The Emotional Management of Anxiety during Confinement

27 May, 2020
As the days go by, the nerves and anxiety increase. You can't choose how you feel but with proper emotional management of anxiety, you'll have more peace of mind to face the current situation.

The emotional management of anxiety during confinement is an indispensable strategy in this current situation.

Insomnia, concentration problems, increased anxiety, fear of contagion, obsessive and catastrophic thoughts… Many people’s mental health is suffering as the days go by. It’s like a crack that’s widening more and more beneath us and making it more and more difficult to balance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) already warned about this a few weeks ago. They published an article detailing some advice about the issue and this was well-received by the people in general and also mental health professionals.

Just as you attend to your physical well-being by protecting yourself from the coronavirus infection, it’s essential that you carry out some strategies to safeguard your psychological well-being as well.

Apart from the recommendations you may receive, there’s something that you should keep in mind. Feeling pain, anguish, fear, and even hopelessness is completely normal.

You can’t lessen the seriousness of the current situation nor try to avoid the problem or disguise the evidence. We’re facing a pandemic, a new situation, and all of us, absolutely all of us, are going through this situation with some form of anguish.

Some will cope better than others. Each person has their own resources, those that their own experience has taught them. However, all of us, without exception, are obliged to draw on new resources, approaches, and skills. Let’s delve deeper into this.

Keys to the emotional management of anxiety during confinement

“I’m getting more and more anxious and nervous every day, I don’t know what to do anymore“. “I feel so anxious I can’t even sleep anymore“. These are some of the comments we’re commonly hearing these days from friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers.

While some are already thinking about the mechanisms for the “de-escalation” (exit) strategy, many of the people closest to them are facing an escalation of distress and concern.

We could tell people just to stay hopeful and that everything’s going to be fine. We could tell them that we’re closer to the day when things will return to (relative) normality. However, in the back of our minds, we know that these phrases don’t really help.

Resorting to these sugar-sweet sayings doesn’t actually help or change things when people are suffering from fear and the unbearable weight of uncertainty.

When encouragement doesn’t help, then one must apply changes and appropriate psychological strategies. Learning some keys to the emotional management of anxiety during confinement can be helpful.

Accept what you feel but don’t let it control you

No matter how much you want it or how much someone suggests it to you, you won’t be able to replace fear with joy or anguish with happiness just like that.

If what you feel at the moment is nervousness and anxiety because you don’t know what’s going to happen to your job, it’s no use just trying to think about happy things. Your mental universe isn’t a card game where you can discard some cards and draw some better ones.

What you have to do is make an emotional contract with yourself. To do this, you’ll need to follow these guidelines:

  • Accept all your emotions. Give anxiety an area in your life and accept it. Accept the fear, anguish, and frustration that it creates in you. Let sadness express itself in your life too and let it speak to you.
  • Listen to and validate every feeling and emotion. Choose to let your more adverse emotions rule in you. Don’t let them control your behavior. Don’t let them immobilize you, don’t let them rule you 24/7, and don’t let them stop you from being yourself.

Learn to control your mental focus

Nervousness and anxiety attract disaster. They tie everything up in knots, cause strains, and make everything much more complicated than it should be. Worries accumulate in your mind, and you feel anxious about what tomorrow may bring.

The future seems to become a sort of abstract vision full of chiaroscuro. Soon, anxiety appears once again and leaves you gasping for breath, taking away all your motivation, desires, and sense of control.

As Daniel Goleman reminds us in his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, you have to train your attention in order to regain your well-being. This basically means training your mental focus and calibrating it.

Only the here and now matters. Don’t look into the future and try to imagine things that haven’t happened yet. Ask yourself what you need in the here and now in order to feel well and at peace.

Emotional management of anxiety: The healing power of connection

One of the keys to emotional management of anxiety during confinement is connection. There are many ways to do this but they all have one purpose. The purpose is to connect your mind and heart to something that brings you peace, gives you well-being, and eases the burden of all your negative thoughts.

  • Connect with people who know how to listen to you and brighten your day with a simple conversation.
  • Connect with an activity or a hobby that allows you to free your mind and to be creative and free, despite being confined to your house. Find the way you can truly express yourself, and connect with yourself.

Activate your values, goals, and purposes: work on the person you want to be

When your brain operates in worry mode, it blurs your priorities. What rules you in this type of mental state is your amygdala. This is the region of the brain that regulates the emotion of fear, and that sometimes completely hijacks your vision of the world and your behavior.

In these situations, and to take control of the barometer of daily anxiety, you must give yourself time to be quiet and reflect. Drink a cup of coffee and make some important decisions. Ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. Ask yourself what you want to remember regarding how you reacted to the current situation.

You don’t need to be a hero, far from it. Just someone who was clear about what they had to do and what they wanted. Someone who was responsible, someone who knew how to take care of themselves and their loved ones, and someone who didn’t lose hope. A person who believed in goodness, in humanity, in empathy, and in the hope of continuing to fulfill their dreams as soon as they possibly could.

In conclusion, as psychotherapist Aaron Beck pointed out, if your thinking is simple and clear, then you’ll achieve your goals and work on your psychological well-being.

You just need to focus on the present moment, accept every emotion felt but don’t let yourself get carried away by the most extreme negativism or by panic.

  • Consejos para proteger la salud mental durante la pandemia. Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf