Let’s face it. It has been a rough year. Last April, we were just becoming aware of the coronavirus and what would be known as the COVID 19 Pandemic. What some thought would have been sorted out in a few months, lingered on, and has changed many facets of our everyday lives. We’ve been put to the test, suffered many losses, and have been forced to learn new ways to adapt and cope. It’s no wonder that, for many, the Pandemic has been connected to increased perfectionism and anxiety. For some, it’s anxious uncertainty about the future (health, job loss). For others, it might manifest while striving for perfection as we tackle new responsibilities (virtual learning, working from home). But whatever the case, just know that we are all new to this particular type of stress, and it’s ok to recognize it as such.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Many of us know the feeling of striving for perfection. We approach each project, task, or chore as if it’s a competition. Even minor endeavors can become opportunities to shine or stand out from the crowd. We push ourselves in our career, educational, and personal goals because anything less than perfection is not acceptable. We make no room for mistakes. But why do we do this? We have to ask ourselves what happens when things are not perfect. Is it fear of being seen as incompetent? Fear of letting ourselves or others down? Additionally, the need for perfection can lead to procrastination. We often can’t start a project or finish unless everything is perfect. It can become self-sabotaging and produce anxiety. This is like refusing to leave the house until all the traffic lights turn green.
What’s interesting is that anxiety and perfectionism are related. There is an element of fear that fuels them both. With anxiety, the fear of the unknown or perceived unfortunate future events are the main players. When anxious, our thoughts are anchored in ruminating self-talk of “what if.” There is a need to avoid certain outcomes that we perceive as fearful or uncomfortable. This, in turn, can cause us to avoid certain activities or places. Like the need to achieve perfection, anxious worry and doubt become overwhelming and can also result in procrastination.
While anxiety and perfectionism can be problematic on any regular day, the pandemic has added a level of difficulty that makes them even harder to navigate. This is simply because some of the concerns about the pandemic are valid. The heightened awareness and hypervigilance that many of us experience has surfaced due to the devastating effects on the economy, the health of family and friends, and isolation. We are taking on tasks and responsibilities that we never thought we would have, and it’s understandable to be concerned about what the future will bring. However, it’s important to give ourselves grace and understand that we are all learning as we go.
What Can You Do?
Here are some ways that we can decrease or avoid feeling overly anxious or overwhelmed by perfectionism during the Pandemic
- Set Limits: It’s ok to say no to projects that will overwhelm you and put too much on your plate. Set a limit for how much extra work you will take on, if any, and stick to it.
- Ask for help: Part of self-care is knowing that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Even if you can do it all alone, why should you? Knowing how to designate tasks to others is a skill. Embrace it.
- Stay connected: Set a regular time to call, Face Time, Zoom, or group chat with family or friends. Follow guidelines for in-person visits when safe. Human connections are valuable, so cultivate them as much as possible.
- Move: Get in motion and exercise at your own pace. Take a walk, dance, play with the kids, work in the garden, or do any activities you enjoy that get your heart pumping and blood flowing. Exercise can improve your mood.
- Practice grounding: Explore grounding activities that help “ground” you in the present. Anxiety harnesses negative or catastrophizing self-talk to keep us focused on things that haven’t happened. Grounding activities use your five senses to cause you to focus on the present long enough for the anxiety to pass.
- Practice Gratitude: Start a habit of focusing on the things you are grateful for in spite of all the uncertainty.
How Can Central Arkansas Group Counseling Help?
If you find that you need someone to talk to please reach out to the therapists and staff of Central Arkansas Group Counseling. We have locations in North Little Rock, Benton, and Conway, Arkansas. You can receive assistance for a variety of concerns working with us. Each therapist is skilled in a variety of treatment models and specialties. Telehealth counseling is available as well as in-person sessions. You can choose from Individual Counseling, Group Counseling, or Family, Couples, and Marriage Counseling.