• Sue Swan

What can you do to manage your anxiety during the current Covid 19 pandemic?

The current Covid 19 pandemic has created an enormous amount of global uncertainty and resulted in huge changes to how we live our daily lives. As the initial disbelief lessens we are beginning to experience the impact of these sudden changes. Many people are experiencing anxiety created by a heightened sense of fear around what is to come in the weeks and months ahead. These challenging times means it has never been more important to look after both your physical and mental health. I have put together some ideas around how you can manage your anxiety and look after your mental health at this time.

Minimise your media intake

It is important to keep up to date with news at this time, especially around new regulations and safety procedures. However, please try to be mindful of what media you take in and how you do this.

Try this: Avoid constantly checking the news and try to minimise checking news to twice a day. When looking for information and updates around Covid 19 go directly to trusted sources such as the HSE and avoid relying on social media posts or what someone’s friend who is a doctor in Singapore said!

Maintain a routine

Repetition, ritual and routine help to reduce feelings of stress and help to create feelings of calm and certainty.

Try this: Get up at the same time and get dressed as usual. Set yourself daily tasks to accomplish. Make sure to include activities that promote physical and mental well being.

Stay in the present moment

It is so easy to worry about the future at this time and this worrying about what could happen leads to feeing anxious. Staying in the moment will help to lessen anxiety and increase feelings of calm and well-being. The easiest way to stay in the present is to tune into your senses. Another way is to engage in mind-body practices, which work by taking attention away from the thinking mind - where all the worries reside - and into the body.

Try this: When you feel anxious take your attention to your senses; take a moment to close your eyes and tune into the sounds around you, such as the birds singing or the sounds of the city around you. Find a quiet place to sit and engage in a meditation practice for 5-10 minutes or a body scan. Try other activities which bring about a relaxation response include yoga, tai chi, yoga nidra, reading, listening to calming music, drawing and doing jigsaws.

Focus on what you CAN control

At present we are no longer in control of much of what we were previously. This includes our jobs, our ability to provide an income, and our freedom to move around. However, despite these constraints it is important to remember that you are not helpless and there is much you still can control.

Try this: Make a list of all the things that are under your control. You can still, for example, choose who you are going to socially connect with; Decide to listen to music or an audio book rather than listen to the news; Do some physical activity or engage in a mind-body practice rather than watch another episode of your latest box set.

Try to challenge negative thinking & practice self-compassion

It is difficult not to think negatively given what is going on in the world at this time. However, it is easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking and this works to increase levels of anxiety. The following are some ways to help counter act negative thinking patterns.

Try this: Notice what you are telling yourself about what is going on. If you find your thoughts are leading to feeling panicky try to challenge these thoughts. Ask yourself: Are these thoughts fact? Are they helpful? Try to develop a kind and compassionate inner voice. If you are finding it difficult to control negative thinking say out loud ‘Stop!’ If needed, distract yourself and engage in activities that make you feel good.

Keep up self-care

Everyone copes with fear and uncertainty in different ways. For many, this means reaching for another glass of wine or retreating to the couch with a duvet to watch multiple episodes of the latest box set with a stash of chocolate. These are understandable ways of coping, especially during these strange and unsettling times. However, it is important to remember that sugar and alcohol can crash your mood.

Try this: Eat well and exercise. Our usual physical activities may not be an option so be creative around this. And remember exercise includes an impromptu disco in the kitchen!

Think creatively and try out new activities

Our usual leisure activities may not be possible at this time. Think about activities you enjoy or have enjoyed in the past or ones you have always planned on taking up but never had the time.

Try this: Dust off the guitar that’s been in the attic and find online music tuition; Learn a new language; Get creative with drawing, painting, stitching; Take an online course; Take an online tour of one of the worlds museums and galleries; Join an online platform that connects people who share a love for film, design or other cultural pursuits.

Stay connected

Feeling isolated can significantly impact on our mood. Despite social distancing we can still stay connected. Technology can be a great way to connect, either one to one or in groups. Use Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom to keep in touch with friends and family. However, remember to take breaks from technology as too much screen time can affect your sleep.

Try this: Pick up the phone and call your friend or loved one, talk and laugh together. Reach out to someone you may not have connected with for a while. Smile or say hello to a person you pass bye when outdoors.

Help people

Research has found that people who volunteer not only enjoy better moods and well-being but also derive physical benefits.

Try this: Arrange to help a neighbour who is self-isolating by bringing their dog for a walk or delivering their shopping. Call or write to a person you know who may live on their own. Help people on forums or Facebook groups.

Value the small things in life

It is easy to forget the small things in our day that bring us joy.

Try this: Each day remember to find five things that are going right, no matter how small. These can be: You stayed calm when your kids were fighting; You enjoyed a chat with a friend; You enjoyed a walk in the fresh air; You baked a delicious cake; You learnt something new about a family member.

Ask for support

It is a time when many people are feeling anxious and fearful. It is ok to say that you are feeling this way. In fact it is more than ok and it is so important that we share with others how we are feeling at this time.

Try this: Reach out to a friend and ask if you can have a chat, as you are feeling anxious. You may well find that your friend is also feeling this way and talking together about this creates the opportunity to help one another.

Seek additional support

If you are feeling anxious or low for a prolonged period of time please do seek professional help. If you feel like you need additional support, you can contact me at sueswantherapy@gmail.com to schedule an online therapy appointment.


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