Thanks to our partner Suncorp and their Team Girls program.
COVID-19 has thrown us all into a whirlwind of uncertainty, and with that often comes anxiety, distress and despair. In a recent Business Chicks online Masterclass, Dr Jodie Lowinger from The Sydney Anxiety Clinic shared her expert advice on managing worry and stress, how to talk to kids during this time, how to embrace change and uncertainty, and how to shift mindset from a place of anxiety to effective action. Together with Suncorp Team Girls, we want to help you and your loved ones take charge of your emotions during this time, and move to a place of hopeful action, resilience and empowerment.
In essence, anxiety is our physiological reaction to threat or perceived threat in our environment. The uncertainty of the personal and business pandemonium that we are all experiencing right now is likely to be triggering a primitive survival instinct of fight or flight. The uncertainty feels so uncomfortable because as humans, our natural inclination is to want to predict our environment. We want to be aware of our threats. During times of uncertainty, we cannot see what’s around the corner, and our primitive survival instincts are triggered. As Dr Lowinger explained, uncertainty causes an amygdala hijack in our brain, tipping our emotions into overdrive. If we get hooked to the spiral of worry and thoughts about what can go wrong (worry about our finances, job, loved ones, our very lives) – it can be unhelpful and tip us into overdrive. However when harnessed, this adrenaline surge can be helpful in prompting us into action and agility.
Anxiety is part of our common human experience. Our mind will often tip us to the negatives, and worry will take us to the threats. To overcome this, Dr Lowinger outlined her 8 step strategy, Building Mindstrength, to handle anxiety and move to effective action.
- Notice the worry story taking hold of your emotions. What is it telling you?
- Take long slow out breaths. Recognise breath as a superpower – deep breaths will change the neurochemistry of your brain. Muscle tension takes hold in a crisis fight or flight situation but breath can help you to regain the control.
- Bring your mind back to the present moment to bring certainty.
- Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. Responding to feelings with anger, invalidation and telling yourself to, “get over it” does not make you feel good or assist in easing anxiety.
- Sit with the discomfort of uncertainty.
- Move from worry to problem solving and action planning – these are within our control.
- Engage mood boosters. To look after our mental health, we have to look after our physical health. Make time for movement and try and get some natural sunlight.
- Seek out the silver linings and focus on maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Dr Lowinger shared a personal example here, COVID-19 has cut her work hours resulting in spending meaningful time at home with her children.
Dr Lowginer also shared her advice on how to help kids through this time.
- Find opportunities to connect.
- Validate their emotions of what they are going through.
- Ask open ended questions, such as “what would you like to know?” and “how can I help?”
- Provide age appropriate information.
- Be role models of resilience.
- Empower them with questions on what they can do.
To move from anxiety from action, we must recognise that we are all in this together. As humans we crave comfort in solidarity, so this can be a helpful message to reinforce. Dr Lowinger also shared the mantra, “this out of my control, but this is in my control”. By focusing on what is in our control, it is far easier to adapt and pivot. Dr Lowinger explained that anxiety can be a superpower, “you care because you care, anxiety is a sign of a deep thinking mind, a passionate caring heart, a protective survival instinct.” If you are experiencing distress, be kind to yourself and others. Sit with hopefulness for the future. We will get through this. This too shall pass.