How to Manage Anxiety – in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Anxiety has risen exponentially since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and at times it can feel overwhelming. Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to get stuff done but when this anxiety becomes unmanageable, we need to act.

If you are suffering from one or more of the symptoms below you may be experiencing a period of anxiety.

Signs of Coronavirus Anxiety

  • sleeping badly
  • palpitations
  • panic attacks
  • constant worry
  • feelings of overwhelm and not being able to cope
  • prolonged headaches
  • ongoing constipation or diarrhoea
  • disturbing dreams or nightmares

If you experience a panic attack, then it’s important to focus on your breathing. You need to find ways to ground yourself and assure yourself that in this moment you are safe and well.

5 Ways to Recover from a Panic Attack:

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Concentrate on your feet on the ground, move them, or stamp to feel into them
  3. Say the day and time out loud
  4. Describe what you see in the room you are in and why you are there
  5. Tell yourself that you are safe

Then focus on your breath and see if it has slowed down and you feel calmer, if not continue with the above until you do. As soon as you can, find someone you trust to talk with about what just happened.

With so many of us out of work or unable to carry out our usual activities in the pandemic we have more time than normal to worry about the pandemic and ruminate on it. Distracting ourselves and keeping busy are healthy ways to pass the time:

Ways to Keep Busy in the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • online courses
  • online fitness classes
  • crafting
  • baking
  • diy
  • reading
  • gaming
  • chats with friends and family
  • declutter and reorganise cupboards and drawers
  • make photo books
  • online dating
  • socially distanced dates
  • walks
  • bike rides
  • volunteer locally

Long term anxiety is concerning. It’s important to have routines, feel connected to people and have a reason to get up in the morning. This can feel challenging. It’s vital to be aware of how you feel and notice when you start to be anxious. Once we realise, we are feeling anxious we can do something about it.

6 Ways To Reduce Coronavirus Anxiety

  1. Take some deep breaths
  2. Spend time in nature
  3. Do something you enjoy eg read a book, watch a movie
  4. Take some exercise, preferably outdoors
  5. Talk to someone
  6. Practice daily mindfulness meditation

We need to be easy on ourselves. Many of us are exhausted and covid adds an extra layer of anxiety to other issues we may struggle with. It’s normal to have good days and bad days and even good and bad hours within a day. We need to give ourselves permission to allow that to happen and roll with it, whilst taking good care of ourselves.

How to be Kind to Ourselves Practically in the Pandemic

  • Take a bath
  • Listen to music
  • Nap
  • Dance
  • Watch comedy box sets
  • Watch daytime tv guiltfree
  • Curl up with a book

How to be Kind to Ourselves Emotionally during the Covid Pandemic

  • Practice saying no, when you feel overwhelmed
  • Lower your expectations for yourself and understand that your best is good enough
  • Be kind to others
  • Laugh, enjoy the moment
  • Reach out to others when you feel lonely
  • Focus on something positive, be grateful for anything you can think of

Working with Anxiety in Psychotherapy

Anxiety can also be a reaction to underlying issues that have been around for a long time.  For example, we feel anxious when we have an important work meeting coming up.

The immediate anxiety can be relieved practically by being very well prepared and organised and thinking through all the possibilities of the meeting and what that could involve.

But this may not be the end of the matter.  Anxiety can be a signal that something deep seated is troubling us.

Discovering the Root Cause of the Anxiety

Anxiety is often a reaction to underlying distress that has been around for a long time.  If we are able to explore what the underlying distress is about, we may be able to discover the root cause of the anxiety.

For example, reflecting on the above meeting scenario we realise that there is one member of staff that we find difficult to manage and who we try to avoid.

If we look deeper into this situation, we realise that we have a fear of confrontation generally.  Through talking in therapy we discover where our fear of confrontation comes from.  This gives us an understanding of our anxiety and fear of confrontation and a different perspective on it.

Going forward we can choose to behave differently in confrontational situations.  In time, the anxiety decreases, and we naturally become more confident.

Once the underlying distress has been uncovered and talked about it can reduce its power over us reducing the anxiety in the long term.

One Day At a Time

But for most of us it’s about getting through one day at a time. Finding something to make us smile every day. On a cold morning I passed 2 very old women 2 metres apart leaning up against the bank, coffee in hand, not talking but eyes closed, faces turned towards the sun, drinking in the warmth. For now, we need to take comfort where we can and hold onto the hope that eventually all things shall be well and there will be a life after this covid pandemic. There will be a life without coronavirus anxiety.

Read my previous blog: Christmas in the time of covid


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