If you have some anxiety about the coronavirus, here is a skill you might find useful.
My psychotherapist taught me that anxiety starts with the emotion of fear in the body. For me, the fear usually showed up in my tense face and gut. Then my brain kicked in, producing anxiety. I had “so many bad thinks,” said Tai Chi Grandmaster Vince Lasorso of Whatever Works Wellness Center in Cincinnati.
The key to letting go of the anxiety and the bad thinks was to refocus my attention on the sensations in my body. I realized my thinking about my dread was my way of escaping the actual emotion, which showed up as uncomfortable sensations in my body.
Through practice, I was able to identify the fear in my body, to allow it to be what it was, and to stop my bad thinks. Learning this technique helped me to refocus my mind on things that were beautiful, admirable, and true—the reflection of sunlight on pine needles, the sweet scent of cinnamon, the vibration of a dulcimer. Another prescription for anxiety that helped was to pray. Bringing my fears to the Divine and asking for assistance helped me let go of some bad thinks. A third method was refocusing on anything for which I could feel grateful. Even a small thing, like “Today I opened my eyes again.”
With practice, anxiety might lessen. This will free up your body’s resources to fight off whatever alien viruses might try to invade.
When you feel anxious, check in with how your body feels. Are you tense in your face? Does your chest tighten? Does your stomach contract? Try to let go of your thoughts and simply focus on the sensation in your body. Allow it to be what it is. Allow it to move around; allow it to get intense; and allow it to dissolve. If you feel it without thinking any thoughts (like "Gee, this is taking a long time"), the sensations typically lift after 90 seconds. Repeat this as often as necessary. Sometimes I had to repeat for more than an hour before I could get on with my day. And if your brain still insists on thinking, try to redirect your thoughts to the Divine or practice offering gratitude—even if only for a moment.
Heidi Bright is the author of three traditionally published nonfiction books, including Thriver Soup: A Feast for Living Consciously During the Cancer Journey and Hidden Voices: Biblical Women and Our Christian Heritage.