Are you feeling anxious due to the current restrictions?
The government message is that we are all in this together. While it is a call to awareness and action it seems to be an inaccurate description of reality. The simple fact is that while we are all experiencing a pandemic, this experience is a very individual one.
While one person may be enjoying the slower pace of life that COVID-19 has thrust upon us, another person may be left feeling more stressed, anxious, burdened, or isolated.
Many of the prior distractions like watching sport, exercising, socialising, and work have been curtailed, allowing more room for anxiety to arise. It is important to remember that anxiety was not born of the COVID-19 pandemic, it existed beforehand. For many people, anxiety goes back to our earliest experiences.
Are all my anxieties related to the pandemic?
Our sense of self is moulded by a perception of anxiety. As a young child we learn what is acceptable, by earning praise or reward, and what is unacceptable earns disapproval or punishment. This punishment provokes anxiety and what is disapproved of is excluded from the sense of self and the positive experiences are included. Who an individual is, and how they engage in the world is born out of an infantile need for security.
Right now, our world may be triggering some of our earliest anxieties, giving us an opportunity to experience what it may have been like for us at the start. Being aware of these earliest anxieties can give us the chance to try to heal ourselves and the relationships we are in. As Victor Frankl notes in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, and as we have seen in 2020, we are not in control, the only thing we have control over is how we react to each situation. So, it is important for us to realise that we have agency. It may not always feel accessible to us, but the capacity to act with a sense of agency is within each one of us. We choose how we act and react within each situation, even not choosing is a choice.
What can I do with my anxiety?
Can we sit consciously with our anxiety? Or do we choose to mindlessly scroll trying to numb the undercurrent of anxiety?
Anxiety is normal if it is not disproportionate to the objective threat, does not involve mechanisms of intrapsychic conflict, and does not require a defense mechanism to manage it.
A constructive way of dealing with anxiety is learning to live with it; listen to it, let it guide us so that it can be learned from. It is an accurate teacher as it is an emotion that starts from within and cannot be escaped from unless by negative methods, which avoid and defend against it, rather than the difficult task of working to resolve it.
For many of us, this year has created the space for us to explore our earliest childhood anxieties as they manifest now, and the real question is how will we use our agency to respond to it?
It can be helpful to reach out for support when you need it or to develop a support network that is strong and safe enough to support you.
Some interesting books to help start this journey include –
Man’s Search for Meaning Paperback by Viktor E. Frankl
The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life by Dr. Edith Eva Eger
Starring at the Sun by Irvin Yalom
If you feel that talking might help, contact me on:
Ph: 085 751 3089
Link to Bio and Contact – https://www.citytherapy.ie/team/caroline-brady-2/