Learning to Embrace your COVID19 Anxiety

Healing Journey. Transformation Coaching

Welcome to spring 2020.  While we are supposed to be enjoying the extra daylight and warmer temperatures, worldwide, instead we are muddling through unprecedented times together.  On March 11, 2020 when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, things got real.

At the time of writing, the ‘lucky ones’ are working from home while simultaneously teaching their children. The ‘unlucky ones’ are furloughed or now filing for unemployment and anxiously awaiting their stimulus checks. With all change, comes uncertainty, confusion, pain, and anxiety. Change also brings on, in very real terms, financial burdens, job losses, schedule changes, insomnia, unprocessed trauma, panic attacks, and mental health breakdowns.  

To weather this storm, we are required to be flexible, dependable, adaptable, intelligent, and calm… how’s that going for you? According to the news, my social worker colleagues, my friends, and my social media feed, as a nation and world, we are not doing well with this unwelcome and untimely change.

So, let’s talk about change for a minute.  Change can come into our lives in many ways. It can arrive as a beautiful baby, a diamond engagement ring, or a corner office suite.  Change, of course, can also arrive as a debilitating health diagnosis, the discovery of an extra-marital affair or the passing of a loved one too soon.

COVID19 anxiety

Additionally, change can happen at an individual level, across a community or particular subculture or change can impact the entire world. In the case of COVID-19, change is happening at many levels. Because this change moved upon us quickly, and has deadly consequences, you are likely to feel its presence with intensity.

It is key to remember that change, itself, is not inherently bad, it is just different. However, for many millions of people change causes anxiety. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 40 million American adults are already diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  And, now, many of us are feeling anxiety for the very first time or in a very different way given the stats on this virus and changing economy. 

So, why does change bring on anxiety? Because our brains are wired to protect us and the primal brain interprets change as danger. Thus, we feel anxious when we are thrust into change because it feels dangerous. Add to that our inherent fear of death and we have real recipe for disaster. Whether that proverbial disaster is real or imagined, it feels like the world is ending. However, I am here to offer hope. The purpose of writing this piece is to offer you a different perspective on change, anxiety, and COVID-19.

I am a certified Seasons of Change Coach.  This means I use nature and the seasons to help my clients understand change.  Using the seasons gives us a roadmap for the process of change.  It also allows us to understand exactly where we are in the change cycle. For many clients, just understanding their experience within the framework of the seasons allows them to breathe easier and it instills hope.  Hope comes from understanding where you’ve been, how you got there, where you are today, and where you are going.  

We are all experiencing change right now, and so, we are all entering the season of fall. I wrote a blog giving an in-depth explanation of the Seasons of Change model, which you can read here, but for the purpose of today’s message, I will give you a very brief overview of the model. 

Summer

Life is good

Think of summer as the season of hope and plenty. You are enjoying the fruits of your labor. It’s the time when everything in life is working well. You are calm, happy, and your thoughts are positive. The feeling of summer often comes with career promotions, a new baby, or an engagement. But, just as in nature, summer cannot last forever. Fall is coming.

Fall

Change is coming

When change enters, we are entering our own season of fall. Just as the leaves change color and the days become darker, so to does this happen in life when we experience major change. At the time of writing, the novel coronavirus is our catalyst for change but the change catalyst could also be: a divorce, retirement, a relapse into alcoholism, relocation, or the death of your pet. In fall, we take our cues from the squirrels and field mice- it’s a time to gather our resources for the winter.  Fall is time for accepting and integrating that change has arrived. Following fall, comes winter.

Winter

Dark night of the Soul

Winter is that time when we may feel overwhelmed by grief, lethargic, or depressed. Winter feels like it will never end, but it will. It always does. You will feel tired and you will prefer isolation over socialization. Just as a bear hibernates in winter, so will you. You will know that your season of winter is ending when you have a little more energy or you start reaching out to friends again. Just as in nature, winter is followed by spring.

Spring

Depression lifts, anxiety lessens

Spring has a creative, hopeful, energizing feel to it. You will know you’re embracing spring when you start to cultivate ideas for your new life. You will also start to notice the colorful flower popping through the dark terrain and songbirds outside your windows- maybe they ahve been there a while but you just did not notice them. Your perspective on life is changing- in a good way.  Just remember that whatever caused this change last fall, has changed you forever. This means your new life will look different than it did last fall. Spring is a time for experimenting with your new identity in the new world. 

Summer

And, alas, we are back at summer. You will, once again, feel alive, happy, capable and confident. Things will, again, be steady and harmonious until the next major life change. Remember, change is an ever- moving cycle of life. We cannot and will not stay in one season indefinitely. 

Now that you have a framework for the Seasons of Change model, let’s get back to talking about the season of fall because we are in all fall thanks to COVID-19.  Fall often brings about feelings of anxiety. Remember, we already learned that our brains interpret change as danger so it is normal to feel some level of anxiety when we go through a major life transition. Within the past month all of us have been thrust, unwilling, into this major change. So now what? Now, as we are entering fall, we must adequately prepare ourselves for winter.  Here’s a simple list of dos and don’ts.

DO:

  • Acknowledge that change is happening
  • Feel your feelings; expressing them allows you to release them. Not sure how? Ask me!
  • Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally by reaching out to friends, family and professionals like life coaches and psychotherapists
  • Gather and take stock of your financial resources- review your budget, eliminate waste, and secure your investments as best you can
  • Update your resume, make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and complete, reach out to old colleagues. Make professional connections in preparation for any unforeseen work changes
  • Review your options, gather information, assess the situation from all angles.
  • Take time for integration of the news, the changes, and your new options
  • Create a safe place for reflection. This may be a physical location in your house where you can light a candle and meditate or it might be a ritual like journaling each morning. Find a system that works for your personal situation.

DO NOT:

  • Deny that change is happening.  Denial will definitely lead you further into trouble.
  • Make a change now, if it’s within your power. Fall is a time for integrating that the change is coming or has already happened. Now is a time to gather resources and assessment, not taking  major actions, if possible.
  • Make hasty changes out of fear. Yes, you are scared and yes you need a job. But to the degree that you can, try not to jump hastily from the ‘pot into the fire’. Ensure your basic needs are met and from there continue to assess your options.
  • Isolate yourself.  This is not a time for going solo on or relying solely on your own perspective. This is a time for building your tribe or seeking wise guidance from trusted sources.

It’s a normal human response to want to restore balance in our lives when something changes.  But, just because it is normal, it does not necessarily mean it is good for us. We may want to jump into a new relationship as soon as our divorce papers are signed or we eagerly want to accept the first job offer after a week of job searching but it does not mean we should. The most important thing to remember about the season of fall is that life is changing and our new life will not look like our old life. When we rush to restore balance or replace our old partner with a new one, we are trying to get our old life back. The seasons only move in one direction and so too does our cycle of change.  Next fall will not be a repeat of last fall. Yes, there will be similarities but they will not be identical because we are changing professionally and personally as we grow from each new experience and each preceding season of life.

When we attach to a fixed mindset, rather than a growth mindset, we miss a huge opportunity for growth, personal development, and abundance.  Yes, we all want the world to return to its pre-coronavirus state, but that is not possible. So, embrace that the change has happened and take time now to integrate what this means for you on a personal, professional, and global level.

It is crucial to remember that change brings about possibilities that you have not yet seen or imagined. Right now, you can only see the bad, ugly, scary side of change but that’s not the whole truth.  The whole truth of this change has yet to be revealed. Now is the time to trust the process of change. Think of a sleeping bear; when he goes into hibernation, he does not worry about sleeping through spring, he knows that in the right time, he will wake up and remerge into activity.  Or, think of caterpillars. They move through the seasons of their lives only to transform into a beautiful, limitless butterflies. Imagine if they resisted change… can you imagine a world without butterflies?

If you are wondering how this current transition could possibly have a silver lining, think about another major life transition you have gone through. What occurred that you did not foresee?  If you lost your job, did you land another new career with even better hours and benefits?  If you went through a divorce, did you discover strength and grit you didn’t know you possessed?  If you suffered an illness that prevented you from hiking and canoeing, did you discover new hobbies like writing and singing?  Yes, you will feel a sense of loss in this time, but you will also discover something new and unseen. This time requires perseverance, agility, a hopeful perspective and maybe even a little faith.  

Carrie Mead, MS
Curiosity Life Coaching
Westminster, MD

If you would like to know more about how to successfully navigate whatever major life transition you are facing, reach out. If something written here resonates with you, reach out. If you want to learn more about how to use the seasons as your guide for change, reach out. I would be happy to guide you through the steps necessary to live a fearlessly abundant life, even in the midst of change. I can teach you how to weather these storms, become stronger and fearless, and how to thrive once again.  Schedule your free consultation today by clicking here.

Carrie Mead, MS is a Professional Life Coach, Psychotherapist, and Reiki practitioner based in Maryland. Carrie created Curiosity Life Coaching to help men and women successfully navigate major life transitions such as retirement, divorce, career changes, and loss. Carrie provides guidance, support and empowering exercises to help her clients redefine and enact on their life’s mission following a major life transition. Connecting authentically and compassionately forms the basis of all of Carrie’s personal and professional relationships. Carrie holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from McDaniel College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Gettysburg College. Carrie is a Certified Seasons of Change Coach. Learn more by visiting www.curiositylifecoaching.com

Navigating the Seasons of Life

Using the seasons as a guide when you are in the midst of a major life transition

Carrie Mead, MS
Transitions Coach
Carroll County, MD, USA

At times, life is tough and at times, it is absolutely perfect.  Have you ever noticed the ebb and flow of the seasons of your own life?  There are times the stars align and everything you desire comes into fruition- a pay increase, a new romance, the perfect puppy… all at once.  You sit back and wonder how you got so lucky. You bask in the sunlight and abundance that life has afforded you. You keep working hard and enjoying the ride. You have great work ethic and your friends know that they can count on you.  Life is good. 

Success Coaching

As a Seasons of Change coach, we refer to this time as the season of summer. Summer may last for months, or it may be a fleeting moment, but when we are experiencing the joy of summer there is no doubt that we are loved, supported, and capable of great things.  However, no season lasts forever.  Life is fluid and everchanging. You may be blissfully unaware that change is coming while you are enjoying the summer sun. However, if you are a person prone to anxiety, you may miss the joy of summer as you worry about the foreboding change that you just know is lurking around the corner (even though you have no evidence of such change). You may even miss the harvest you created due to these anxious, intrusive thoughts.  Either way, whether you are enjoying your summer or worrying about when it will end, change is coming. It always does.

Change is not inherently bad or scary.  Change can be exciting and wonderful.  Welcoming a new baby into your life, getting married, or finally retiring are often changes that are much anticipated, planned for, and joyful. But what happens when you do not experience the overwhelming happiness with this positive change that you thought you would?  You might be very confused by this counter-intuitive feeling and you may wonder what’s wrong with yourself.  Nothing’s wrong, you are just are just in the midst of a major life transition and your world is changing. No big deal. Right? 

On the other hand, sometimes uninvited change shows up in our life.  Perhaps we receive a life-changing health diagnosis as we are training for our next marathon or our company announces a merger which will involve major lay-offs just after we received an awesome promotion. These types of transitions are thrust upon us, often at warp speed.  Instantly, we are overcome by fear and we try desperately to keep things exactly as they have always been. It seems like only a minute ago we were enjoying our feast and now the crop is gone and we are left unprepared, scared, and alone.  Following the Seasons of Change model, we call this the season of fall.  As you might expect, fall comes into our life when things change.  Just as the summer’s warmth and sunshine is always followed by falling leaves and squirrels collecting nuts, so to in our lives, does this metaphor exist.

Anxiety and change

When faced with an unexpected or unwelcome change we may rush to restore balance in our life. We may jump at the first new job opportunity after getting laid-off or rush into a new relationship as soon as our divorce papers are signed. We may sell our home and move to a new city to start afresh or we may busy ourselves with our friends’ problems, binge-watching movies, and never-ending happy hours to avoid being alone with our thoughts.   When we throw ourselves into endless activity, we are trying to avoid our feelings about the situation.  We are trying to pass the time until those feelings and thoughts magically disappear.  Of course, this is a fruitless attempt at avoiding pain but it’s an understandable and natural human response.  We are conditioned to work hard, at all costs, and we are certainly not usually encouraged to take time and space away from productivity to ‘find ourselves’. 

The truth is this, as we enter a time of change, there is no going back.  Things will be different as we move forward. Again, different is not bad, it is just different.  If you can make that distinction in your mindset and your internal chatter, you will feel calmer. If you continue to ruminate on how bad things are and how they will never, ever, get better, you certainly will feel worse. Test it out. See what you think! I would advise you to decide how you’d like to feel first (peaceful, calm, confident would be my choices) and then set your internal chatter to create those feelings.

When you come to accept that the season of summer is over, for now, at least for this one aspect of your life, you can also come to accept that fall has arrived. Accepting that that you are in the midst of a change is the first step. Sometimes, just acknowledging and accepting that you are entering a transitionary  phase is enough to move you on to your next season. As you probably guessed, you are heading into winter, whether you like it or not. Change is coming. It always does.

In my experience as a professional life coach, this is the season that most people fear and it tends to be the time when people reach out for my wisdom, guidance, and support.  Many people have tried wintering alone, and feel stuck and hopeless. Others have gone through tough transitions in their life before and they know what they need based on past experience. If you have previously and successfully navigated a winter season, it’s possible that this next season will be milder and shorter than your first winter. However, every transition is different and you, as a person, are evolving and changing too. Perhaps this time around you have more support from your friends and an abundance of financial resources, or, perhaps you have gotten divorced and lost your job in the same year. 

Winter Depression

Although life is complicated, there is always a silver lining. Despite the fact that many winters are long and dark, you can grow, develop, and learn so much about yourself in this season… if you do the inner-work.  What that means and how to do it will depend on a number of things. Suffice to say that this is why many clients reach out to professionals, like me, in this dark time.  Remember, winter is not all doom and gloom. Think of the season of winter as a time to rejuvenate, restore, and refocus on yourself. Allow yourself to stay in bed a little longer or say no to social events that seem draining rather than nourishing.  If you have brain-fog, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, and a desire to stay home in quiet contemplation, you’re most likely in the depths of winter.  That’s okay.  Spring always follows winter so you won’t be here forever. Stay the course, glean insights about yourself, and give yourself what you need in this tender time. Change is coming. It always does.

You will know that spring is near because you will start to feel the wrestling of the desire for increased activity. You might feel slightly more alert and you may even crave more human connection that you did last season.  Think of a hibernating bear; no one knocks on his den door to tell him to wake up. He intuitively knows it’s time to begin moving his limbs. He’s rested well and as he comes back into consciousness, he starts to desire things that he has forgotten about like food and sunshine.  You too, will sense winter morphing into spring. It may take you by surprise or you may have been eagerly awaiting this day. Either way, wake-up slowly and come into the light again… in your own time.  This transformation is not a time for making big decisions nor committing to  a new business venture nor entering a new marriage. It’s a time for testing the waters and experimenting. It’s a time for creativity, fertility, and reemergence.  This is the time when the clouds start lift and hope returns to your life. It’s also the time to look at your progress. How far have you come since your summer turned into fall and your fall into winter?  Reflect on what you have learned in the process of change and marvel at how strong you have become.  Take notice if you even feel like the same person you were last summer?

Whatever transition you went through, you have navigated it well, thus far. The journey is not over yet but you are getting closer to your next season. Life is definitely different than it was last summer. Maybe you are now a single working mother, or maybe you have just moved across the country for you dream job but you had to leave behind friends and family, or maybe you have come to learn how to handle a challenging health condition.  You have made progress and you have nourished yourself to get this far. 

Anxiety and  Depression

Allow spring to be the time when you intentionally and thoughtfully try out new ideas. Reintroduce yourself to the world.  Plants reintroduce themselves each spring and they are a welcome reminder that spring always comes no matter how dark the winter was.  No one forgets the beauty of the first yellow daffodil against the brown terrain nor do they forget the hypnotic scent of striking purple hyacinth.  Everyone is happy to see their beauty again and your friends and family will be happy to greet you into their community once more.  Don’t get too comfortable here because as you begin show yourself to the world, things are changing. They always do. 

At some point you will realize you feel relaxed, confident, secure again.  Life has a new vibrancy and appeal that has been missing for a long time. You have finally found your groove and you feeling excited to share yourself with others again.  You have a sense that your foundation is strong and you know that you are resourceful enough to navigate any passing storms. You feel grounded in the knowledge that you are stronger than you ever thought and no matter how the world may try to knock you down, you are confident that you will rise again.  You know that you won’t just come back as a spruced-up version of your old- self. You will come back from these challenges alert, empowered, focused and compassionate. You will come back evolved and new.

If nothing else, you have learned to love yourself through each season. You have found a new respect for your abilities and your limitations. Maybe you rediscovered your faith or made a new friend a long the way. Maybe you found out that you are actually quite good at writing poetry or maybe you learned to meditate.  Whatever your learned along the way will serve you well this summer and for next fall.   Whatever happens this summer, don’t forget to celebrate your success. Don’t dismiss the arduous challenges you have overcome and certainly don’t try to move the goal post on yourself as you are about the cross the finish line.  Summer is a season to embrace and celebrate.  Enjoy it because things are changing.  They always do.  

If you are in the process of weathering a storm, anticipating a change, or stuck in long dark winter, reach out to me.  I can act as your guide through the tumultuous times you are facing. Together we will establish a roadmap for your journey. We will calm the inner fires that feel chaotic both internally and externally. We will use the seasons to guide us through these changes and you will emerge through the process with a new sense of purpose and appreciation of yourself and your journey. When you get to your destination, we will celebrate your success.

Set-up a free consultation by clicking here

Carrie Mead, MS is a Professional Life Coach and Reiki practitioner based in Maryland. Carrie created Curiosity Life Coaching to help men and women successfully navigate major life transitions such as retirement, divorce, career changes, and loss. Carrie provides guidance, support, and empowering exercises to help her clients redefine and enact on their life’s mission following a major life transition. Connecting authentically and compassionately forms the basis of all of Carrie’s personal and professional relationships. Carrie holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from McDaniel College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Gettysburg College. Learn more by visiting www.curiositylifecoaching.com