Overcoming Covid-19 Anxiety
In this webinar replay, from the 6th of Apr 2020, we shared the following tools:
- You live with low level anxiety
- You get anxious sometimes
- You go through panic attacks
- You are a human being living these days
Hello Shachar Erez
Shachar Erez (00:02):
Hello Ziv Raviv.
Ziv Raviv (00:03):
Thank you for enlightening us and empowering us once again. And today, what are we going to talk about?
We’re talking and we’re going to talk about anxiety, very common feeling and experience for humans these days, even before that endemic and especially.
Ziv Raviv (00:25):
So let’s go right into it and I will monitor for questions. So everything if something pops up. So
Shachar Erez (00:34):
Let me share my screen here. Yup. Try to, okay. So what we’re going to talk about right now is about living with anxiety and you’re in the right place. If you live anyway with low 11 anxiety and you are in the right place. If you get anxious sometimes and during the right place, if sometimes you have panic attacks, she’s unpleasant and honestly you’re in the right place. If you’re human and you’re living in these days. And with that pandemic, we all myths and meat and anxiety these days. So what we’re gonna talk about is first to give a quick overview of life right now with the pandemic and how that’s related. So psychological, eh, wellbeing. Then I talk generally about anxiety, what it is, when does anxiety become a disorder and what’s the difference with doing that to a panic attack and then how to deal with it. One way is to do TLCs, therapeutic lifestyle changes and that gives some more coping strategies. All right. I am Shachar Erez. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and I help people accept their humanity. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be anxious. You’re okay just the way you are. I’m also the cohost of the generous marriage podcast along with this zebra Vive and it’s a great resource for all things related to relationships.
Shachar Erez (02:39):
So let’s talk about where we are right now. We all lived through pandemic and all around the world. We were quarantined and isolated and there’s a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know how long this is going to be. They enemy, the virus is unseen. We don’t really know whether we’ll be okay in our lab ones, we’ll be okay and uncertainty causes anxiety when? When we don’t know, when we lack a sense of control, we feel anxious, so anxiety is all over. Also we go through, there’s a loss of connection. These days we’re unable to touch, were less connected to other people. We watch people through screens and human beings are wired to co-regulate each other. So when we have less connection, it’s harder to stay regulated. It’s easier to get anxious. We also lost our normalcy. There’s a new normal and we don’t really know it yet and we’re just getting adjusted to it.
Shachar Erez (03:56):
So there’s some loss around that. And of course some financial fears. We don’t know how long this is going to be. We don’t know how long, how it’s going to affect the markets and our own financial situation. This is not easy for our psyches. And common responses are anywhere from denial to panic and in between anger and grief and anxiety of course. And one of the views I like about what’s going on right now is it is like a grief process. We’re grieving, we’re mourning. And there, there are stages in morning, they don’t have to follow each other. But first there’s denial and there’s no virus. They wouldn’t touch us. And then eh, maybe we recognize, Oh there is a virus and we go into panic and we try to take care of ourselves and we try to bargain with the virus. Okay, I’ll stay at home for two weeks and then it will be gone and stuff like that and some anger comes, how come they make us stay at home and not meet our friends and lose our normalcy?
Shachar Erez (05:22):
And then there might come some sadness, some grief, which is I think where many people are right now. It just feels uncomfortable and you’re not sure what’s going on. It might be grief and it might be anxiety. And just to give us a heads up, you know when we go through this, finally we reach a state of acceptance where we say, okay, this is what’s happening. How do we proceed? Let’s create a routine. Let’s create a new life for now and do the best of it. And then at some point we might be able to make meaning out of it. Some people are already able to do it, but for most of us it will come later when we reflect back on this time.
Ziv Raviv (06:13):
And so if you feel any of of this that’s really normal anxiety, let’s talk about general anxiety first. So exactly. It’s actually our body’s natural response to stress to
Shachar Erez (06:41):
When we’re not sure about what’s coming up. Fear might be a rising and that feels like an anxiety and the normal things that we do for the first time might cause anxiety, like going for a first day to school or to anywhere actually a thirst. Doing something for the first time causes anxiety and going to a job interview where we being, you know, observed and tested and examine, that’s anxiety is a common response to that. Giving a speech is actually one of the things that people are most anxious about talking public speaking. So actually anytime we feel like we can’t control the environment or there’s some uncertainty or we’re under test, we might feel anxious. And anxiety is super common. Anxiety and anxiety is common and normal anxiety disorder is when it become harsher. I talk about it later. And that’s the most common mental illness. 18% of Americans experienced anxiety and we were talking before the pandemic and and the one in 13 people globally suffer from anxiety.
Shachar Erez (08:13):
There’s no research yet, but there are polls about our current state. And 80% of the people say they’re somewhat or extremely concerned about the outbreak. And consent is another name for anxiety many times. So almost all of us are going through anxiety right now. And what an exact is trying to do is it’s trying to protect us, it’s trying to push us to resolve the uncertainty, to figure out a solution. It’s a healthy response but not a very pleasant one. So what I’ve noticed is just talking about anxiety brings up anxiety and you know, I just talked about it and we’re going to go deeper into a few more slides. So maybe we take a moment to a resource ourselves and come back to the here and now to our bodies, to our breathing. This is something you can do when anxiety arises and when you need to regulate yourself. So it’s a good practice to just breathe normally in and out.
And just follow our breath. Maybe I’ll stop the sharing so we can see any, so just follow your breath in and out. Especially focusing on the air coming out on the exhale because this helps us regulate. Just noticing they are coming in. Yeah, going out.
Shachar Erez (10:08):
And after a few breaths like this, it’s also good to notice our birthdays. Just go through, just go through our body and all this. Hi, I’m sitting here. There’s a chair, there’s a desk. See objects that are around me. There’s a yellow notepad, there’s a green and Villa. I’ll explain later.
Shachar Erez (10:37):
What this is all about. But maybe you can already feel more regulated
Shachar Erez (10:48):
Hope. You are more regulated. Cause we’re talking, going to talk about symptoms of anxiety. So how does anxiety feel? It’s uncomfortable. First of all, there’s this general feeling of discomfort and the, your belly might be tight and their heart might be racing, might be pounding harder than usual. Thoughts might be racing and they’re hard to stop. That’s why they’re calling trust safe. They like you. You want to stop your thoughts but they keep coming in maybe images or you know where scary images. Usually anxiety takes us to the worst case scenario. We imagined the worst scenarios and it just feel like it’s them restless. It’s hard to, to, to regulate. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to be centered. It’s hard to concentrate and we might be feeling out of control that we don’t know what to do with what’s happening to us. We might have hard time falling asleep and when we do fall asleep we might have nightmares. So that was normal anxiety. That’s all normal and healthy in a way. When it’s in the right time, before something scary is happening, anxiety becomes a disorder. When the feelings of anxiety are extreme or really intense and when they last longer than six months and they interfere with life, then it might be a disorder and you should probably go talk to a therapist or a psychiatrist or even your general practitioner, your doctor and all of them can help you.
Shachar Erez (12:49):
Panic attack is a bit different. It’s an extreme experience. Acute experience. A one time experience. I mean it can happen more than one time, but it’s an attack and it grows. It might grow for a full day until it’s like really scary. And when you are having a panic attack, you might be feeling like you’re gonna faint or you’re dizzy and your heart is super racing. Thoughts are like, Oh, what’s going on? It’s like a tornado of thoughts and then mouth becomes dry and super restless. And usually people say like they fear they’re going to die. It’s so scary the first time you have a panic attack, you don’t understand what’s going on. Sometimes it’s, it comes without the trigger, without the trigger that you are able to recognize and it’s just super scary. So let’s stop again and help ourselves regulate again. And the anxiety takes us out of the here and now we go into the future. So another good way to regulate this, to come back to what’s happening now, I’m sitting here in front of a computer or a screen, there’s a chair. I’m in my living room or wherever I am.
Ziv Raviv (14:21):
Shachar Erez (14:21):
And do you want to turn on a part of your brand? It’s called the orienting mind. What’s going on right now. You’d want to notice what’s going on right now cause when the orienting mind is on, sure. In the here and now. So again, coming back to your body, coming back to your breath, regulating continue. So anxiety is actually a highly treatable experience and unfortunately only about a third of the people who experience that actually go to treatment. And that’s a shame cause psychotherapy and or medication and or lifestyle changes can really help you lower your anxiety and help you learn coping mechanisms to handle anxiety when it does show up. Very effective. All three of them and in combination, super active, effective, excuse me.
Shachar Erez (15:34):
So the TNCs, I mentioned the lifestyle, the therapeutic lifestyle changes are really about healthy habits and these are all a science based research based habits that I’m going to mention even though there are plenty of other things that just haven’t been researched and they’re good for you. So first on the list is exercise three times a week of 30 minutes of medium to high intensity exercise. So again, three times a week, 30 minutes of medium intensity or high intensity exercise is as effective in in lowering anxiety as psychotherapy or meds. And this is much more cost effective three times a week, 30 minutes. That’s not so hard and it doesn’t have any side effects except for sore muscles maybe. And it’s cheap. You can do it on your own or even go to a gym is cheaper than psychotherapy. So I really wish and they know that some psychiatrists are instead of giving meds, they first prescribed exercise.
And what exercise does is two things. One is it, it releases all these endorphins and the chemicals that help us feel good and helps us tolerate the anxiety. It’s also exercise is like a high stress situation and we go into it for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever and then it’s gone. So all their hormones that cause stress like cortisol and adrenaline are being sick rated and, and, and let out. So that takes away also the anxiety related chemicals. So that’s super effective. Second on the list and still very effective but works in a completely different ways, is meditation with meditation helps us go back to center, helps us regulate, helps us make our window of tolerance the area in the nervous system that helps us tolerate life and tolerate anxiety. It makes it bigger in a way wider. So exercise and meditation are the most researched, the most effective, 10 minutes a day of meditation, 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. And you’re good.
Shachar Erez (18:15):
More habits that are important and our research, so spending time in the sun is really healthy and really good against anxiety and the sun helps us get to eight, I mean the three, which is what helps in that. Also spending, spending time in nature, you know, with human beings, we’re actually supposed to be living in nature and nature as a healing effect or last and the eh coming down kind of effects of exercising in the park, in the sun. And then meditating is just perfect. Also getting enough sleep, almost no one gets enough sleep. We’re supposed to sleep around eight hours a night and that really helps. And the people who don’t sleep enough are more prone to anxiety and depression.
Shachar Erez (19:11):
And another thing that really helps us is volunteering, helping other people. As human beings, we’re wired to support each other. So by volunteering and helping others actually makes us feel better and feel less anxious. Nutrition is a complex. You know, it’s really complex to know what’s best. But what research does know is that we need to eat real food, meaning lower processed foods, don’t eat processed foods and live, eat lots of vegetables. And Omega three and vitamin D are both really helpful against anxiety and also against depression. So we can take them. I’m not a doctor, you should consult a doctor or nutritionist, but that’s what the science is. And also limiting caffeine really helps cause drinking coffee. It gets us activated. Then it’s very similar to anxiety, social, anxious animals, any and you drink too much coffee, you might get more anxious. So it’s good to limit how much coffee you drink a day.
Shachar Erez (20:34):
Now let’s talk about some coping strategies. Like I said earlier, anxiety is really happening where we are feeling like we’re out of. So anything you can do that will help you get a sense of control over the situation, over your reality can help you get less anxious. For example, now with the pandemic and our team that was shattered and changed as much as you can create a new routine. So your buddy might knows what’s next all the time. That will help lower anxiety levels. So it doesn’t need to be a rigid routine that you know exactly every minute what’s happening. But if you know what’s happening in the morning and then in the late morning and then around noon when, what’s happening when you eat lunch and you know, so you have some sense of, of your written most of the day, that can help a lot.
Ziv Raviv (21:38):
Another great coping strategy is being grateful is saying thanks cause what anxiety does is make us see what’s dangerous. And we sometimes imagine danger, experience, experiences that are not even real, that are not here. And gratitude helps us focus on what is happening and what is good, what is healthy, what is beautiful, what is is eh, relaxing. So whenever we feel anxious, gratitude can help us get less anxious and notice what’s good in our lives right now.
Shachar Erez (22:27):
Anxiety also can make us freeze and over think and not do things we’re supposed to do because of it. So good advice is to do it badly, meaning just do it and it doesn’t need to be perfect. Perfectionism and anxiety are very close to each other to get, people tend to be perfectionist, get more anxious because what they’re doing can always be better. So it’s good to drop perfectionism as much as possible and tell yourself, I’m just going to do it. For example, when I was doing this, preparing this presentation and the, you know, the pandemic and all the stresses and I wasn’t really feeling it and I noticed that I’m getting stuck on thinking and overthinking. I decided to just do it badly. So I did the first draft, hardly usable, but at least I had something out. And when this was out the bowl, the bowl Rose was rolling. So I was able to make it better in the next, you know, at time I did it until it, I think it came out pretty nice.
Shachar Erez (23:45):
And related to that, it’s really about forgiving yourself. You know, we get anxious. Where would that, that what we’ll do is not good enough and it’s always good to be more forgiving to yourself. It’s really important right now with the pandemic and how life has changed too, to forgive yourself and forgive others. Everybody’s having [inaudible] hard time to some degree. It’s good to be forgiving about that one. One more thing I didn’t write here, but I want to mention anxiety is actually a lot of a lightness that is stuck in our bodies because we’re contracting our buddies contracting and we’re not breathing as usual. So of this alive ness gets stuck in our body and feels uncomfortable and this alumnus can actually turn into excitement very easily. So another group with coping strategies, when you notice you get anxious, you’re going to tell yourself, wow, I’m so excited. And sometimes many times that actually helps to reframe the experience from exactly to excitement. And suddenly I can breathe and I feel alive and I’m energized. You know, we can fool ourselves that way to some degree. Also about, you know, we said that anxiety has a dry mouth, makes us, makes our mouth dry. So drinking water, what’s the mouth and actually makes us feel less anxious. Some hacks, I wanted to share him.
Shachar Erez (25:38):
Limiting media exposure, that’s all always true. But right now with the pandemic, it’s really important not to overload ourselves with scary information that will just make us anxious and balance all the social media time, social media time that we’re doing right now with connecting to people that actually care about us and we care about them. And it’s important to connect not just through text, but also through voice and the video because that helps us regulate more than text when we can hear each other, when we can see each other, even though it’s not real life, even though it’s through a screen, it eh, our nervous, it helps our nervous system [inaudible] come back to senses. So what do we do when an executive bins up and we feel like it’s getting harder and, and might become an anxiety attack or just tolerable and tolerable feeling. So the most important thing is to come back into the present. Like I said earlier, anxiety is a state where
Ziv Raviv (27:02):
Shachar Erez (27:02):
We believe we out of control. We believe there’s some uncertainty. Our body mind actually thinks there’s a at risk coming up, even if there’s, even if we’re safe right now. So it’s a future oriented experience. So when it becomes too much, you want to come back into the presence. You can tell yourself I’m here
And again you can do what I said earlier about noticing your breath and noticing your body. We want to turn on the orienting mind. It’s a part of the brain that is noticing what’s happening right now. And when the orienting mine is on and we’re safe, assuming that we’re safe, we don’t get anxious. So you want to say if your things that you’re noticing around you like phone verbal, eh, 10, these are the types of things. Noticing them will help us come back into the present and notice the time here I’m safe. It’s okay.
Ziv Raviv (28:15):
Shachar Erez (28:16):
Filling our bodies, noticing that we’re sitting in a chair and just going with our consciousness through the bodies, highly regulating, noticing our breath. It’s highly regulating. So just following the breath for a minute or for two minutes. Just noticing the air coming in. They are going out. Especially focusing on the air going out that helps us regulate.
Ziv Raviv (28:46):
Shachar Erez (28:51):
It’s important to let go in our minds of what we can control. You know, I can’t control how my neighbor is be hailing and if he’s a hygienic enough that I am able to control my hygiene and I am able to control whether I go out or not and they find putting a mask on or not. So anxiety makes us things of all these things that are out of our control. But then we need to self stop to talk to ourselves and remind ourselves this is theirs and this is what I can do. Regain a sense of control is very important and it’s really about being compassionate. Sometimes anxiety comes up and we think there’s something wrong about it, right? It’s not there that we’re having hard experience. We also add some suffering on that experience by judging it or thinking that it’s wrong. So my recommendation, my invitation for you is to really be kind to yourself and just notice what’s happening and not judge yourself over it.
Shachar Erez (30:04):
And this is all about self regulation, what you can do for yourself, but actually human beings, we’re really good at regulating it, helping each other regulate. Sometimes we’re better at that then helping ourselves regulate. And now with the social distance thing, it’s not easy, but I want to remind you all, we’re not isolated in this digital age. So if you’re living with your spouse or your partner, or even just a housemate, try to make time to connect meaningfully with them. Not just practically, practically, but really ask them how they’re doing. Let them ask you how you’re doing. How can I be support for you these days? What would make you feel supported? You know, every day makes some room. Make some time for a real connection where you can share feelings and needs and what’s happening with you that is very helpful. You can also reach out to people who love you, to old friends that you haven’t connected to, to your family, extended family members, to your elderly parents if you have, and again, it’s better to do it. It’s important to do it through voice and through sight. You want to see them and you want to hear them. That helps us regulate when we notice faces, when we hear eh, how they speak.
Shachar Erez (31:39):
And also this is a really good time to try to create groups support. The other night I had this zoom call with two of my buddies with two friends. That was awesome. You know, it’s not as fun as meeting them in my living room or in my porch, but eh, it was better than not meeting them and we had fun even though, you know, we were each at our on eh homes. So really try to create this kind of connection with other people that, that you care about. It’s really helpful for for regulation. Yeah, that was quick. I guess I’m anxious so quickly.
Ziv Raviv (32:27):
Oh, D because I wasn’t talking to ya.
Shachar Erez (32:30):
Ziv Raviv (32:33):
I, I wanted to share that a lot more insight. That’s a little, thank you so much. This is all been really important to do, to grow through, to mission, to understand they’re not alone in this.
We have family members around.
Ziv Raviv (32:50):
Yup. So I just want to say a and lots of time for the build world performer. So I’m used to being in front of people. They can actually feel the anxiety just towards one of the one of the things they need to do, like performing during the show or even going out. Dale for a job, for Dico acting at an event for meeting a customer. It all can feel like it’s a trigger for anxiety. So first of all that’s natural, right?
Shachar Erez (33:31):
It’s natural and healthy. It helps us focus and get ready and muster the energy that we need for it.
Ziv Raviv (33:38):
Yeah. And, and, and, and a lot of, of people that are training on the arts of performances, they would actually expand seats themselves as well. Like even famous octopus would say just to me, just to immediately fall going on stage, they will feel all of the physical symptoms and it’s just something that you learn to cook with you. You’d drink a little bit of water and you do some exercises and bleeding exercises and you take it as a positive. You tell yourself who I’m excited about. This is exciting to me. And and this is something that can happen in your cow and you need to be full going inside a customer’s home or all just the minutes before starting a show or even a webinar, a zoom show, if you’ll try to lifting these, it’s all natural. I personally always make sure I take a few breaths before stopping any Nicole Dean. So
Shachar Erez (34:47):
Me too, me too. Before I gave a presentation online or offline, I spent more than a few breaths. I spent a good, good few minutes on breathing and noticing my body and talking to myself, coming myself down and changing it into excitement rather than anxiety. And even when, you know, I’m a therapist, so I meet new people all the time, even before I meet new people, it happens to me and there’s some fun in it. By now. It’s exciting. It’s alive. It’s not fun when it, the anxiety is so high that you get these hard to think and hard to breathe. That’s where you really need to practice your,
Ziv Raviv (35:28):
Yup. Yup. So guys, this is huge shed with you so that you could being the situation together with, with all of us and if you could [inaudible] if you have these tactics and it’s up to all of us to, to, to consume a little bit less of media that really puts anxiety like now on us. You can limit yourself to sell to nowhere. So just take a break for a few hours, put your phone away on different tools. They feel support groups and they feel moments of coming back to your own self and not to seeing and breathing.
Shachar Erez (36:21):
Try to find control. You know, sometimes even studying, if even learning something new, it gives us a sense of control. So that’s a great way, you know, and [inaudible] I noticed that some people have a lot of spare time and some people, especially parents to young kids actually have less time. You are someone that has more time than usual. Don’t spend it on social media and news outlets, learn something new friends. There’s something that is nourishing, that’s way more helpful
Ziv Raviv (36:52):
And deleted the sign.
Probably giving media offers all sorts of great, we
Ziv Raviv (36:57):
Have a lot of courses, free webinars like now for everyone just so that they have an option almost every day to learn instead of to be anxious. And I personally like just two nights told my family I need to learn something now. So there’s, excuse me, I’ll go and learn. It’s important for me to do this today and, and it’s so much so much leaf for me to know that I, I did my daily habits then learned something new. So if if anyone wants to learn more about what you do [inaudible] then one of the places to do that is to go generous marriage.com and in these free podcasts you can actually find additional webinars and additional like in the podcast itself. And soon there will be also all sorts of other resources.
Shachar Erez (38:03):
Shachar has a collection of lectures that he did for Kiva media on balloon college and on the kitchen that they, in that Academy we call this a course being human. And it’s, it, it’s a complete set of lectures about the imposter symptom, about depression, about all sorts of situations in life that can make you like you’re not human, but you are and you are okay. And there’s help available for you in all sorts of ways detailed in those lectures. So thank you again for being this [inaudible] and thank you everyone for joining. Thank you for having me.
Weekly episodes with stories, tools and research that will help you make your marriage generous
Shachar Erez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 12 years married, father of two
Ziv Raviv, 16 years married, father of three