Help! Feeling Overwhelmed by Shock, Anxiety, and Fear

Dealing with COVID19 and the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others has the world in a state of shock, anxiety, and fear.

A State of Hyper-Arousal

Although we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world, being constantly bombarded by negative news and up-to-the-minute news feeds can put us in a state of hyper-arousal. Our primitive brain takes over and can make us feel as if we need to be ever alert to possible danger.

When we are in this state, we are more apt to see people, situations, and the world through a negative lens.

Awareness of Anxiety and The Negative Mindset

The first step to calming our nervous system down and soothing our primitive brain is to consciously and compassionately be aware that we are (understandably) in a state of anxiety.

The next step is to activate our rational brain in assisting us in recognizing our negative mindset. This is referred to in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as cognitive distortions.

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Distortions can cause negative thinking, which causes emotional distress. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Catastrophizing: making a situation seem more dire or threatening than it is by envisioning worst-case scenarios.
  • Jumping to conclusions: believing something is true when there’s no evidence to support your assumption.
  • Overgeneralizing: viewing a single upsetting event as part of an ongoing pattern.
  • All–or-nothing/absolute thinking: viewing a situation in extreme or in absolute terms, without appreciating its nuances. If you hear yourself saying, “You always” or “You never”, you are caught in the trap of negative thinking.
  • Magnification: blowing an upsetting situation way out of proportion, which adds to your frustration and distress.

Hopefully, as we recognize and become familiar with our cognitive distortions (what I refer to as the “story we makeup”) we can catch ourselves in the midst of our negative thinking, and choose a realistic and encouraging story/perspective.

At this time, I find Viktor Frankl’s work inspiring. He is the founder of logotherapy, a form of psychotherapy that he developed after surviving Nazi concentration camps in the 1940s. After his experience in the camps, he developed a theory that it is through a search for meaning and purpose in life that individuals can endure hardship and suffering.

I will leave you with this quote, which emphasizes the importance of conscious awareness:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, from his book Man’s Search for Meaning.

If you find yourself struggling at this time, you are not alone. Please take advantage of free resources such as my blogs, mp3’s, and my new website, which has complimentary soothing 30-second exercises to help you feel centered, grounded, and in control.

As always, thanks for reading and please follow me on Facebook.