Take Control of Your Fears

control your fear, fear not

I don’t think anyone quite expected the impact COVID-19 would have on every aspect of daily life. When I think back to the first time I heard about the virus, I 100% thought it was a joke. I was at breakfast with my coworkers, and one of them mentioned something about coronavirus. I scoffed at this remark and did not believe coronavirus was real (Hello! Corona is a beer!). Well, Facebook memes are definitely a phenomenal way to keep up with the news. After seeing so many memes, I eventually became smart and learned about coronavirus (Yes, I definitely sound like a millennial).

A couple weeks later, COVID-19 started to impact the US. Still, no big deal. I’m in a small, rural town of Colorado, the chance of COVID-19 having an impact here is little to none. The flu still kills more people a year than COVID-19 has so far. Whatever, let’s get on with our lives. The Earth has become overly populated, anyway.

In all honesty, I am not quite sure when I truly started to notice the impact of COVID-19. Sometime in March, obviously, when the world really seemed to start tipping upside-down. Of course, I knew California had already essentially been shut down. But that’s California. They do weird shit there. Carry on.

Now, in the thick of things, it’s hard not to be scared. It’s hard not to worry. Yes, I am considered an essential worker, so I don’t have to worry about losing my job. However, there are many things outside my own job that I can’t control. Things I did think about, that I did worry about, but was confident would work out well.

Did anyone really think that this virus would essentially shut down the world? The virus would force the cancellation of vacations, business trips, even school. Did anyone expect the fear amongst the masses? The hoarding of toilet paper and paper towels? My guess is, no, it’s not how we thought it would pan out.

Stress and Fear

Now, here’s the thing about fear. It’s not entirely a bad thing. Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It’s how we respond to and utilize our stress and fear that determines whether it is good or bad.

Stress and fear can cause us to act. Fear can keep us from doing things that will hurt us, or can push us outside our comfort zones to better ourselves as humans.

However, stress and fear can also paralyze us. Stress can cause us to stop reacting. Fear can leave us running, fearing for our lives.

Code Black

Currently, I can honestly say, I am poorly utilizing both my stress and fear. I’m sure most people are familiar with the “Color Code of Awareness” developed by Col. Jeff Cooper. It’s color-coding of situational awareness and an individual’s response threats within an environment. When you are in condition white, you are unprepared and unaware. Yellow is relaxed, but aware. Orange is aware of a threat and prepared for action. Red is response to the threat. When you hit black, you are frozen, in panic. Being in black is, in the flight or fight model, flight. Currently, I hate to say, I am teetering between red and black. This, my dear readers, is a culmination of events that I was dealing with prior to the pandemic, and the increase of stress and fear brought about by the pandemic.

Now, what do we do when placed in such a position? When everything seems so out of control that you just want to let go of the reigns and hope the horse doesn’t throw you off? I’m going to say this from a point of complete honesty, I am going to give you some ideas, but this is 100% do as I say, not as I do!

Breathe

When faced with a stressful situation, most peoples’ instinct is to either hold their breath, or breathe too rapidly. Neither method is conducive to maintaining a calm demeanor. Deep, purposeful breathing calms the mind, increases focus, and helps us maintain things such as fine motor skills and peripheral vision.

“Tactical Breathing” is a great exercise to utilize when your mind is going into black. It’s a four-count breathing process, where you breathe in to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and breathe out for a count of four. While it’s not going to fix the whole problem, and may only be a temporary solution, it will calm your mind. Practice this enough, and you’ll learn to keep your cool during the crazy times.

Learn What You Can Control

Ok, I struggle with this one. As I have mentioned before, I struggled with anorexia in my teens. It was a control thing. Even now, when I feel like I can’t control anything, I want to control my food, my weight, my looks. That’s slipping into obsession, and especially during such trying times, we don’t want to become so controlled that the controlling behavior begins to control us. But, take the small things, and focus on how you can control those. If your house is a mess, clean your house. You can “control” your relationships by communicating with your partner, and handling the tough times together. You can control how you respond to the current situation.

Pray

Maybe you don’t believe in a higher power, a Capital S Something, an All Knowing, whatever. But if you do, or maybe even if you don’t, praying is a great way to relinquish your stresses and fears. If you believe in God (yes, I do), he knows your deepest fears, and is always willing to listen to what you have to say. And even just voicing your stress and fear may be enough to lessen the burden, if only for a while.

Laugh

Yes, it’s cliche, but laughter is the best medicine. Put in a funny movie, play a funny board/card game with the family, fall into the rabbit hole of the internet. I’m only moderately ashamed to admit that I just recently downloaded TikTok, and some of the laughs it has provided has lessened my anxiety.

Dance/Sing

All my Grey’s Anatomy fans out there can attest that, whenever Meredith Grey is having an especially difficult time, she “dances it out” and feels exponentially better after. Take a dance break! Be weird, be goofy. Even in this crisis, we are still meant to have fun! Or put on some good tunes, and sing your heart out.

Don’t Forget to Live

Above all, don’t forget to live. Remember this, too, shall pass. We are all feeling the fear right now. Yes, some more than others. But we need to remember, one way or another, we will see this through. Give thanks to each day you are provided. How cheesy do I sound? Either way, live each day to the fullest.

Here Comes the Sun

summertime, enjoy the sun

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This last week has been a whirlwind. Daylight Saving Time, Friday the Thirteenth, and of course the mass hysteria over the outbreak of COVID-19. It’s been exhausting. The good news, though? The days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer.

Benefits of the Sun

Increased exposure to the sun has many physical and mental benefits. As many people who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) know, when the days get longer, mood and productivity increases.

It has been shown that sunlight increases the release of serotonin-or the happy chemical-in the brain. Increased serotonin not only improves mood, but also increases energy. What is more, not only does sunlight help with mood, but it can improve the immune system.

A recent article spoke of how the sun may benefit those who are currently ill, referencing the 1918 influenza pandemic. The basic premise is, influenza patients who were exposed to fresh air were able to reap the benefits of the sun, which can kill the flu virus and bacteria that causes infection in the lungs.

Getting Sun Amid a Pandemic

With the heightened concern of contracting COVID-19, it has been recommended to postpone any traveling, which may ruin many regular spring break festivities. Taking a flight to the beach is risky, all ski resorts in Colorado have been shut down for a minimum or a week, and a majority of amusement parks are shut down. With all of this going on, what are some things we can do to take advantage of the benefits of the sun, to reap the benefits sunshine provides, while avoiding human interaction?

sunshine, sunlight, sun, daylight, healthy, happiness, lake, water

Go for a Run

Obviously one of my go-tos. I’m sure many people, like me, have been stuck inside on the treadmill due to snowy and icy conditions on the roads. It’s time to break free from the confinement, and get in a good outdoor run. Not only will you benefit from the sunshine, but you will also get the endorphin and immunity boost from exercise.

Paddle Boarding

This one may not be feasible for many people, as many lakes are still too cold or frozen. However, paddle boarding offers a means of exercise and fresh air, with little to no exposure to others.

If you’re looking for a paddle board, I recommend the Go Plus Inflatable SUP, which you can purchase here. I purchased one last year, and while I’ve not used it much yet, I have loved it so far. It’s inexpensive, for those of us who are pinching pennies, and easy to set up. Plus, it has a handy storage bag that makes it easy to transport the paddle board and accessories without taking up too much room.

Fishing

There is not much better than a sunny day, a fishing pole, and a tackle box! You can even grab a collapsible fishing pole, like the one here, and hike into some backcountry for an even less crowded experience.

back county fishing, fishing, hiking, camping

Outdoor Yoga

Honestly, I’ve never gotten into yoga. I attempt to practice it to help with my running, then I get bored and stop. But, grab your yoga mat, or find a nice, grassy area, and soak up the sun while practicing some mindfulness!

When All Else Fails, Read a Book

Last year, during The Fourth of July, I was pretty well house-ridden with laryngitis. I could barely talk loud enough to call my dogs back into the house, let alone try to do my job and speak to members of the public. During this time I got in a lot of tanning and reading (Ironically, I chose to read Ted Dekker’s Circle series, about a pandemic that will wipe all of humanity from earth). This is a good option if you have contracted COVID-19, or have other reasons you cannot leave the house. To benefit from the sun, sit on your back deck, or even beside an open window. Crack open a book, slather on the sunscreen, and get lost in another world.

Have Fun, Be Smart, Don’t Panic

The moral of this story is, we are entering into a new season. It’s time to shed the winter blues, and enjoy the sunlight and warmth. Don’t give into the panic, but be smart and safe. And it may not hurt to ration on the toilet paper for a month or two.