The Now-Viral Graphic That's Helping Me Navigate My Pandemic Anxiety
It’s hard to know how to adapt when life changes come your way—let alone how to adapt in an unprecedented pandemic.
We’re all dealing with a lot of questions these days—about our health, finances, loved ones, and more—but there’s one question that continuously pops up in conversations I’ve had about recently: Who do I want to be during this pandemic?
It’s a tough question to answer. But podcaster and journalist Celina Canales created a viral graphic to help get to the root of the question itself—and it involves noticing three different "zones" you can operate in during this time. In the graphic, the three zones are fear, learning, and growth.
While these are far from the only "zones" or states of mind you can occupy in this time, the statements in each zone might help you name your needs and boundaries—and ultimately, help you navigate who you want to be in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
For me, they also serve as a reflection prompt to help me connect with myself. Here's how I like to think through each zone.
The Fear Zone
This zone might feel familiar—it was where I found myself at the beginning of the pandemic and where I am now, as we continue to process new information about variants.
If you find yourself in this zone, know that it’s OK and you’re not alone. If you’re here, you might be experiencing fear or anxiety about the pandemic and your future. Sometimes, as mentioned in the chart, this manifests in sitting in too much negative information, or hoarding items because of anxiety about the uncertain state of the world. In extreme cases, this fear can also lead to xenophobia and racism.
The fear you might be experiencing is human, but it’s important to remember that you can move forward from this place. In fact, doing so will have major impacts on your wellbeing. Research shows that living in a constant state of fear can weaken our immune system and impact our memory, fatigue levels, and more.
The Learning Zone
Once you’ve recognized you’re in the fear zone, you can move to the learning zone. In this zone, Canales’ graph suggests that you might be letting go of some of those fear-based compulsions.
It’s here you begin to let go of things outside of your control and ultimately shake the fatigue and overwhelm that can come with sitting with questions that might not have answers.
One way to let go of things you can’t control is by writing down all the uncertain questions in your mind—and thinking through which questions you can answer and which are out of your control. This will help you refocus your energy on what's in your power.
In the learning zone, you also start naming your emotions and accept them as they are—a major step in practicing compassion for yourself and for others.
Additionally, in this stage, you might find yourself verifying information you might be consuming and taking a more proactive approach when it comes to keeping yourself informed.
The Growth Zone
In the chart, Canales suggests that this final zone is about discovering your "why" during this time and using that to fuel how you show up for yourself and others around you.
You can try to do this by reflecting on your values. Naming the values you hold dear can help you find motivation and hope in your day-to-day.
Cultivating a mindfulness and gratitude practice can also help you continue to grow within this zone. How can you check-in with yourself more and develop a habit of listing what you’re grateful for?
While this zone feels like #goals, it's OK if you haven't reached it yet. Or: If you reached it for a day or two and then bounced back to fear the next.
These zones aren't meant to shame us, but to remind us that we can notice how we're doing now and take steps to return to how we want to be. It's an ongoing process of feeling, reflecting, and adjusting.
Regardless of what zone you are in now, remember that there is still room to grow. When you take the time to notice where you are, it becomes a helpful tool to navigate where you want to be in the future.
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