When anxiety resurfaces, it can feel like you’re playing a game of whack-a-mole. It catches you off guard, especially if you’ve been feeling like you are in a good space or expect that you should be in a good space. The pandemic has been a catalyst for increasing anxiety and has repeatedly shown us how upsetting this resurgence in anxiety can feel. Initially, those who already knew how their anxiety worked and had skills to alleviate distress appeared to fare better at the onset of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the duration and intensity of the pandemic have surpassed most of our abilities to cope.
People are reaching their threshold and feeling anxiety creep back. While this can feel like a failure, it is normal and expected given the circumstances. It doesn’t mean you don’t know what to do about anxiety, but it does mean you might have to pause to remember those skills. Once you acquire skills to combat anxiety and optimize your mental health, these coping skills become a part of you.
Try to think of old skills as part of a deeper muscle memory. It feels scary when you haven’t ridden a bike in a while or when it’s suddenly summer and you haven’t swum in 9 months. Shift your focus from doubting yourself and your ability to cope, to imagining that you are just dusting off the cobwebs with each new season. It’s all still in there, you may need to dig a little deeper. Before you know it you’re riding that bike with a sense of freedom and swimming with confidence that you thought had been lost. Anxiety is skilled at making you question what you know to be true, even your own ability to cope with anxiety! Trust the process and know that these skills never leave you, just like you can’t forget how to ride a bike or how to ski.
The important part is to recognize that it’s OK to feel anxious and OK to struggle. Life is full of ups and downs. Remind yourself that you can tolerate discomfort and sort out what’s important. Take a minute to reflect on the anxiety-provoking situations or the ongoing chatter of anxious thoughts that you have dealt with previously. Start with one skill or strategy that’s worked in the past and see how it might apply now.
The more you use your skills, the easier and faster the skill will come back to you and the more natural it will feel. You are brave. Brave doesn’t mean you’re not anxious or uncomfortable, it simply means you have the confidence to move through it. You’ve done it before. You have all that you need inside you. Bet on yourself.
Share the strategies that have worked for you and that might be working for you now. Share your struggles so you know you are not alone. Share your story so you can shine some light for others. We’d love to hear from you.