I'm so scared. I don't know what to do. How do I calm myself down?

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

You speak for a lot of people who are having a hard time staying calm through all of this uncertainty. Having the feeling that you have limited control over what is happening around you can be a difficult place to sit.

I do agree with the advice to control what you can control. By making sure that you have some good routines in place, like exercise, connection, and putting limits on your news consumption, you can maintain some semblance of groundedness, even though we are all dealing with so many unanswered questions. Still, as you have noted, taking those approaches might only do so much.

So, something else you might want to explore is the concept of “radical acceptance.” This comes from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and it acknowledges that some things are simply out of your control. The premise behind it is that when you resist what is happening, it can cause you more distress and anxiety. Instead, by radically accepting the situation as it is, you can bring yourself some relief, because at least you're not expending a lot of energy wishing that things were different than they are. This doesn’t mean that you have to like the situation - all it means is that you accept that it is what it is, and you take steps to self-soothe, using your five senses. Here are some examples of ways that you could self-soothe:

  • Vision - you can take advantage of all of the museums that are allowing you to view their collections live, or if you can leave the house, you could go into nature.

  • Hearing - listen to music you love.

  • Touch - take a warm bath or stretch your muscles with some yoga.

  • Taste - savor a small treat, or mindfully eat your next meal.

  • Smell - diffuse essential oils in your home, or burn a scented candle. The final thing I would suggest is to engage in a daily gratitude practice.

Yes, we are in difficult times, but there is still much to be grateful for. For me, staying at home has allowed me to slow down and spend more time with my family. I am also grateful that I'm currently healthy and getting more sleep. I’m grateful for various acts of kindness and beauty that I have read about that are occurring all around the world.

Try these tips out, and see if they provide you with some relief.

Dr. Patricia Thompson

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