COVID-19 Anxiety and methods of copingPosted on 03/08/2020
Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – especially about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we think that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations (some can be very strong such as feeling sick, or feeling tightness in your chest.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) is impacting all our lives, and we know that the usual advice might not quite apply. Some ideas for looking after yourself may feel unrealistic right now. And some treatment and support options may be a little harder to access, or may be unavailable for a little while. But we hope that you can still find information here that helps you understand what you’re going through, and find a positive path forward.
Here are some ways to cope with anxiety:
1) Breathe deeply
When we get anxious the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response is activated. This response is the body’s way of protecting you in a threatening situation. It is a series of changes in the body including the release of adrenaline and an increase in heart rate which are designed to help you be stronger (fight) or help you move faster (flight), all very useful if we are under attack, but not very useful if you are going to the supermarket for example. So just breathing deeply can help the body settle down to its more natural equilibrium. I think it is useful to imagine you are blowing up a balloon of your favourite colour. Take a deep breath in and notice how your stomach rises as you inhale which allows your lungs to take in maximum air, then let a long, slow, breath out as if you are filling your balloon with air, and do this three times.
2) Question your thoughts
Our mind can play tricks on us when we are anxious and our thinking can become distorted. For example, a friend failing to return a text may lead you to think that they are not talking to you. Before you accept the thought, which will undoubtedly fuel your anxiety, ask yourself is that anxious thought a “fact or an opinion?” If it is an opinion, you may be getting anxious for nothing.
3) Test it out
Often, when we get anxious about things, we are making a negative prediction about what will happen, for example I can’t go to that party on my own because no one will talk to me. If you make negative predictions, be like a scientist and test it out or how will you ever know if your prediction was right?
4) Don’t fall into the avoidance trap
Anxiety is an uncomfortable emotion and many people fall into the trap of avoiding the thing or situation they fear so that they don’t experience the anxiety, for example avoiding driving on a motorway because they fear being hit by a lorry. However, when you avoid situations, you are not dealing with the anxiety so life can become more and more difficult as you work hard to avoid all the things you fear, and eventually you may end up in a situation where you are trying to avoid more and more situations. Because you haven’t dealt with the fear, the anxiety feels even worse. So face your fear. You will feel anxious but if you repeatedly face it, your body adjusts to the thing you fear and your physical anxiety reduces. If facing your fear is daunting, try breaking it down into small steps, for example drive on a motorway for one junction, do this repeatedly until you notice your anxiety reduce, then increase it to two junctions etc.
Anxiety, although uncomfortable, is a normal emotion and no matter how much you want to get rid of it, we all feel anxious from time to time. Accepting anxiety, can be just like accepting that sometimes we feel angry, or sometimes we feel sad and sometimes we feel happy, and just like those other emotions, anxiety will pass. However, if your anxiety is long term and affecting your day-to-day life you shouldn’t just accept it in order to feel better, you should seek support.
You can also find lots of resources in our coronavirus information hub.
Miss Kiri’s top tips:
- Do Something You Love
Whether thats running, reading a new book, singing in the shower, playing football in the garden or dancing around your living room to your favourite songs. Hone in on what makes you feel good and immerse yourself to block out the noise for 30 minutes. Releasing endorphins will increase your mood and put you in a more rational position to think about the surrounding world. So, be sure to make some “me time” in your day. Everyday.
- Spend Time with Those Who Make You Feel Good
Simply spending time with friends or family just socialising can make a wonderful impact on how you feel. Understandably during these current times, this has been difficult but with restrictions easing, you could catch up in a park and have a picnic, go for brunch or a coffee.
- Social Media Detox
Take a break from social media like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram. We can sometimes subconsciously flood our minds with images and knowledge that can make us feel uneasy and cause our anxiety to thrive. Take a step away or limit the amount you’re spending on social media. Another great tip is to unfollow any pages or accounts that don’t make you feel good or serve a purpose in your happiness.
- Talk to a close friend or family member about how you feel
Its easy to assume you can conquer these feelings alone, but truth be told…talking and discussing how you feel out loud can have a huge positive impact.
It may not fix why you feel that way but reassurance and acknowledgement from a close peer or family member can be super helpful.
Easier said than done we know, but like ‘doing something you love’ you should also just take a moment to breathe and be present. Why not try some meditation or yoga? Perhaps even pop on a podcast you like and lay down for 20 minutes and relax. Relaxing can also be in the form of self care this could be painting your nails, putting on an extra hair mask or running a bubbly bath.
- Do Something Kind for Someone Else
A note? a small gift? a text message? Just some of the ways in which you can feel good by making someone else feel good! You will be surprised at how a gesture, something as small as a text message, saying how much you appreciate their friendship to a best friend can give both you and them a sense of purpose.