In times of crisis, such as what is happening around the world with COVID-19, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and frustration are normal reactions. We need to be kind to ourselves and accept that these emotions will happen. Anxiety and fear are a perfectly natural response and we are not alone in experiencing these emotions.
There are things that you can do to help overcome your personal stress; focusing on what you can control, reaching out to help others. This is not only good for our own mental health but can allow our wider circle of friends, family and community to benefit too.
Our current situation is unpredictable, new and uncertain, all the ingredients that can lead to negative thoughts and ultimately anxiety. Always remember that this is perfectly normal. Give yourself time to adjust and accept the situation we find yourselves in.
There are many ways and means of making this new temporary way of life more acceptable and encouraging a health mental health regime. You might even find that you form new healthy habits that will remain with you long after this period has passed.
• Reach out to family and friends and colleagues. If you live alone, reach out and create regular online calls.
• Control what you can in your home environment. Ensure you have sensible supplies of what you need for now. Establish a coordinated family plan if you are now isolating with partners and children. Look at ways to ensure you stay physically healthy and maintain fitness where you can.
• Take care in the morning. For many people, anxiety can often be worse in the mornings. Just take it a step at a time. Know that these feelings will pass as you start to focus on what you would like to achieve throughout the day.
• Be mindful of your media consumption. Consider the sources of the information you are absorbing. Reduce the number of news alerts you are receiving daily on your phone. Bombarding your mind with bad news constantly will heighten any feelings of anxiety and fear.
• Routine is your friend. Keep to a routine if you can: good sleep patterns, healthy diet, create work/home boundaries if possible, consider practicing meditation. Use your time to exercise and stimulate all your feel-good neurotransmitters. Try to have some time offline each day and turn your phone off.
• Avoid the excessive use of unhealthy coping strategies, such as drugs and alcohol and food.
• If you now have your children at home throughout the day, understand that this is a huge change for them also and they will want to be around and close to you. Everyone understands that there is now a ‘new normal’, and if you are having a meeting with a child by your side, this is OK. We are all adapting to the changing aspects of how we work.
• If you are now spending more time with your partner take the time to talk honestly about what you both need so that boundaries can be agreed. Understanding that it is very natural to want some time to yourself in the day to walk, exercise or just sit in the garden.
• Share any positive stories you hear about. People who have recovered from COVID-19/ or stories about how people are helping others. Remembering that we will all be able to go back to meeting up with friends and family, going to the gym, eating in restaurants.
• Employing a sympathetic response – “I would like to help you/How could I help? Or “I wonder how this situation is making X feel’? This is generally considered to be the most effective coping strategy for an individual’s own mental health. When helping others we help ourselves. Whilst always abiding by the regulations of social distancing and isolation.
But for now, try to focus on now what you can control, the slower pace you have never had to experience before. Books you have not had the chance to read, films you have not yet watched, music you have not yet discovered, recipes you have not experimented with, the many new ways of exercising, conversations you have not had time to have. Open the window, sit on the balcony, walk in the garden.
Slower activities can be challenging for many of us in the fast-paced world we have become accustomed to, but maybe over these next few months this is our time to incorporate it into our lives.