I just can’t get over what a strange time we are living in. I mean, totally strange. It is a holiday weekend for goodness sake and it doesn’t even feel like it, maybe because it has rained non-stop here for days, but mostly because there are no pools opening, no picnics planned, no graduations, no parties, and no vacations.
One thing I keep hearing and feeling over and over is the increased anxiety over this next phase of the COVID pandemic. Is it even a phase? What is it actually? What is appropriate? What isn’t appropriate? How did we get to the place where wearing a mask is a political statement? What if I have different rules than my friends? For goodness sake, just tell me what to do!
Ah, there it is.
The uncertainty, the inability to tell if we are doing it right, and the fact that others might be doing it differently than us. All of those factors make our anxiety go through the roof!
Initially, when everything shut down, the rules were clear. Stay home. Stay safe. Now in this new “phase” in which we basically still do not know how to treat or prevent the virus, we are all trying to figure out how to come out of our homes and interact with others. Information is unclear, research is happening in real time, data is being reported whether it has been vetted or not, and the whole thing is politicized way more than necessary.
Those of us with High Functioning Anxiety learned to look around to others, see what they are doing, learn the rules, and follow them. Currently, the lack of precise rules and “right” answers, the uncertainty, the potential conflicts is everything that people with High Functioning Anxiety hate.
So here are some things I am trying to remember myself that might be helpful for you:
That is ok. Notice it. Breathe into it. Practice A.S.K.: acknowledge all of those icky feelings, slow down and get into your body, and kindly pull back to see the big picture.
Try not to shame yourself for feeling anxiety. These are anxious times. We don’t know the rules, we don’t know when it will end, and we have very real things to be anxious about. And that doesn’t mean you have to get stuck in anxiety 24/7.
Get clear on what you and your family are doing with this new phase. First, get clarity on what you want and then have a family conversation. For some people, this could be a life or death decision—maybe you or someone you love is immunocompromised or over the age of 65. For others, maybe your job requires you to be out and about and you want to minimize your risk at home.
My husband and I continue to have conversations, because we have different opinions about what our rules should be. He thinks we could be a little looser than I do with social distancing visits. Years ago I would have totally caved to him because my Monger would have been telling me that I am being too sensitive or too much of a rule follower, which brings me to my next point…
No matter what that old message is for you—”too rigid” or “too sensitive” or too something else—your Monger will have it on high volume and on repeat. Notice when she starts talking and remind yourself that this is a worldwide pandemic with limited information so being too rigid or too sensitive isn’t possible.
My BFF has been out big time—judging other people for being too lax or not doing it “right” (i.e. my way). When that voice of false self-compassion comes out, it usually means your Monger has been ridiculing you.
Maybe your Monger is hammering you for being too rigid and not letting your kids play in the neighbor’s back yard. Before you know it, your BFF pops up to point out how your neighbors are just playing “fast and loose” with the rules and that you won’t feel bad when she gets the virus. Yep, your BFF can be just as nasty as your Monger in her judgments. She is just judging others.
Let your Biggest Fan remind you that there is no right answer. Honestly, there rarely is a right answer, but it has never been more abundantly clear than it is right now. Then, on top of that, you have no control. There is limited information and no one really knows how this virus works exactly. We don’t know when a treatment will be found, how long we will be living like this, or the best way to move forward. All we can do is gather the facts, bring in your values, and make an informed choice for yourself and your family.
Self-loyalty means we trust ourselves to come up with an answer. Here is the big kicker: You might be wrong. You might be overprotective. You might err on the side of too much caution. You might be that person in your neighborhood who the neighbors talk about. And even though that feels awful and anxiety-provoking, as long as you listen to the facts, follow your values, and trust your inner guidance, you will be ok. Yes, it will feel stressful. Yes, you will doubt yourself. But I promise you will have way less anxiety than if you go along with someone who is going against your values just for the sake of relieving anxiety.
These are strange times, so remember to be kind to yourself as you struggle to find what is right for you and yours and to be kind to others who are equally struggling (even if your BFF doesn’t think so).
I have a very mixed relationship with creativity thanks to my Monger. As much as I have almost always loved being creative, my Monger’s message of perfectionism and practicality always gets in the way. I get in my own way. So for this week’s podcast episode, I invited Beryl Young of Momtography to share how she pursues creativity for a living despite (and because of) her high functioning anxiety. Listen to the full episode here.