How Busying the Mind Helps One Woman With an Anxiety Disorder During the Pandemic

Being at home 24/7 with my husband and three teenagers has, in many ways, been wonderful. Having a much more relaxed schedule and nowhere to go has meant that weve been able to slow down as a family. We have dinner together every night, play games, and have meaningful conversations that dont end abruptly with someone rushing out to an activity or plans with friends.Of course, not everything is always quite so rosy. Weve had some family blow ups, but as the days go on, were getting better at communicating more effectively. We talk about how were feeling and acknowledge each others fears and concerns without being dismissive. And we’ve reached a point where we’re learning coping mechanisms from each other.My kids have adapted so well to this new normal. Theyre taking their remote learning seriously, they exercise daily, and theyve gotten good at doing their chores, like laundry. My youngest daughter, for example, has taken up painting, taught herself to play the ukulele, practices her basketball skills in the driveway, and organizes themed Zoom parties (Zarties!) with her friends. Shes inspired me to exercise, schedule virtual get-togethers with my friends, and return to art journaling (which can help get rid of negative energy), a hobby Id loved but neglected over the years. Its an amazing stress release that does wonders for my mental health.When you live with an anxiety disorder, theres nothing worse than the unknown. I like to anticipate, plan, and strategize so I feel more in control. But the whole world is in a holding pattern, therefore planning or strategizing just isn’t possible. So, Ive learned to use a day-by-day approach to get through this time. Every day, I concentrate on exercising, writing, creating, and bonding virtually with my friends. The anxiety is still there, but I’ve learned that I have the power to keep it at a low simmer rather than a rolling boil.One day, when all of this is behind us, I hope well look back on this time and remember it with the solemnity it deserves, but also with fondness and a sense of pride. Weve already learned so much as a family about resilience, perseverance, and communication and I truly believe well come out better on the other side.Elizabeth Wiener is a mental health educator, fundraiser, speaker and advocate, fueled by her own struggle with depression and anxiety. She is one half of Wise Women (@wisewomencanada).

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