There is an abundance of updates about the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s hard to not let our anxieties overwhelm us. The following are some of my anxious thoughts over the last week, and how I used Internal Family Systems therapy to shift my relationship with these fears.
There is a part of me that feels like a helpless little kid with this pandemic. This kid feels scared and uncertain of what to do. She’s worried about the safety of her family, friends, and loved ones. This kid feels overwhelmed and anxious by the constant updates of interventions, closures, and new cases. She wants to hide inside hoping that bad things cannot penetrate the four walls of her home.
There is another part of me that is angry. This part is frustrated by the flurry of shopping, the crummy communication from political leaders, and the lack of resources available for healthcare staff. She wants to have a temper tantrum and yell at anyone who will listen that all of this sucks. And finally, there is a part that feels like a whirling ball of panic. This part wants to join the masses and just freak out. It wants to buy all the toilet paper.
I took some time this weekend to understand why I’ve been feeling like this lately, and I hope these words may resonate with you. It may seem odd to think of anxieties as external parts of a person. However, Internal Family Systems Therapy has taught me how to have a different kind of relationship with my feelings. It has taught me to recognize that I am separate from my emotions. It’s helped me realize that there is a solid and stable person who is always present; however, sometimes anxieties can make it hard to access this person.
When my thoughts and emotions become loud and agitated, I try to pause and listen to them. This is not always simple, because the avoidant part of me comes out saying she doesn’t feel like working with my uncomfortable emotions. It can take time to negotiate with my avoidance to ease up and let me understand what’s going on in my mind. I work on validating my emotions. I can appreciate my anger at this time. I get why I feel frustrated for those trying to manage with a lack of resources and an ever-increasing demand in supply. My heart goes out to all of the hardworking healthcare staff who are being asked to do more and more. I have so much sympathy for those living in the epicentre of this scare. Yet, I ask my anger to step back, as much as it is willing. I ask it to trust in me to handle this situation to the best of my ability. Through my training with IFS, I can understand that my anger is protecting me from feeling helpless. It is much more empowering to feel angry than to say “I don’t know how to make this stop.”
I can appreciate the need to dive into the mosh-pit of panic (Truthfully, I think this part of me would not have been as anxious if I had avoided Costco). The panic wants me to ensure that my loved ones and I are prepared for whatever is coming next. It notices that others are preparing, and it wants to guarantee that my family is also ready.
I think it is understandable to feel helpless at times. It’s hard to feel in control when we are experiencing a pandemic. It is not easy to take things day by day when we don’t feel secure about the future. It is fair that I want answers and plenty of reassurance that this health scare will dissipate and that my loved ones are going to be okay. I wish I could provide my anxieties that security, but I cannot guarantee this. I do not have a crystal ball that will predict the future, and I do not want to make false promises to myself. Instead, I ask my anxieties to trust in me. I ask it to trust that I have the capacity and strength to handle each new update. I ask it to trust that I have the wherewithal to reach out to my friends and family members and be with them in this time of confusion.
During the next few days, if you notice you are feeling anxious, I encourage you to take a quiet moment to reflect.
- What thoughts and emotions have taken up space in the last few days?
- What happens when you acknowledge them?
- What is this emotion or thought trying to do for you? Can you identify the positive intention? Can you appreciate its intent?