There is a wealth of information and rumour swirling in the media surrounding COVID-19 (the illness caused by the Coronavirus): Should we be stockpiling because everyone else is and the shops are bare? How long do we have to live like this? The possibility of contracting the virus is understandably providing a great source of stress and thus experiencing Covid-19 anxiety is likely. In addition, having our activities restricted and spending long periods of time either alone or with those in our household can make things even more challenging. This can all take its toll on us psychologically. With this in mind, we’ve put together an infographic and a more detailed article to help anyone who is struggling with the issues surrounding the pandemic. Here is how to manage Covid-19 anxiety in 7 steps.
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Keep reading if you want to learn more tips on managing Covid-19 anxiety and the stress associated with it.
Establish a routine to Combat Cabin Fever while on Lockdown
Cabin fever is a term used to indicate the negative consequences, often irritability, restlessness or anxiety, linked with being confined in isolation for a prolonged period of time. If you are experiencing the lockdown, it is possible that you might experience cabin fever. To deal with it, try to create and adhere to a routine for the week (write it down if it helps you to remember) with a good balance of tasks that bring a sense of:
- Achievement i.e. work or home improvements
- Self-improvement i.e. reading a book, keeping on top of your piano or Spanish practice
- Enjoyment i.e. watching a film, ordering food (if possible), socialising (remotely of course!) and relaxing.
Having a variety of these tasks can help you to stave off boredom and cabin fever. Some people might find it helpful to get ready for the day as though they are going to leave the house and travel to work in order to bring about a sense of normality and break up the day into parts. If you can, be flexible with your working hours and schedule in a social call or a walk/run to get some fresh air and natural sunlight. If you live with others, including partners and children, it is important that you are able to enjoy some personal time independently from them. This will help you manage Covid-19 anxiety.
Deal with Uncertainty and Lack of Control
There is uncertainty around whether we or others will contract the illness, whether the cold-like symptoms we may be experiencing are or are not signs of COVID-19 and how long the restrictions will stay in place. Focusing on these things and striving for certainty (i.e. by constantly looking for answers) is not only futile but can make our stress and anxiety levels worse as well as our perceived sense of control, thus maintaining a vicious cycle. Try to view this situation as temporary and focus on those things you do have control over, for example reading government advice, practicing social distancing and maintaining good hygiene.
Manage Covid-19 Anxiety by Engaging in Valuable Activity
As we practice social distancing and isolation and spend the majority of our time at home, it is hard not to begin to feel frustrated at seeing the permanence of the four walls. But rather than focusing on the uncertain and uncontrollable, begin to divert your energy into valuable activities. Try to view the current situation (however hard this may seem) as an opportunity. It can be a chance to engage in activities that are important and of value to us, and that can bring a sense of contentment, satisfaction and purpose.
Try to identify what is important to you. Perhaps it is to:
-build strong bonds with others
-help others and contribute
-have a healthy mind and body
-learn new things or become more skilled at things
Try to commit time to such valuable activities by speaking remotely with friends, families and neighbours. Or exercising, eating more healthily, looking into how you can help vulnerable people in your community. You can also focus on doing some DIY, learning a new skill like playing that guitar that has been building dust or learning a new language. These things can often become overlooked, so think of this as a time for self-enhancement and recovery from the daily stresses of life.
Move from Covid-19 worries to Gratefulness
It’s important to move our attention away from the doom and gloom and how bad things are. Try to put things into perspective by frequently reflecting upon things that you feel grateful for. There are often the most important things in your lives. For example, your health, family, friends, nature and the aspects of your life that make you feel proud.
Monitor Your Checking
When was the last time you checked the news about recent updates and felt good after doing so? If we constantly check the news we are bound to come across a worrying piece of information that makes us feel worse as our minds automatically search for the worst case scenarios. Moreover, coronavirus continues to be at the forefront of our minds which leads to heightened and prolonged covid-19 anxiety. It is important not to get bogged down in the overwhelming piles of information by limiting the amount you read to once or twice a day and concentrate on facts from authoritative and trustworthy sources such as the World Health Organisation, or the government. Focus on more helpful information such as the fact that the majority of people recover from COVID-19 and that an impending lack of supplies has not been evidenced.
Learn to ‘Be With’ Your Internal Sensations
You may find yourself avoiding the situation around Covid-19 along with your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations around this. For example, you might be trying to distract yourself a lot. Sometimes this is helpful, especially if it feels too overwhelming or if you are distracting yourself with valuable activities. However, it can be helpful to learn to be with our difficult thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Those which are often associated with stress and anxiety. This will have a positive impact on your ability to manage Covid-19 Anxiety.
If we keep denying ourselves from accessing these difficult thoughts, our tolerance to be with them will decrease over time. As counterproductive as it might seem, try to be with the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations for one minute. Observe them like a curious scientist, let go of judgments or trying to control them and accept that they are there before guiding your attention elsewhere. A great way to practice and build on this is through mindfulness meditation.
Manage Covid-19 Anxiety by Staying Connected and Socialising during Social Distancing
Social distancing does not mean isolating yourself from others. It is extremely important to feel that we count and belong in times like these. Especially if you live on your own. Maintaining our social connections will help to lift our mood. It will also allow some distraction and to gather others’ thoughts which may help to put your own into perspective. We live in an era where we have the internet, various ways of entertaining ourselves and communicating with others at our fingertips: so make sure you use it! Talk to others about how this bizarre situation is affecting you, or just to inject some excitement into your life. Also take time out to support those most vulnerable to loneliness. Those who are older who may not have the know-how to continue social connections online will surely appreciate.
If you use exercise to clear your mind, take care of your mental wellbeing, and creating a sense of self-achievement, then the gym closures and cessation of boot camps, yoga/pilates, classes and park exercise groups etc. will be terrifying! But don’t fear, there are still things you can do to keep fit, gain perspective and release those endorphins. Running and walking are still on the table, and have the added benefits of getting you outside into natural sunlight.
There is also a wealth of videos online. For example, just search for something like “exercising at home” or “staying fit during the lockdown” on YouTube. Enjoy discovering a video that suits you before incorporating this into your routine indoors or outdoors. If you peruse through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, you will find lots of businesses providing enough free monthly memberships and online classes to totally fill your week. You may even be able to find a local business and support them. Here is somewhere to get started. The NHS also has fitness videos online.
Finally, Remember that this is NORMAL
During this period it is completely normal to feel stressed and anxious. Covid-19 Anxiety is the normal response to truly exceptional life circumstances. However, these feelings can not only take their toll on you mentally and emotionally, but also physically. For example, you may have a tight chest, difficulties breathing at times, muscle tension, become agitated and have difficulties sleeping. These are the very common physical signs of anxiety. It can be helpful to find ways to de-stress by following the tips above. And also to reassure yourself that this response is completely normal. You are experiencing these difficulties because you are human and it is a challenging time for us all.
If you are looking for anxiety therapy in Central London, at Therapy Central we can help you learn the strategies you need to start taking back control from your anxiety.
Ask for Professional Help if you are Struggling with Covid-19 Anxiety
If you are really struggling with Covid-19 anxiety, this article might not be enough. If you find that your distressing emotions are increasing and it has become difficult to manage them on your own, reach out for professional help. For example, contact your GP, or dial 111, or contact us for a free 15 min consultation to discuss how you are feeling and if you desire, to arrange an initial online or telephone appointment with one of our therapists.
We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.
The Therapy Central Directors