How To Manage Our Coronavirus Anxiety on 'Red Table Talk'

This episode of Red Table Talk finds psychologist Dr. Ramani and motivational speaker Jay Shetty at the red table along with hosts Jada Pinkett-Smith, her daughter Willow Smith, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris. Together they tackle the topic of anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic. How can we cope with the grief, the uncertainty, and the overwhelming fear, in some cases, of the pandemic’s effects on our physical and mental health, our economy, our futures? Dr. Ramani says a routine has been helpful for her; Jay is trying to concentrate on what he can do to be helpful. But there are a lot of tools to help calm our minds and help us focus on what we can control, stay present, and be gentle with ourselves.

First of all, Dr. Ramani wants us all to understand that we are not “crazy.” Usually, our frontal cortex is the part of our brain that drives the car, she explains, but right now we’re all at the mercy of our amygdalas, the part of the brain that is “all fear, all the time.” Everything feels like a threat, even normal things like giving hugs or going to the grocery store. And on top of that, everyone is grieving, too. Many people are grieving for friends or family members who have died; even more of us are grieving for other losses, like career opportunities, promotions, wedding ceremonies, rites of passage like proms and graduations, cancelled events or vacations, and more. “People are feeling guilt over their grief, like ‘Who am I to be grieving when everyone is dying and sick?’ But it’s okay to grieve,” Dr. Ramani says. “There is no loss too small.” Jay advises saying it out loud, even if no one is listening. “When you hear yourself, you get to be objective for yourself,” he points out.  

A lot of us are feeling isolated and alone, as well – or perhaps not alone enough, in the case of quarantined families who may be feeling a little crowded right now. For the first group, Jay says he hopes we begin to “rewire” our relationship to being alone. Instead of “loneliness,” think about the word “solitude” and all it has to offer: chances to be still, to drink tea, read a book, or learn something new. While we can't share space with people right now, we can share experiences virtually: Have dinner together, play a game, anything to help you feel connected. For those of us craving more alone time, he says the biggest mistake is that we’ll communicate our need to be alone to our partners, but not why we need to be alone. So our partners start to wonder if they’ve done something to turn us away from them, and it can cause problems. Instead, ask for specifics: “I need just a couple of hours to myself right now to read, or to take a bath, or whatever.” More than likely, they’ll be grateful for that solitude as well.

They also share some good practices for deep breathing and informal mindfulness that we can practice anytime, anywhere, and answer other listener questions about their specific situations; listen to the episode for all this calming information and much more on Red Table Talk.

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