Living in the time of COVID, there is so much we don’t know. We don’t know much about this virus itself and our “normal” has become so disrupted it is very hard to predict what’s coming next. All of this uncertainty naturally creates Anxiety. And when I say “naturally” I mean that is the way our nervous system is designed to operate.
It is also normal to feel fearful, joyful, bored, excited, nervous, antsy, angry, giddy, stressed-out, and peaceful all through the course of a single day. The majority of those emotions are unpleasant to feel and again, that is normal. Our nervous system is designed to look out for danger to survive. If something is unfamiliar it could be dangerous. If something doesn’t feel good it could be dangerous.
Okay, so if our nervous system has a natural tendency to unpleasant emotions, how do we escape feeling miserable all the time? There is hope! We have the power to reduce our vulnerability to those yucky emotions. We also have the power to create nice emotions, but that is in another post.
The take away lesson of this post is how to prevent slipping into the negative emotions and how to limit the powerful hold that the negative can have when we do slip in.
I’m going to use an acronym developed by Marsha Linehan in her DBT work, PLEASE MASTER, which helps us remember the things we can build into our daily routine to reduce vulnerability to the negative.
PL stands for Physical iLlness. Tend to symptoms of illness. Rest, tea with honey, tylenol, or whatever your mom might have done for you when you felt sick as a kid. Of course, there are COVID germs and symptoms to be aware of, check out the CDC for more info on that.
E stands for Eating healthy. Eat regular meals, spaced evenly through the day. Eat vegetables and fruits. Balance treats with sturdy proteins and carbs. Eat with other people, even if it is a meal coordinated over Zoom.
A stands for Avoid Abusing alcohol and substances. The need to alter reality is a driving force of substance abuse. There is a lot that we wish we could change right now, changing it temporarily in the short term with drugs and alcohol is appealing…we all know it brings about more harm than good in the long term. Instead try the practice of Radical Acceptance.
S stands for Sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, pick a time that works for you just keep it in a range that aligns with circadian rhythms. Monitor if anxious thoughts are interfering with sleep, find more info and tools in this youtube video with Jud Brewer.
E stands for Exercise. Get your heart rate and breathing up. Just move your body in a way that feels good for you; it might be a High Intensity workout class, but it could be a twenty minute walk.
MASTER is Mastery. Do something that gives you a sense of pride, a success overcoming a challenge. Think small-scale: mini-accomplishments feel good and are attainable.
Place your intention on each of these pieces of PLEASE Master, each and every day, and you will find your self slipping into the yuck less frequently and less deeply.