I am a hypochondriac. Whenever I hear somebody talk about an illness, or whenever I read about someone being sick, I get worried and think (or believe) that I have it, too.
I also have bouts of anxiety. I have a difficult time sleeping. My mind is filled with fears and what ifs. And most of the time, I feel like the world is trying to swallow me.
I don’t watch the news because it can drive me crazy. When I’m on Facebook, I skip posts that are negative because they make me worry more. I unfollowed online friends who did nothing but complain and rant on their pages. Talking about negative stuff is a big no-no for me because it triggers my anxiety.
I’ve had all these fears and anxieties for quite some time, but when COVID-19 happened and the quarantine period started, all these uncomfortable and scary feelings were heightened. For several days, I couldn’t think straight because all I could think about was the virus, the virus, and the virus. My imagination ran wild and I was conjuring up crazy images in my mind. I was thinking of a lot of things – even at 4am!
I also had a difficult time finishing my articles for work – because I couldn’t focus on what I was doing.
I muted FB group chats that talked about COVID-19. I hid posts that were related to the pandemic. I chose the information that I read. I posted a lot of inspiring YouTube videos.
And I slept (or tried to sleep) with my earphones on, with Don Moen or P.O.D., or Casting Crowns songs playing.
I’d like to say that I’ve learned how to cope with the situation, but I can’t. Because I haven’t. I have just found ways to shut off my thoughts and fears. I’ve just found outlets – things to do – that help me feel a little better – more useful, hopeful, and grateful.
What I’m Doing
I know I’m not the only one going through this difficult (and challenging) phase. So, I’d like to share some of the things that I am doing to help keep my mind away from my fears and anxieties.
- Like what I mentioned earlier, choose what you read and share on your social media accounts. This includes shared posts, videos, and images. Focus only on positive news and thoughts.
- P R A Y. I cannot stress enough how important prayers are at a time like this. I’ve always been a prayer person, but I pray even more nowadays. My prayers are more frequent (like several times a day), more heartfelt, more spontaneous (although I still do my favorite prayers, especially before sleeping). The more “unprepared” your prayers are, the more sincere they are. Also, pray as if you’re talking to God. Pray in English, Bisaya, Tagalog or whatever dialect or language you are comfortable with.
- Find time to workout and stay active. Idle minds and idle hands are dangerous. So it’s important to keep yourself busy. I’m fortunate to still have work despite our difficult situation, so I do a lot of writing to keep me busy. But even if you’re currently taking a break from work (or “forced” not to work), there are tons of stuff that you can do to stay active. Working out is just one of your options. You don’t have to do serious and heavy exercises. You can do a little dancing, some stretching, or jogging (in place). Yoga also helps – or any low impact exercise. Working out at least 30 minutes a day (or even every other day; once or twice a week) will already help a lot. You’ll find a lot of online sources for workouts, even on Facebook.
- Talk to someone – even if you communicate online only. Talking to a friend, a relative, or a loved one has long been proven effective therapy. But since you can’t go out and meet over food or coffee, you can embrace the new normal and talk to each other online instead. There are several platforms that you can use: Messenger and Messenger Rooms, Viber, Instagram (via Direct Message or DM), Zoom, and Google Meet, among others. A lot of people have actually learned to embrace this practice since the quarantine started. There are groups and organizations (and even businesses) that schedule weekly online meetings not only for work reasons but to keep in touch with each other as well. On my part, I’m on Messenger practically every day because I have friends who want (or need) to talk – even in the wee hours of the morning. For one friend, talking became a way of escaping his anxieties and depression. So, please, find time to talk to someone.
- Listen to inspiring and feel-good music. I do this every night, before going to sleep. I listen to Don Moen, Casting Crowns, and P.O.D., among many others (including Josh Groban!). I also listen a lot to Jason Mraz (he’s my favorite and his songs always make me feel good) and my nephew, Arthur Nery, whose songs are extra calming and relaxing. Likewise, I listen to ASMR music.
- Watch TV shows, movies, videos, and streamed plays & musicals. When the quarantine started, I went back to my movies collection and watched at least one Hallmark Christmas movie a day. These movies are my favorite Christmas season companions. They’re simple, feel-good stories that can inspire and uplift you. Also, in the past weeks, we’ve been lucky enough to have been granted streaming access to several plays, musicals, and even concerts. The Phantom of the Opera, Ang Huling El Bimbo, Cats, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Frankenstein are just some of the productions that people have has the pleasure of watching for free. There are local productions as well (aside from El Bimbo), including Dalawang Gabi (from CCP’s The Virgin Lab Fest) and Lysistrata ng Bakwit (an adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata). I also watch a lot of videos on YouTube – including ASMR videos. My favorites are the ones with binaural beats and Bob Ross painting videos.
- Write. You don’t have to be a writer or poet; just be yourself and write what you feel. I have a notebook where I write down my thoughts. It’s also where I write my Dear God letters. I’ve been doing this for years and it really helps. Write about your feelings – your fears, your confusion, your hopes and dreams. Write short stories. Write three-sentence narratives. Write whatever you want to write. You’ll feel better after doing so.
- Read. Books, magazines, graphic novels, comics, online stories, and whatever reading material you can get your hands on. Reading can take you to different worlds and allow you to meet people with different stories. It’s like travelling and going on an adventure without spending money and without leaving the house.
- Color. Download a coloring/coloring book app or use an actual coloring book. There are a lot of really good adult coloring books. You can choose to color mandalas, places, fashion, people, and even inspirational quotes. Coloring is a calming and therapeutic activity. I usually bring out my coloring book before bedtime. Helps me sleep well.
- Journal. You don’t need to buy a planner or a journal to do this. You can use an ordinary notebook or an old planner. And you don’t have to know calligraphy or drawing to journal. Just do everything your way. Journaling is a personal activity and nobody can tell you how you should do it. Just sit down, open your journal or notebook, and have fun!
Like what I said earlier, I can’t claim that I’ve beaten my anxieties. But at least I’m trying to do something about it. There’s no overnight fix, but if you’re willing to try, you’ll slowly (but surely) get there.
We’re all in this together, everyone. Let’s help and support each other, and I’m sure we’ll beat this pandemic soon. The world will be ours again soon.