It’s a scary time. We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, with cities, towns and even entire countries shutting down. Some of us are in areas that have already been affected by coronavirus. People are getting ready for what may come. And all of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “What the hell is going to happen next?”
For lots of people, the uncertainty and the worry about coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. We don’t really know how all this is going to affect us or just how bad things could get. We tend to catastrophise and make everything a lot worse than it actually is, don’t we! But there are many things you can do, even in the midst of this horrific crisis, to manage your anxiety and fears.
Don’t keep checking the news!
It’s important to stay well informed, particularly about what’s happening in your own community, so that you can follow the safety procedures that are suggested, and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. However, there’s a lot of people who are misinformed and this information goes around as well, and tends to worry us! So please be very careful about what you read and watch on the news! If you stick to trusted sources like the World health organisation you won’t go far wrong.
Keep away from social media if you begin to feel overwhelmed.
If anxiety is an ongoing problem, think about limiting your media consumption say to thirty minutes every day or, If you’d feel better avoiding media entirely, ask someone you know and trust well to pass along any major updates you need to know about.
Concentrate on the things you can control
We are in a time of massive upheaval. There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen within our communities. When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what COULD happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your city or town, but you can take steps to reduce your own personal risk (and the risk you’ll unknowingly spread it to others), such as:
- Washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Not touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
- Staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
- Avoiding crowds and gatherings of 5 or more people.
- Avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
- Keeping 2 metres of distance between yourself and others when out.
- Following all recommendations from health authorities.
It’s natural to be concerned about what may happen if your work closes, your children have to stay home from school, you or someone you love gets sick, or you have to self-isolate. However, whilst these possibilities can be frightening to think about, being proactive can help relieve at least some of the anxiety.
- Write down specific worries you have about how coronavirus may disrupt your life. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break.
- List all the possible solutions you can think of. Include whatever comes to mind that could help you get by.
- Focus on things you CAN change, rather than circumstances beyond your control.
- Draw up an action plan. When you’re done, set it aside and resist the urge to go back to it until you need it, or your circumstances significantly change.
Real evidence shows that many people with coronavirus—particularly young, seemingly healthy people—don’t have symptoms but can still spread the virus. That’s why the biggest thing that most people can do right now to make a positive difference is to practice social distancing.
But social distancing comes with its own problems.
Humans are social beings. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and depression, and even impact our physical health. That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it, even as we cut back on in-person socializing.
- Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family. If you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, think about scheduling regular phone, chat, or Skype dates to counteract that tendency.
- Social media can be a powerful tool—not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances—but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us we’re not alone.
- Don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company—to laugh, share stories, and focus on other things going on in our lives.
This is an extraordinarily trying time, and all the normal things apply, such as eating healthy meals, getting plenty of sleep, and meditating. Beyond that, here are some tips for practicing self-care in the face of the unique disruptions caused by the coronavirus.
- Be kind to yourself. Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. You’re not alone in your struggles.
- Keep to a routine as best you can. Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, school, meal, or work schedule. This can help you maintain a sense of normalcy. If you have children, it will be better for them to keep to a routine too!
- Time for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your worries.
- Take walks if possible. Sunshine and fresh air will do you good. Even a walk around your neighbourhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey restrictions in your area.
- Find ways to exercise. Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While the gym and group classes are out, you can still cycle or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own bodyweight.
- Avoid self-medicating. Be careful that you’re not using alcohol or other substances to deal with anxiety or depression. If you tend to overdo it in the best of times, it may be a good idea to avoid for now.
At times like this, it’s easy to get caught up in your own fears and concerns. However, amongst all the stories of people fighting over rolls of toilet paper or lining up outside supermarkets it’s important to take a breath and remember that we’re all in this together. As a quote circulating in Italy reminds us: “We’re standing far apart now so we can embrace each other later.”
Helping others not only makes a difference to your community—and even to the wider world at this time—it can also support your own mental health and well-being. Much of the anxiety accompanying this pandemic, stems from feeling powerless. Doing kind and helpful acts for others can help you regain a sense of control over your life—as well as adding meaning and purpose to your own life.
Even when you’re self-isolating or maintaining social distance, there’s still plenty you can do to help others.
As a clinical Hypnotherapist I normally do therapy sessions for both adults and children face to face in my two clinics, but during this uncertain time I am doing them all on- line over skype or zoom. It works really well, and the kids love the sessions because they are so used to looking at a screen!
I’m offering sessions at a much – reduced rate for people with anxiety and depression and for children who are suffering with anxiety too.
Be a calming influence. If friends or loved ones are panicking, try to help them gain some perspective on the situation. Instead of scaremongering or giving credence to false rumours, refer them to reputable news sources. Being a positive, uplifting influence in these anxious times can help you feel better about your own situation too.
But if you feel you need some help (therapy) to get you through this terribly trying time – or perhaps you have an anxious child who is not coping well – do contact me at: www.focus-hypnotherapy.co.uk