Anxiety in the shadow of coronavirus

Anxiety in the shadow of coronavirus

Anxiety is completely normal.  We all feel it sometimes; waiting up for someone we love to come home; waiting to start an exam; being interviewed for a new job. Once the moment passes, the feeling leaves.

But if anxiety stays with us it becomes a difficult and unwelcome companion. Feeling anxious is a stress response.  Our heart races, breathing gets shallower and quicker.  We might feel shaky.  We might sweat. It’s often accompanied by a voice telling us we’ve got something to worry about, there’s something wrong with us, something terrible is going to happen. It’s debilitating, exhausting and it grows, more and more situations and experiences becoming triggers, squeezing the joy out of life.

Feeling anxious about coronavirus and its impact on our lives is understandable and normal. Lots of us feel unsettled.  But if your anxiety is beginning to get control, taking over your day-to-day life, you can take action.

In the moment

When the anxiety rises, it can feel all consuming, but you can reduce it.

  • Breathe in for a count of five and out for five and repeat for a few minutes.
  • Ground yourself. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Notice where your body touches the chair, where your feet touch the ground. Imagine yourself firmly rooted and know that in this moment you are safe.
  • Slow down. Notice what’s around you now, the sounds, the colours, the textures, the scents. Focus on them.
  • Take your mind to a peaceful place, preferably somewhere real where you have felt safe. Be as vivid as possible. Bring every tiny detail to life in your mind.
  • Focus on the physical sensations of the anxiety. With compassion, curiosity and no judgement, stay with the sensations, breathing deeply until you feel them calm down.

Reduce the impact

There are steps you can take to reduce the impact of anxiety in your day-to-day life.

  • Physical exercise reliably diminishes anxiety.
  • Try an activity that keeps you fully in the moment. It could be knitting, cooking, playing music, reading a book. Do something that really engages you. It’s no surprise sales of jigsaw puzzles have soared in the lock down.
  • Note down your worries, identifying what causes you to feel anxious. Equipped with this information you might be able to find solutions and transform the anxious thoughts into positive actions.

Deal with it

Addressing the anxiety in the moment and taking steps to reduce its impact on your day-to-day to life can make a huge difference.  If you want to go a step further, think about dealing with the underlying issues.

  • Explore the anxious thoughts in a safe place. Talk to someone you trust.  You’re not alone.
  • The anxious feeling may be a cover for something deeper. Ask yourself if you feel sad, angry, disgust, fear, joy or excitement.  Validate what you feel, naming all the feelings you experience.
  • Imagine your anxiety and the anxious thoughts as a child. Use your imagination and ask the child what they need. The first thing that comes to your mind is probably the right answer. Find a way to offer what’s needed.

And finally … take care of yourself

Self-care is fundamental to mental wellbeing. Recognise you matter and invest time in looking after yourself.

  • Get enough sleep. Start by making sure you have a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Eat a good diet. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just balanced.
  • Treat yourself regularly. Something little, like a sitting down to enjoy coffee and a muffin, can be very powerful.
  • Book time into your week to do something you love.
  • Spend time with people you love!
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