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Overcoming Anxiety During COVID – Suicide Prevention Month

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  • Shawna Burns
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The past few months of trying to navigate through a new world with COVID-19 have been tough and have left many of us feeling confused, overwhelmed, sad and even anxious. From worrying about whether or not to send our children to school to thinking, “Will I still have a job and be able to pay the bills”  “Will a loved one catch the virus?” or “Are my children and I going to be okay?” there have been so many unknowns.

When hard times in life happen, it’s important to remember that all of these emotions are normal and that there is nothing wrong with you if your mind continuously plays through these worries and fears. When the mind can’t wrap itself around something, especially a brand-new circumstance that is overwhelming, it can begin to replay those fears over and over in the mind like a broken record player. Sometimes, it feels as if you are trudging through heavy mud and can’t find an end in sight. When our minds can’t find an answer or is unsettled, it will keep working on overtime until it can make sense of the situation. This is where anxiety and even depression can start creeping in.

We must remember that just as our physical bodies require rest, our minds work the exact same way.  If your mind has been operating on overload and keeps playing frightening or worrisome scenarios over and over again, your mind simply needs to find rest.

Finding a peaceful place in nature to sit still for a few moments and take deep breaths can be a very beneficial way to help your mind rest. Sitting beside a flowing stream, a river, the ocean, or even a large tree in the woods can be a powerful way to reset and recharge your mind. Nature has a wonderful way of speaking to the soul and helping it find the “rest” that it needs.

Talking to a counselor, journaling, going for walks, using yoga and meditation are also wonderful ways to release anxiety, stop the broken record from replaying, and help the mind find rest and peace. .

Please, remember that overcoming anxiety doesn’t happen overnight! Just like learning something new can take time, helping your mind find experiences that allow it to relax and find peace can also take some time to learn, as well.

You can start today! Here are a few tips: 

  • Think of a place that brings your heart joy or helps you relax.
  • Find a way to allow your physical body to relax (lay down on your bed, porch swing or simply sit beside a tree).
  • Start by taking deep breaths and focus only on the sound of your breathing as it flows in and out.
  • Imagine a “peaceful place” where you would love to be (ocean, waterfall, river, etc.).
  • Use your imagination and go through your five senses as you explore this relaxing place in your mind.
    • What colors do you see? (i.e. teal ocean, blue clouds, white sand)
    • What sounds do you hear? (i.e. sea gulls, ocean waves, etc.)
    • What do you feel? (i.e. sand through your toes, cool ocean water, the sun's rays on your cheek etc.)
    • What do you taste? (i.e. cool drink of water, crisp ocean air)
    • What do you smell? (i.e. salty water, ocean air, etc.)
  • Continue to breathe and use your imagination as your body relaxes.
  • Remind yourself that, “In this place”, I am SAFE;  I am surrounded by LOVE and PEACE, and, in this moment, everything is going to be okay.”
  • Stay in this place as long as you are able to and return here as often as you can. This is how you help your mind relax, slow down and find peace.
  • Please, always remember that emotional rest is vital to your overall health and is a gateway to finding lasting, inner peace.

    Keep Learning:

    September is Suicide Prevention Month, and Arkansas PBS is sharing resources to help your family, children and students navigate this difficult topic with a series created by ArkansasIDEAS with an Arkansas teacher and counselor. While originally created for educators by ArkansasIDEAS, a partnership between ADE and Arkansas PBS for teacher professional development, the content has been made available as a public resource.

    In this 17-part digital series broken down by topic, blog author Shawna Burns – licensed professional counselor and founder of Seed Digging Wellness Center, shares personal stories and case studies that show the connections between those seeds, student behaviors, and the innate needs within all of us. Burns discusses the importance of recognizing suicide warning signs, being aware of risk factors, and having a plan for prevention.

    Delve deeper into the series and resources at myarkansaspbs.org/suicideprevention.

    About the author:

    Shawna Burns, LPC-S, LADAC-CS, SDP-S, is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor-Clinical Supervisor. She has counseled children and adults for the past 15 years and has created Seed Digging, a counseling approach that has helped hundreds of children and adults completely overcome mental health disorders and addictions. Shawna has written 4 books, mini curriculums, and has created live and online training programs, including the Seed Digging Trauma-Informed School-Based Health Model. She has trained in numerous school districts, mental health agencies, colleges, and at state and national conferences. One of her greatest desires is that children (and adults) will discover their amazing value and worth so that they can live a life full of joy and love.