Who would have thought that this would be a topic of conversation a year ago! But here we are wondering how to manage stress and anxiety in this pandemic.
In uncertain times it is a very natural response to panic because as humans we like stability, routine, connection and community. It makes us feel safe and loved.
There is so much in the news and social media designed to induce fear and panic because it gets our attention. So not only are we dealing with a virus we are also with an information pandemic. We are also facing the reality that more people in our community or family maybe experiencing symptoms and the possibility that we may lose loved ones.
IT’S OK TO FEEL SCARED
There is no right or wrong way to feel. Don’t judge yourself or others as we navigate our way through this time. Any of the following emotions or feelings are a completely natural response:
- Out of control
Some of us feel fine and a little detached and that is ok too.
To put it simply there isn’t a normal response because many of us will only experience living through a global pandemic once in a lifetime.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Self compassion is crucial. Try not to judge yourself or others. Family and friends and those online will react emotionally to how they are feeling at any one moment. Be forgiving. We will all pass through a variety of different emotions at different times and this will change our behaviour and our responses.
I specialise in treating anxiety and depression but I have also been affected by changes in my emotions and behaviours. However, I am very fortunate to have a number of tools that I can use (when I remember to!) that help me to stay positive. But I don’t get it right 100% of the time. It’s a bit like being in a big snow globe that gets shaken up from time to time and just as the snow settles it gets shaken again. But the good news is that eventually, in time, it will settle. We will be able to see loved ones again. We will be able to give hugs and we will be able to move on with our lives. We need to be patient and make the best of what we can do and not focus on what we can’t.
HOW TO MANAGE STRESS AND ANXIETY
Be kind and understanding especially to yourself.
Anxiety put simply is fear. When we are fearful we act irrationally. Check in with how you are feeling a little more often than usual. Simply acknowledge the emotion rather than trying to suppress it. Saying to yourself or out loud “I feel angry” or “I feel scared” helps us to listen to ourselves. Feeling heard is very important to allow emotions to exit rather than be repressed. When we repress emotions they can cause stress, inflammation, compromise our immune systems and lead to ill health.
Once we have acknowledged “I feel angry” or “I feel scared” just sit with the emotion. Don’t try and change it or feed it with ‘What if thinking’. Simply acknowledge that is how you are feeling. Learning to name our feelings helps us to take back control. It engages our prefrontal cortex which helps to calm us. Acknowledge how you feel and learn to roll with the experience like riding a wave. It will pass. And the only thing in life that is certain is that things will change. Get comfortable with riding the waves and you will learn to feel more in control and at ease.
Often the emotion will pass quickly when you can be mindful of it.
I will then ask myself “what is a more helpful thing to believe or think right now such that I no longer need to feel eg. angry or scared”. Then I act as if that is true.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Being able to move your body can also help. Even if you are not able to get out of your house or room, if you are isolating. You can begin to shake, flex, bend, and stretch the body. Jog on the spot, dance, do some squats etc. It will start to burn up the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenalin.
BREATHING AWAY ANXIETY
It is possible to breathe your way out of a panic attack. Our breathing reflects our emotional state. Learning to calm yourself by breathing can be one of the quickest ways to reduce the stress hormones. There are some simple breathing exercises that you can learn that help to switch off the fight or flight response. Try the following breathing exercises to stop anxiety and panic attacks
LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Try and take each day as it comes. Live in the moment and avoid things that trigger your threat system activating. Things like the news and social media apps are designed to grab and keep our attention. They tend to focus on sensationalism and the ‘what if’ of the future that hasn’t yet happened. Journalists speculate on the ‘what if’ and this incites fear, worry anger and stress. It’s deliberate to keep you engaged and hooked on their content because we are wired to look out for and spot danger.
MAKE A ROUTINE
For many our routines and daily lives have been turned upside down. Getting into a new routine will help to give your day structure and certainty. We are creatures of habit and this will help us to feel an element of control and therefore feel safer.
Our community really needs us at the moment. Helping others does more for our wellbeing than just focusing on ourselves. There are telephone befriending schemes that you could join to help others who are living alone, There are food banks and charities that all need help and your skills may be just what they are looking for.
CONNECTING WITH OTHERS
Connecting with others does wonders for our need to feel loved and valuable, When we connect with others we feel safe and our wellbeing improves. Just because we have to physically distance we can still remain socially connected through the use of our mobiles and good old fashioned telephone calls to friends and family. Even popping a note through a neighbour’s door or writing a letter or card to someone shows you are thinking of them.
I am able to offer a limited amount of face to face consultations for people struggling with their mental health and emotional well-being during National lockdown. Please get in touch via the contact form or call 07803 603 882.
Online sessions can be a great way of getting the help you need if you are unable to see a therapist face to face, or are worried about COVID and want to stay safe, I use a range of online and telephone services to continue caring for my clients.
It is possible to conduct sessions with or without the camera. You can chose which ever you feel more comfortable with.
REST AND RESET FREE RELAXATION SESSIONS
Since the first lockdown I have been offering Rest and Reset Free Relaxation sessions online. They are now held on the third Monday of the month at 8:00pm and you can attend anonymously if you prefer. The session is structured around a different theme each month. The session always ends with a very relaxing mindful meditation or a guided meditation. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about mental health and emotional well-being in the session or privately. Please contact me via the contact form if you would like more information or to be added to the mailing list.
I use Zoom, a secure online platform to host the sessions. If you are unfamiliar with Zoom you can watch a quick video on how to join a meeting here. It is very simple. Join a Meeting – YouTube
Details of the session are posted on The Mindset Clinic Facebook page
We may have a long journey ahead but we are in it together so let’s take care of one another.