It's okay to be anxious.

On February 26th, I arrived home from work to discover my ten-year-old daughter was sick. Some of you might recognize her, she is often helping patrons in the summer or on weekends. Fearing she had the flu, I took her into the clinic for a diagnosis. My spidey senses were up for some reason - my kid is rarely sick and something felt off. She tested negative for the flu and was diagnosed with an Upper Respiratory Infection and we were sent home. Her illness started with extreme fatigue, lack of appetite, temp ranging between 101 and 103, and a funny lump feeling in her larynx. That lump would turn into a dry cough and sore throat. By the seventh day, she still had a fever and her cough was sometimes dry/sometimes wet so we went back in and a chest x-ray diagnosed her with pneumonia. In the background, the coronavirus was making headlines and I learned at least a third of her classmates were out sick around the same time. 

Photo by Stephanie LiskeyFor most of that time, I was pretty much in denial that she could have coronavirus, and most of my concern centered around possibly contracting the viral illness that was starting to officially pop up in my home state of Florida and bringing it back to my now immune-compromised child. Just prior to her getting sick, I too felt like I was coming down with something and did my usual protocol when I get that "Oh man, I'm about to be taken down by the funk!" feeling (hydrogen peroxide in the ears, Wellness Formula from Planetary Herbals and some Occiccillium) which I had to repeat a few days later when I felt something coming on again. I didn't get sick. 

What I did do, much sooner than most people, is learn about coronavirus and understand the importance of social distancing because I was stuck at home researching the heck out of it. I started "don't panic, but be prudent" flag waving on my Facebook profile probably three weeks before most folks. I watched the internet spout statistics about hospital beds and ventilators early on, then saw Italy's medical system collapse under the weight as predicted. 

I'm writing to you post-pneumonia and post-major-anxiety with a happy and healthy kid. After an initial three weeks of near-total isolation, we temporarily moved in with my boyfriend the day we got the thumbs up that her lungs are clear in order to navigate the pandemic together. We are essentially quarantined, together for now, for a month longer than the rest of our community. (My boyfriend was also stuck at home, his son did have the flu).  I got a head start on this, and I can't help but think that it was so I could know and understand what others might be going through so I could offer my support. 

So let me start by saying: It's okay to feel anxious, to be stressed out and to be on the edge of panic. We're in a pandemic, this is uncharted territory for our global population since 1918. It's reasonable to feel that way even if you and yours are perfectly healthy. If you are in a high-risk category, care for someone who is or work an essential service and risk exposure, then, yeah: you're going to have a range of emotions that make you uncomfortable. My colleague Chonteau reminded us in a recent video-conference: anxiety is a normal, healthy response to an abnormal situation.

In between temperature checks and doses of expectorant, worst-case scenarios were running like wild horses through my mind and moral quandaries of venturing out were tangled up with my feelings of responsibility towards my workers and business. Not being able to hug my baby (I didn't want to infect her with coronavirus on the off-chance I contracted it on an early excursion to the pharmacy or grocery store) or my boyfriend was rougher than I expected. Just when you need to snuggle the most, you feel stressed you might make the situation worse.

The good news is, that when we feel anxious and uncomfortable, we can turn to some tools to help us navigate the uncertainty. We can't control the coronavirus, but we can control our preparedness. Instead of disassociating from the uncomfortable new reality we're in or falling into a panic we can't shake, we can embrace a culture of care, make pragmatic choices and exhibit moral leadership when able. What has worked for me and my personality:

    1. Getting hyper-informed about how to prevent, treat and care for those infected by coronavirus. This helps me stock my pantry and my medicine cabinet with the right stuff (I'll write about that next). Knowing that our healthcare system will likely be overloaded means that we will have to rely on home remedies and the wisdom of Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Herbalism to be our safety net as a compliment to an allopathic path, which may be blocked for many people. This takes the burden off of hospitals so they can focus on those who are at the stage they absolutely need oxygen and ventilators to survive. [See our Respiratory Rescue Collection and Immunity Collection]
    2. Turning to my social safety net. I allowed friends to deliver food and medicine from the grocery store, asked in my neighborhood forum for a couple of face masks the day I had to bring my daughter out for her check-up (thanks neighbor I've never even met!) and letting myself fall a little bit apart with my boyfriend and close friends on the phone. I was holding myself tightly together while she had pneumonia and need a nightly vent to just cry if I needed it and express my worries to a listening ear. We just launched a Spiral Circle Facebook group to connect our patrons to one another for mutual aide and inspiration. 
    3. Looking for the helpers. Ironically, I was practicing a speech about localism and being a good neighbor that ended up getting canceled when social distancing measures were finally put into place. I've always had a fondness for looking towards solutions, doing my part to be a helper, and elevating other helpers too. I'm keeping a good news channel on my Dear Nice People Facebook page. While I am very sober about the harsh realities coming our way in the next several months, I also see a lot of opportunity in this to collectively reimagine what our society can do to reinvent itself. Our society is suffering shocks that will ultimately reveal our interconnectedness and I'm optimistic that it will be eye-opening enough to dramatically shift us into a culture that actually puts care first.
    4. Turning to natural anti-anxiety remedies. There are lots of lovely herbs that help you find your chill and they come in a variety of delivery methods. [See our Serenity Now Collection for more ideas].
      • Herbal Tea: I brew a huge vat of hot tea every morning and keep warm in a thermos to drink all day. My daytime formula is Nettles (anti-inflammatory/multi-vitamin), Lemon Balm (nervine), Roses (magical), Roobios (DNA builder), Lemongrass (mostly for flavor) with Cumin, Coriander and Fennel seeds for digestive support. For nighttime, I blended the ultra-relaxing Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, Tulsi, Roses together. If I had loose muellin on me, I would probably add that to both mixes to help support the lungs.
      • Flower Essence: the most effective remedies for emotional imbalance can be used discreetly by putting a few drops in any beverage: Bach's Rescue Remedy, Calm Drops from Calm A Mama or Quintessential Balance from Star Essence.
      • Power Plant: Edible marijuana is probably super helpful, in moderation, for those who have a prescription or live in states where it is legal recreationally. I'd probably pass on the puffing, though, to give my lungs their best chance.
      • Essential Oils: We used Banditos to help purify the air (gives mama relief just knowing I'm doing something) and Peace & Purification Anointing Oil to relax us through our olfactory senses.
      • Homeopathic: Hyland's Calms Forte has been essential in my bag of calming tricks since I was introduced to it after a home invasion by a friend's mom. Even though it is billed as a sleep aid, it doesn't actually make you sleepy - it just addresses racing thoughts. 

    Here's what I actively avoid at this stage:

    1. Inflammatory media. You might be into movies on pandemics, but I take a hard pass. 
    2. Conspiracy theories. I'm old enough to know that those in power won't miss an opportunity to grab for power so I'm sure that there's subterfuge out there, but there's little to anything I can do about it right now so better to lessen my worry load. 
    3. Unhealthy habits. No drinking alcohol, staying up late, or soda for me. I've got three kids in the house and I need to be well-rested and give my mind, body and emotions their best foundation to operate from. 
    4. Excess News. Once I had devoured enough news to realize the seriousness of this pandemic and made the decision to shelter in place before my city even issued an order, I pulled back on my news consumption big time. It's going to get pretty icky out there and, again, I just ask myself what is my responsibility in this? Mostly, to stay at home to stop the spread of this. I do peek at NPR and a few articles my friends are sharing every other day, but once I was satisfied my brain knew everything it needed to know to be a good citizen and care for my family, I got off the news obsession and stopped watching the infection charts.

    We can carve out plenty of space for tend to our emotional health and take advantage to maximize our serenity when we are able. I've taken it to heart that airplane adage to put on your own oxygen mask first before you help others. It's been five weeks since my daughter first fell ill and a week and a half since she was given the all-clear before I've had the capacity to begin serving my community by writing this entry. I focused on both my immediate family and prioritized the health and needs of our staff and patrons here at Spiral Circle before I felt ready to expand my circle of care. 

    Take it easy. Go slow. Give yourself room to feel your feelings and use tools in your toolbox that you know help you reduce anxiety. What works for me may not be right for you and vice versa. I trust you to be on your own journey of discovery at this time. You have permission to put on your own safety masks first. Preventing burnout and overwhelm is the best avenue for finding our way through these interesting times.  

    Julie Wilder

    Lover of herbal tea, rubies and community, Julie walks the Goddess path in the Wise Woman tradition. She is co-owner and manager of Spiral Circle as well as a product developer, mother and localist. In the past, she has been a graphic designer, organic food restauranteur and public radio talk show host focused on society and culture.
    Anxiety

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