With thanks to Zoe Southcott -MNCS Accredited for writing this blog.
Understandably many people are experiencing an increase in anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic. Anxiety is an umbrella term that covers several different forms of experience such as rumination, worrying, uneasiness, apprehension, and fear about future uncertainties. Anxiety is a powerful emotion that when experienced to excess may both physical and psychological health.
When we are suffering from excessive anxiety we may experience:
Unrealistic or excessive worry
Exaggerated startled reactions
Lump in throat
Racing or pounding heart
Preoccupation over the fear and an inability to focus on other things
It can be tempting to manage anxiety using unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, binge eating, or zoning out in front of the TV or a video games. These mechanisms are understandable as they help to numb us to our stress and anxiety, but there are far healthier ways in which to manage our emotions. So how we can manage our anxieties during this global pandemic?
Whilst we are learning something new about covid19 every day we do know a lot about the mind and regulating emotions. Below are 10 suggestions that may help you to relieve your anxiety:
Talk about the problem with someone you feel comfortable with.
Take a break from your worry using mindfulness.
Focus on things that make you feel happy and supported.
Self soothe using your senses.
See a therapist.
Check your news sources and stick to the facts.
Make time to relax.
Look after your body.
Get a decent night’s sleep.
Staying connected with people is the top suggestion given by the NHS is terms of managing anxiety. Of course, at the moment, this feels a bit difficult because of the advice we have been given about social distancing but staying in touch via phone calls, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person would really help to mitigate some of our most anxious feelings.
Although we cannot meet up with friends and family in person, we can utilise video calls and the phone to great effect. Connection with others is such an intrinsic human need. Many self-help groups have moved their meetings online to platforms like Zoom. It can be really healing to reach out and connect with like-minded people. Self-isolating doesn’t necessarily mean being isolated.
Rather than excessively focusing on the news or on our own anxious thoughts we can purposefully choose to take a break from our worrying thoughts by shifting our attention and focusing mindfully on another activity. This could be formal mindfulness meditation but it can also be mindfully listening to music or going for a walk – maintain that 2 metres distance of course.
It can be tempting to spend too much time reading anxiety provoking content on the internet. Instead try to turn your attention to things you enjoy, or find interesting. You could do this by doing an online course, drawing, gardening, or taking time to connect with others via video calls.
There are lots of people producing a lot of free and accessible content online. such as remote meditation classes, courses, quizzes, and other social events.
It can feel very empowering to reclaim a sense of safety and a new kind of normal!
Make a list of pleasurable activities that you can enjoy doing during lockdown and add them to your calendar to remind your self – be specific in terms of what, when, where, and how.
Make a list of pleasing sensations. Each day choose one thing that feels good such as taking a warm bath, lighting lovely smelling incense, or stroking our pet. Start today.
If talking about the problem with friends, family, or peers doesn’t help, and relaxation techniques aren’t cutting it seek professional consultation.
Since the start of the pandemic therapists and clients are regarding online availability as a necessity. Many therapists who usually only work face-to-face are now providing online support to their clients.
Not everyone needs or wants to be on medication, but if you already have a mental or physical condition it is important to look after yourself and continue to take your medication as prescribed. Prioritise getting that prescription.
Be careful where you get your news from by using reliable sites such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the NHS. It is a great idea to stay informed about the latest guidelines regarding Covid19 but choose your sources wisely.
The internet, particularly social media, is notorious for being host to incorrect information or ‘fake news’. While Facebook and YouTube are working to combat misinformation there are still many thousands of people offering up fake news in the form of conspiracy theories and even fake cures for Covid19.
Everybody needs to take a break sometimes, even if it is just for a few minutes. Going for a walk, or focusing on your own needs for a while instead of everyone else’s is necessary if we are to successfully regulate our emotions. Meditation and slowing the breath can definitely help with this. Taking time to relax can help calm the flight or fight response, and lower the heart rate.
If you can make time each day to really let your body calm down, and relax that will really help mitigate the symptoms of anxiety.
Looking after your body will really reduce your physical vulnerability. Health factors can really impact your emotions so it’s a great idea to mindful about what you eat, and your use of things like alcohol, the amount of exercise you do, the amount of sleep you get, and the levels of physical discomfort you may be feeling. Do your best to notice how they are influencing your mood and consider making healthy adjustments where appropriate.
Without a reasonable amount of sleep, it is pretty much impossible to feel healthy either emotionally or physically. Try to eliminate activities that interfere with you getting a good night’s sleep, perhaps that means not looking at screens in bed or right before bed. Avoid alcohol and caffeine and try to allow yourself 8 hours of sleep per night and you may begin to notice some improvements in your mental emotional and physical health.
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