Anxiety and COVID-19

As many people are, I’m finding myself checking the news much more frequently than I do under normal circumstances. Every day feels like a rapid fire of changes and it’s hard to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics unfolding with COVID-19. There are so many things that we are validly concerned about as this virus impacts every single one of us in varying ways and degrees in ways that are changing constantly. The pace of change is fast. I don’t know about you, but when I spend too much time in all that I am concerned about, I physically feel it in the tightening of my chest. When I get mired in these concerns, my chest feels heavy and I get anxious. I find myself taking big, slow breaths to try to combat it.

Dr. Stephen Covey said, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” There are many things that I don’t have control over, but I do have a choice in how I respond to it. I’ve been practicing an exercise that we use here at Summit when we deliver training workshops such as our High Performance Teams workshop: Stephen Covey’s Circles of Influence and Concern model.

Covey explains the Circle of Concern as the wide range of concerns we have that we can do nothing about, such as the economy, severe weather, climate change and COVID-19. The Circle of Influence encompasses those things that we can do something about – they are concerns that we have some control or influence over.

Create Your Own Circle of Influence and Concern

Try this exercise alone, with your family, or virtually with your work team.

1. On a large sheet of paper, draw a big circle, this is the Circle of Concern.

Circle of Influence

2. Get your team/family members to write their areas of concern on sticky notes and put them in the circle. There will be lots of things that are of concern to them or factors that could be affecting how they feel. 

3. When they’re done, draw another smaller circle in the middle of the first circle – this is the Circle of Control. These are the things they can control.

4. In conversation, move all the sticky notes in the big Circle of Concern that they can actively control, into the middle Circle of Control. People might have stress and anxiety over the things they’ve written down and will feel they don’t have any control over. Having no control is alarming.

5. So, draw another circle in between the first two – between the circles of Concern and Control. This is the Circle of Influence.

6. Get family/team members to look at the ways they could influence some of the things that are out of their control. Maybe they can’t control them, but could they influence them? E.g. could they actively help a neighbour, decide what your response or attitude will be, forge a better work/family relationship, reduce costs in small ways, explore the benefits to extra time, etc…

7. Go through all the notes that are in the Circle of Concern and together try to move them into the Circle of Influence.

8. When you explore these further, if you think about them differently, you may also discover solutions and suggestions in the group…and will likely find your circle of influence expanding as you discuss what you do have influence over.

This is an exercise of resilience and proactivity. I cannot influence the spread of COVID-19 (the circumstances) other than a few choices that I can make in hand washing and social distancing. My proactive Circle of Influence decisions, however, will impact my inner world (how I feel) and grow my ability to choose how I respond. It moves me from a place of anxiety to a place of choice.

As a point of influence, I invite you to share this tool with your friends, family, and work teams to move more people from anxiety and worry towards choice. Being at choice and influence is where we see people helping in ways they can, sharing, and enjoying nature/time/family/solitude. So, when my chest tightens, it is my invitation back to this exercise and I invite you to join me.

To experience more of our impactful experiential activities, please check out our Training Workshops. In a time of massive disruption and change, organizations need to stay flexible, and our Navigating Change workshop is uniquely tailored to this need.