Worry works like our body’s warning system. It hyper focuses our attention on one or a few of the worst possible outcomes. Anxiety occurs when we get stuck in that vantage point and can’t seem to see anything else.
When it comes to a health pandemic as enormous and global as Covid 19, worry is a real concern for many people around the globe. The thing to remember is that worry is there to help you.
How does worry help you? It is amazing. Worry’s super clear screenshot of one possible future outcome is the perfect way to see how to keep that possibility from happening.
What can you see in that possible future that you can prevent or limit the chances of it happening? There are many places in that picture that you have a direct influence over.
When you pair all that you learn from your worry about how to avoid that outcome in that same way with the information that you research from the CDC or whatever avenue you choose you are suddenly armed with a wealth of knowledge to help you as much as possible prevent the worst parts of the worrisome outcome.
Knowledge is power, you can trust in this knowledge and that alone will alleviate much of the fear. Take all the precautions you can take, control what is in your power to control to ensure that worrisome outcome is avoided or limited.
Another way worry will overtake us in a pandemic is our worry for other people that we cannot control so easily. Sometimes people have differing standards and beliefs and Covid 19 is not an exception to this.
“My adult son doesn’t take this seriously enough, how can I stay safe and be around him? How can I convince him to be more cautious?” or “My mother worries herself sick over the idea that she or someone she loves will get sick. How can I help her find a healthy middle area where she doesn’t worry to this degree?”
These are questions that I hear often lately. The truth is, we cannot control other people and sometimes they will let us down. All we can do is share with them the knowledge that we have. It is up to them how they choose to use that information.
In these types of situations, I recommend that you understand and accept the limits of your own responsibility. You can only do what you can do so you cannot carry the weight of the responsibility of other’s choices. As long as you are doing everything right by you as far as you understand to be true then you are doing all you can. This is where your responsibility ends.
Accepting this fact is really the most difficult part to deal with. Instead we often opt to carry the responsibility of other’s choices and therefore continuously punish ourselves with stress over things outside of our control.
To accept your own limitations gets easier with practice. Accepting them in no way means you must be okay with them. You can constantly be pushing yourself to grow past your limits but do it respecting that they are there. In this case of worrying about others, it is okay to attempt to convince them of your perspective because they are so important to you. It is not okay to allow the stress or weight of their choices to heavily burden you. This is where it crosses a line.
Accepting that other’s choices are their own responsibility is essential here, young children are the exception to this rule in dangerous cases. The minute you become emotionally bent out of shape because that person is not choosing the way you feel they should, you begin shouldering the responsibility for their choices as if there was something you could do that you aren’t doing.If you’ve done all that you can then your responsibility ends there. Inviting stress by worrying over things you cannot control is very damaging to you. Let them learn from their mistakes the hard way if needed and be a safe retreat for them to come to for an understanding of how to make it better next time.
Bottom line, accept and understand the limitations of your control. Know that the image worry shows you so clearly is one possible option only, and the reason for you seeing and feeling that outcome strongly is so that you can do everything in your power to ensure it is lessened or avoided entirely. As long as you are doing your best at these things worry has done its job and you can trust that if something still happens there was nothing more you could have done. You are not responsible or capable to achieve anything that is beyond your control, so you can let yourself off the hook for the rest of the responsibility and be proud.
I know these ideas are easier said than done, but I also know they come easier the more that you practice them. Start small, start where you are, and work to take comfort in the understanding that you are doing the best that you know how and that is enough.
Stay safe out there…