people around than normal, be clear about what you need to maintain your sanity. For example, you might say, “Hey, I need 15 minutes alone. I’m going to shut the bedroom door, but we can watch an episode of The Office together when I’m done.”
Anxiety can be hard to manage during normal life — let alone in a pandemic. I hope these strategies offer you some help and hope. I’d love to hear if any worked for you! Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, Twitter, or via my contact form on my website. Wishing you all the good health as we get through this scary time together.