Creating an Anxiety Toolbox in Uncertain Times from WCFS School Psychologist John Scardina (four minute read)
We certainly need tools right now to deal with our national health emergency. Anxiety is a natural reaction to uncertainty about the future, and uncertainty has become a fixture in our daily lives.

Here is a cognitive model of anxiety:
Anxiety = Risk/Resources

This has great appeal for me: we can reduce risk, but we can also increase ourresources to reduce our anxiety. As we are moving forward, here are our challenges:

● How do we accurately assess risk? Let’s use clear medical evidence rather than social media posts. Let’s each be well-informed and follow the guidelines provided by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Let’s also be clear with our children that we are doing what is necessary to be safe and healthy. Children can handle risk when they see usdoing the best we can to acknowledge our fears, learn all we can from the best sources to handle the situation, and apply our knowledge to our family life with confidence and love.

● How do we increase our resources – as individuals, as family members,as local community members, and as citizens of the world?
Here are some simple ideas to develop our resources:

● As individuals we can take time each day to check in with our own gratitude list: what are five things I am grateful in my life right now? Gratitude reinforces our own inner resources. Stay focused on what is right in your life.
● As families we can share our gratitude lists and also take advantage of this time we are home together. Let’s return to family rituals that have sustained families for time immemorial: shared meals, reading aloud together, time spent in nature shared responsibility for meal preparation, engaging in artistic endeavors, prayer and spiritual practices like grace before meals, shared readings from the books of our faith, and recognition of that of God in one another.
● Our communities include many individuals with many more needs that we are dealing with ourselves. Let’s check in with our neighbors and see how we can share our riches and strengths. Families that engage in service to others grow in resilience and unity. Be safe but be present as much as is possible in your community: Humans can maintain social distance and still promote connectedness. Make a call, send a text, write a note, bake a cake – stay connected.
● Our global community is in turmoil. Let’s realize that nationalism does not promote well-being for all. I am reminded of the bumper sticker that states, “God bless the whole world – no exceptions.” As we celebrate our own family heritage and our diverse communities with people from around the world, let’s rememberthat when we are face-to-face with one another we realize that we are all one species.

We are certainly experiencing a “new normal” as we deal with this pandemic. Anxiety can be managed by reducing risk and increasing resources. When we look back on these days, will we focus on the fears that we felt, or will we celebrate the ways in which we grew as individuals, families, and communities in spite of our fears?