Part II

Reynolds Cancer Support House Support Group Facilitator, Gregory Roberts, Ph.D., continues his piece on emotional and spiritual health amidst the pandemic.  Today he shares some practical ways to manage anxiety.   

What are the consequences of higher anxiety and what are some tools we can use to face it?

The effects of anxiety are significant comparable to the degree of the anxiety. Anxiety can manifest very easily from the sense of loss of control.  As well the fear of significant loss. Every good attorney may know a lot about facilitating a “fear of loss”.  Losing a job, losing a loved one, losing our own health, losing daily routine and intimate contact with friends and family, these are all severe fears.  The concern is that our reactions to stress will react out of us either now in these moments or later.  Our tension and our stress are cumulative and at some point, that energy will come out. Skill and awareness to manage the anxiety is crucial.

There is great in being able to practice “being in the moment”.  Some have no idea what that means. Being in the moment psychologically, we are told is a deliberate and conscious event. The three parts of our personalities: one, the survival, selfish, carnal, food, sex, and anger parts of ourselves will conflict with our awareness to self-regulate, and the self-deprecating, judging, and condemning part of ourselves will do just that -guilt and shame us into a sad, anxious, and depressed self.  The key is to increase our ego strength and deliberately and consciously CHOOSE to be in the moment.  This happens in focused prayer time for some and a meditative state of focus—for example to watch the sunset with no technology and no distraction. These are other anti-anxiety suggestions:

  • Establish a structure, a consistency and schedule–we know this increases security and is good for the brain. It is about predictability and consistency. The familiar things calm us down.
  • Avoid the news except for maybe one brief exposure. Some of remember when the news was only about a 7 minutes broadcast at 6pm. Now it is ten or more 24-hour channels.
  • Walk
  • Pray
  • Call friends
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Do some physical activity
  • Assess your fear and even consider the worst case scenario. Remind yourself that the worst-case scenario is statistically not likely to happen.
  • Write and note or letter and mail it snail mail
  • Accept and own your reaction and do not guilt or condemn yourself for that reaction.
  • Count your blessings every single day. Be grateful for more than one simple thing.

What recommendations do you have for people currently as we all try to manage our thoughts and feelings?  That is a great question; a question of self. What are we or can we learn about ourselves during this transitional disrupted and anxious time?  What have we valued that does not matter so much now like it did three months… ago?  …

Portions of this written piece are provided by Dr. Roberts from a podcast interview he conducted with Reverend Tasha Blackburn of First Presbyterian Church-Fort Smith.  Dr. Roberts facilitates cancer support groups for adult male cancer patients and fathers of pediatric cancer patients at the Reynolds Cancer Support House.