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Coping Under Quarantine-Issue #3-Making Your Worries More Productive

Updated: May 22, 2020


If you can read this, then certainly your life has changed over the past few weeks. Whether you are suddenly working from home, have lost work, are now a home schooling parent, or just trying to decide


how many episodes of Tiger King is healthy for 1 sitting (don't ask me, I haven't seen it), life is different.  Another change you may have noticed in yourself is an increase in worry. With so much uncertainty right now, it is only reasonable to be concerned about yourself and perhaps your family. The question though is where is the line between healthy and unhealthy concern and worry?

To find this balance, conside


r 2 extreme ends of a spectrum, neither end being all that healthy: Negligence and Obsession. On one end you would be going about acting as if nothing were going on right now-"nothing to see here" you might say to yourself. This type of denial keeps you blind to the ever evolving situation in our society and economy. On the other end would be a constant slew of obsessions and worries-a constant seeking to find out the answers to all the things that are unknown about your life in the pandemic. A healthier balance of the two might be somewhere in the middle: vigilance.  Negligence-----Vigilance-----Obsession  But how do we get there? How do we


transform our worries into something productive? When things are upside down the natural inclination for many of us is to take action. If a hurricane or a tornado were to hit, we might find a way to get out, roll up our sleeves, clean up, and rebuild. We do these things because we seek feelings of control through taking action-by finding something we can do. The trouble with our current situation is that in some ways we've been told to do the opposite: Don't do anything, stay home, limit contact, etc..  This sense that something needs to be done, but having a limited number of things that can be done is putting people in a place of unproductive worry. Unproductive worry occurs when the thing we worry about h


as no immediate answer nor anything we can immediately do about it. Many people are finding their minds and bodies filled with this type worry, along with a sense that they should be be able to do something about most situations they are facing, even if reality says they can't. The good news is, there are some things you can do. They just take some creativity. Creative thinking is the antithesis of worry. It can be hard to access in times of worry, but once exercised, can provide so


me relief.  To get started, take a sheet of paper and divide it in to 3 columns: 1) Worries

2) Things I Can (in theory) Do 3) Things to Let Go Of/Accept As you list each worry, be sure to come up with as many things as possible that you, in theory, could do to address that worry. Some things might sound outlandish, but don't reject them right away. In the end they might actually work. At the same time, there may be some undeniable limitations to the situation that need to be accepted, let go of, and left to other people, the universe, God, the passage of time, etc. to work out. Accepting this is a form of healthy surrender. See an ex


ample below: Worry: My kids won't learn what they need to during this period of homeschooling. Things I Can (in theory) Do: Set aside time everyday to help them, email their teachers for ideas, hire a private tutor for them, petition the governor to resume school and override the previous order-at least for just


your kid(s) and their teacher(s). Things to Let Go Of/Accept: My child is not going to have a normal experience this year and is doing the best they can, somethings might be missed/not learned that otherwise would have been learned had school stayed in session, I might actually be able to teach my child something they wouldn't have learned from their teacher. Processing a variety of worries with this activity might immediately help, or you might continue to notice a struggle. If so, it may be helpful to repeat the following phrase in meditation: "Even though my mind tells me (insert worry), I can be true to myself and try (insert something you can do), I can also let


go and accept (insert thing to let go of)." Give it some time and notice what starts to improve.  Best of luck,


Tyler Andrus, LCSW


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