Looking back, I had been dealing with anxious thinking long before that, but failed to recognize it. It was one of the reasons why I had to leave my previous church.
You would think that these times we were in would cause a flare up, but the truth is, I was finally weaned of the medication I was on a couple of months ago, and have been doing quite well since.
One of the keys to returning to health was a counselor saying to me almost a year ago, “Write down the things that cause you anxiety, and divide them into two categories. 1. The events or items you have no control over, and 2. Those things that you can do something about.”
“Those things that you can do something about, make an action plan to deal with them. That first list… Say to yourself, their is nothing I can do about this, so I am going to set it aside for now.”
Maybe easier said than done, but it worked well for me. The poster above describes some of the things we can, and cannot control, and I will elaborate on some ways that I have been implementing this for myself.
Primarily though, I will be largely discussing the social media aspect, as that is the part that has caused me much anxiety in the past…
We are blessed in Canada with a short election cycle. Under our elections act the minimum length an election can be is 36 days and the maximum it can be is 50 days. We don’t really have the equivalent of the U.S. Primaries: Party leaders are selected by a relatively small group of party faithful, and it doesn’t get a lot of attention. But when that election cycle does hit, boy oh boy. Over a few election cycles my Facebook feed was getting uglier and uglier each time round. Until… I found a simple solution. Hence my first recommendation:
1. “Unfollow” the loudest voices. You don’t need to unfriend people. Having been unfriended in the past, I can tell you it hurts. Unfollowing is something that the other person will likely never be aware of, and you can either “Follow” them again after the cycle is over, or keep them in Unfollow mode, and check back in on them from time to time.
I found that about 1% of my Facebook friends created 80% of the negative posts. Unfollowing a couple people on the left and a couple people on the right (I am an equal opportunity Unfollower) made for a MUCH more pleasant Facebook experience.
2. Gently warn those who are posting inaccurate information. “Hey, I just say something that made me realize, that what you just shared may not be completely correct. Have you tried using Snopes? I find it really helpful when considering sharing posts of my own. 🙂 ” Always include the happy face! Then I say to myself, I am not the Internet Police, if they continue to post inaccurate information I will just report the post without comment. Eventually they may fall under category one.
When the Corona Virus hit I found that the first two strategies were not sufficient, and I could feel my anxiety levels start to rise again. I had to take further action. Notice how like the poster above says, these all fall under the category of things you can control.
Limit your social media.
There are a multiple ways that you can do this. Here are some that seem to be working for me.
3. Put down the phone. I am currently working from home, and I do not keep it within reach. It does not help my anxiety and it is not fair to my employer if it is constantly calling to me.
4. Consider keeping your phone in another room or out of your sight lines.
5. Turn of all your phone notifications. And I mean everything. They are just calling you to pick up the phone. You can let people who you do connect with that they can reach you by email or that you will check for messages every couple of hours. Turn down the volume and vibration, so that if you do have it on your person, you are not tempted to pick it up.
6. Set aside certain times of the day when you will let yourself check your phone or social media. If you are feeling anxious at a particular time, find an alternate thing to do.
7. Install an App like “Stay Free” to keep track of how much you are on your phone. Note: Turn off the Stay Free notification as it kind of defeats the purpose.
Use it to track what you are doing, and adjust accordingly. You can take a look at patterns and make adjustments. (See the previous point). You will be surprised how much time you spend on your device.
8. Don’t bring your phone to the dining table. This is your chance to interact with family. It doesn’t need to be there.
9. Don’t bring your phone into your bedroom at night. You need a calming time to fall asleep. Try reading instead.
10. Limit your news/information sources. Pick two or three trusted ones. Ones the report the facts and limit the commentary. For example, I do not Google “Corona Virus update”. I will google, “Corona Virus update + name of my trusted news source.” Or, I will go directly to the site in question and skip google altogether. Google is going to flood you with information. That is what it is designed to do. Make a conscious choice to restrict the results you are getting back, or avoid it altogether.
11. Give yourself set times when you can visit these news sources. Whether you are using a phone or computer, block out your time. Here is work time, here is play time. Don’t try to mix the two.
12. Walk. Ever since I was teen I have found that walking calmed me down. I can remember as a 13 year old being really upset about something, and just walking for hours. No doubt invoking some anxiety in my parents! Walking always calms me right down. The past two weeks I have been walking about an hour each day. I find it serves as a daily reset of my anxiety levels, and as a side note, it has been helping reduce the waist line!
13. Sleep. One of the best ways to combat anxiety is a good, regular sleep. I find that when I am tired is when I struggle the most.
Some other random tips:
14. Restrict your discussion times to when you are in a good head space. Ask yourself if you are currently feeling anxious or if a discussion will cause you anxiety. If you answer yes to either one, find a way to leave the discussion to another time when you feel you can handle it without anxiety. Let the other person know why you are not able to participate at the moment.
15. Be happy for the good things happening to friends. This is my wife’s approach to Facebook. I want to celebrate with my friends when good things happen to them. If instead you are getting feeling of jealousy or envy, then maybe Facebook isn’t the platform for you. I found I did have to unfollow one aquaintance who was causing negative thoughts to rise in my mind when viewing his posts.
16. Consider using Instagram rather than Facebook or Twitter as your primary way of connecting with people. I find that Instagram is a much less political, much less negative place. Consider it as an alternative. I no longer do much at all on Twitter.
Here are some things you can do to help reduce anxiety in others:
17. Verify your own posts before sharing. Especially when it comes to missing children. If it does not come from a Police source do not share. Verify that the child has not already been found. The majority of the missing children posts that I see, the child has already been found for some days, months, and in many cases years! By sharing without verifying you are victimizing the child all over again. I realize that the child illustration is not COVID-19 related, but the same principle applies. People have already died because of bad information being shared about COVID-19.
18. Beware sharing pithy memes. The multiple memes I have read stating that “God is in Control” each immediately bring to mind the meme of Jesus pouring out a vial of Corona Virus on the earth and saying “HERE, HAVE SOME CORONA VIRUS, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH LOL”. They make me quite upset as a result. (Also why I didn’t post it here.) Keep in mind your pithy meme might actually cause someone real grief.
19. Reach out to others who are struggling. Some people are going through tough times. The number experiencing difficulties is going up dramatically. Reach out. Send a text or a message to let someone know you were thinking about them. Let them know why you appreciate them. Ask if they are in need of anything.
20. Pray. I have found a couple of positives coming out of this Corona Virus experience. One has been the visible shows of support that people have given each other. The second has been an uptick in my prayer life. I have been motivated to pray for people, leaders, countries, and areas of the world like never before. Africa has particularly been on my mind. So have jam packed refugee camps around the world. I don’t want to end on a negative note, so I would encourage you to join me in prayer as well.
I think I have maybe just scratched the surface of this topic. I would love you hear what has been working for you, or which of my suggestions you would like to try. As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
On a totally unrelated note: We had 15 at our small group Bible Study on Wednesday evening. I took a group picture!