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5 tips for existential anxiety in times of COVID

How to survive these COVID extraordinary social conditions? Anxiety and depression can be potential existential side effects. Tips for survival are found in existentialist and zen timeless wisdom, backed by the research from contemporary psychology.

Find meaning in the day

See what looks like something you look to do and something which brings you felt sense of purpose. Maybe it is drawing or cleaning up the closet, maybe it is little things like favorite tea, getting warm under the blanket in front of your favorite TV show, walk with your dog. Or find a new lecture online, participate in many such events currently made possible. Let this meaning be concrete. It is also essential that it is felt, that you can feel it in your body that it brightens up your day.

Limit daily reading or watching of news

While it is good to stay informed, daily exposure to excessive media hysteria related to this pandemic can have the opposite effect on us – it can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, insecurity, depression. So it’s wise to limit your information input – watch the news once or twice a day, just enough to stay informed. Don’t read the news before bed. If you see a headline that is too bombastic, try to ignore it or find a more grounded news outlet. Be careful to what you expose your mind to.

Remember what used to inspire you before all this 

Anxiety is a threat posed by the fact that we are suddenly cut off from something that seems important to us, says Rollo May. In this pandemic, that situation has been brought to a maximum. We are cut off from the social contacts that fill us, from the daily routines that give us structure such as going to the gym, maybe physically going to work, going for coffee with friends, hanging out, going to the movies, or the theater. It is normal to feel heightened anxiety.

What can help?

Perhaps in this situation,we can rediscover old things that brought us a sense of fulfillment from within. Maybe this is re-establishment of contact with someone we haven’t been in contact with for a long time? Maybe we have forgotten about some things that used to bring us joy, such as painting, reading, listening to lectures, playing with children, running, ice-skating, something that we now finally have time to do again? Maybe working remotely allows us to travel within the country, to some cottage in nature? Let’s think. If we shift the focus from what is taken away from us to what is revealed as a possibility previously overshadowed by other obligations, ideas will emerge.

Connect with others

Connecting with others is also essential in these times. No matter how much social distance is emphasized to us, with its respect, it is important for psychological well-being to stay in touch with others. Unless otherwise possible, even through digital media. But going for a walk or for coffee while respecting the distance and wearing masks is something we still have the opportunity to do. We may need to change the ways we hang out, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop hanging out. On the contrary. Social connection is associated with a sense of psychological well-being, which in turn has a beneficial effect on physical resilience, stress, anxiety. Without social contact, depression can occur and the accumulation of these feelings over long periods of time is bad for mental health. Therefore, it is extremely important to feel a subjective emotional connection with the people we care about.

Change perspective

Viktor Frankl said that if we can’t change the situation, we can then change ourselves. Let’s dwell on this a bit.  What will we learn now from this situation that will help us live life better in the future? Also, maybe now we can attend some lectures online that we didn’t have the opportunity to attend before because they were far from where we live. Maybe we can be more active, doing something we feel makes sense every day. We may finally be able to expose ourselves to influences from a distance. What are the spaces of freedom that we can discover within the limits imposed?

As Rollo May says, the capacity to face borders is also part of freedom. This situation in which we find ourselves as an unprecedented civilization is in our lives and few people like it. It causes anxiety in many people. But it may be a good time to practice acceptance. Every time we feel our mind begins to struggle with or resist this new situation, we can accept that experience and then gently redirect it to focus on the things described above. This will make it easier for us to deal with the current experience.

Iva Paska