How Busying the Mind Helps One Woman With an Anxiety Disorder During the Pandemic

A mental health educator, fundraiser, speaker, and advocate who lives with an anxiety disorder shares how her kids taught her the importance of writing, creating, socializing, and moving your body in times of uncertainty.

Being at home 24/7 with my husband and three teenagers has, in many ways, been wonderful. Having a much more relaxed schedule and nowhere to go has meant that we’ve been able to slow down as a family. We have dinner together every night, play games, and have meaningful conversations that don’t end abruptly with someone rushing out to an activity or plans with friends.

Of course, not everything is always quite so rosy. We’ve had some family blow ups, but as the days go on, we’re getting better at communicating more effectively. We talk about how we’re feeling and acknowledge each other’s fears and concerns without being dismissive. And we’ve reached a point where we’re learning coping mechanisms from each other.

My kids have adapted so well to this new normal. They’re taking their remote learning seriously, they exercise daily, and they’ve gotten good at doing their chores, like laundry. My youngest daughter, for example, has taken up painting, taught herself to play the ukulele, practices her basketball skills in the driveway, and organizes themed Zoom parties (Zarties!) with her friends. She’s inspired me to exercise, schedule virtual get-togethers with my friends, and return to art journaling (which can help get rid of negative energy), a hobby I’d loved but neglected over the years. It’s an amazing stress release that does wonders for my mental health.

When you live with an anxiety disorder, there’s nothing worse than the unknown. I like to anticipate, plan, and strategize so I feel more in control. But the whole world is in a holding pattern, therefore planning or strategizing just isn’t possible. So, I’ve learned to use a day-by-day approach to get through this time. Every day, I concentrate on exercising, writing, creating, and bonding virtually with my friends. The anxiety is still there, but I’ve learned that I have the power to keep it at a low simmer rather than a rolling boil.

One day, when all of this is behind us, I hope we’ll look back on this time and remember it with the solemnity it deserves, but also with fondness and a sense of pride. We’ve already learned so much as a family — about resilience, perseverance, and communication — and I truly believe we’ll come out better on the other side.

Elizabeth Wiener is a mental health educator, fundraiser, speaker and advocate, fueled by her own struggle with depression and anxiety. She is one half of Wise Women (@wisewomencanada).