Coping with anxiety during the COVID19 pandemic.

In this current time of global crisis every day we are faced with uncertainty about the future and how long this whole situation will continue to cause upheaval in our lives.

All of us; therapists, patients, healthcare workers… will be affected one way or another by the current coronavirus situation whether this is physically, emotionally or practically. 

If you were already experiencing an anxiety disorder, for example, OCD, health anxiety or generalised anxiety disorder, you may find that you are experiencing even more anxiety now. You may have been heading towards recovering and this has caused you a set back or you may be seeking help for the first time for anxiety around this situation.

Whatever your situation we hope that these tips will be useful for you: 

Remember anxiety is a normal response – most people at this time will be experiencing anxiety as this is a natural response that humans experience in the face of a threat. It may be helpful to notice how anxious you are, how much you are worrying, what impact it is having on you physically, emotionally and on your behaviour to help differentiate between general anxiety around this situation and any pre-existing anxiety difficulties you may have. 

Dealing with the news / social media – whilst it is a good idea to keep up to date with developments and we need to know the latest government advice, constantly checking the news and social medial posts can contribute to anxiety. If you have push notifications then consider turning them off and reducing your social media time, especially before bedtime. Keep up to date with the latest advice by checking a trustworthy news source once or twice a day. 

Ground yourself – in uncertain times we can often find ourselves worrying about the future and it can be helpful to try to stay “grounded” in the moment. You can do this by taking notice of what you can see, what you can hear, what you can smell, what you can feel and what you can taste when you are doing a specific activity; such as cooking and eating a meal.

Mindfulness can help us to be more aware of what we are experiencing in the face of uncertainty, it enables us to take acknowledge that this is how things are right now, and to focus on using the breath to become more grounded in presence.  Once we experience a feeling of being more present and grounded we can then remind ourselves that the future is indeed uncertain, but worrying about it is not going to change what happens. We can then think what we might need to do right now that is more nourishing for our mental health.

Focus on what you can control – try to differentiate between “current / real” (“I have coronavirus and I cannot go to the shops for pain relief”) and “hypothetical” (“I might get coronavirus and become really ill and run out of food”) worries. Hypothetical worries are, by nature, focused on the worst case scenario. Whilst they can come true, hypothetical worries are situations that are not currently happening and are generally less likely to happen than we think.

Exercise – this is good for our physical and mental wellbeing and specifically helps to remove the build up of anxiety – induced adrenaline. Make sure you build some kind of exercise into your day.

Be aware of what you eat and drink – when we are stressed and anxious we can turn to eating more junk food, drinking more alcohol, smoking more, consuming more coffee… however, this can make us feel worse by directly affecting our mood.

Plan in new activities – if you have been spending a lot of time handwashing, looking at the news, dwelling on the situation or checking your symptoms and you are able to reduce the amount of time you are doing this – well done! Now you can think about what activities you would rather be doing, try to think about what values are important to you (for example, being creative, being caring, fitness, learning…) and plan activities around this (for example, sewing, shopping for your neighbour, an online exercise class, learning a new language…) 

There are many sources of useful information on the internet about looking after yourself during this time. Here is a selection:

Sally Otto


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Sally Otto Therapy Bedfordshire
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