Feeling Anxious? Blame Your Brain

Over the last few weeks I, and the rest of the world, have encountered so many changes: masks are off, crowds are gathering, travel is up, violent crime is up, temperatures are rising, and the Olympics are on (minus crowds cheering in the stands.) With all of this upheaval, mental health and substance abuse providers just can’t keep up with the demand for help.

These changes can mean different things for different people. For many the return feels abrupt and jarring, for others it’s joy and elation. While some experience reopening as positive, others are struggling. It’s a mixed bag of emotions.

One argument that is circulating is that how we feel is a consequence of our brain. If you are tense or anxious about reentering today’s so called “normal”, experts say it’s understandable. Blame it on your brain – especially your frontal lobe where you do your higher-level thinking.

All of us have expended an enormous amount of energy navigating this whole pandemic – constantly with loved ones, hyper-vigilant about where we go, who we see, and what we do. When your frontal lobe is tired from emotional loop de loops and trying to regulate as if it were on steroids for a year and a half, you may suddenly feel as if you are at your breaking point.

If, however, you are happy and giddy with activity, that makes sense as well. Humans demand regularity and connection. That’s why folks are flocking back to family’s spaces.

According to the CDC, safely getting back to a routine, to normal so to speak, requires being fully vaccinated. In addition, we need to pay attention to our mental and emotional health. Demonstrating compassion for self and others will go a long way as we navigate our way to normal.

Though challenging, it’s time to go back to basic self care. It’s time to give ourselves more space to check in and see how we are doing emotionally and psychologically. It’s time for us to be more mindful (meditation and gratitude lists will help.)

We all have to give each other a little grace and compassion. Hit pause when you have heightened emotions about someone or something. Take a breath, calm yourself, and be kind to yourself and the other person.

Do a Wellness Check-In 

 

Ask yourself if you are eating, sleeping and exercising. Plan out ways to recharge your energy. For some it may be social contact like going to an in-person recovery meeting, while for others it may be time alone doing hobbies, reading or listening to music – or maybe just laughing out loud at silly jokes.

Never Be Afraid To Reach Out For Help 

 

Not everyone will be able to return to life as it is today without help. As a helping professional, I know I value having my own therapist/coach to run things by. For so many, this last year has been full of unbearable loss and anguish. A few ways to gauge if you need professional help are if you are experiencing:

  1. Anxiety – Difficulty concentrating, restlessness, poor sleep, and irritability are signs that you may be headed in a challenging direction. Persistent worry about health, finances, feeling overwhelmed and a general sense of doom and gloom are also signs to seek help. There may be an increase in the use of alcohol and other drugs. Additionally, if you feel exhausted and unable to bounce back between bouts of worry or anxiety is intruding on your every day function, it is probably time to consider professional help.

  2. Panic Attacks – These episodes can happen quickly interfering with daily activities. Suddenly and without warning, your anxiety spirals out of control and you feel like you have trouble breathing or like you are having a heart attack. Your heart rate might speed up, you may break into a sweat, tremble, or feel like you are choking. If you experience this type of thing, reaching out for help is a good idea.

  3. Signs of suicidal thoughts – Often triggered by recent losses death, divorce, breakups, job loss etc., a loss of interest in friends or hobbies, changes in sleep or eating patterns, persistent sadness, low self esteem, withdrawal, increased use of mind-altering substances, irritability, feelings of guilt and worthlessness all point to the need for professional help.

Help is Available 

 

Look first to those around you for support and connection. Many people who I talk to do not have resources. I invite them to look at federal, state and local resources and refer them to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health SAMSHA website or their national helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) which provides free resources in both English and Spanish 24/7. Likewise, The National Association of Social Workers, The American Psychological Association have free resources.

As a clinician/interventionist who still answers my own phone, not everyone who calls may be right for my services. Yet everyone who calls is given a referral or a resource because I have learned there are solutions out there for everyone. If you or someone you know is experiencing post-Covid anxiety, depression, etc., please give us a call.