Since the threat of COVID-19 stopped being something that was happening in another country and started becoming a reality over here I have noticed a big increase in anxiety.
This has ranged from people having rational discussions about their fears to witnessing arguments break out over social media. There is no escaping it.
If you have your own anxieties about the situation – health, financial or worries about other people in your life, be aware when your anxiety starts to increase when talking to others. It is too easy to enter into a conversation, the person feels anxious and before you know it, you are feeling extremely anxious too.
I like to use the story of Chicken Little as an extreme example to explain this.
One day an acorn fell on Chicken Little’s head. She thought the sky was falling down and set off to tell the big boss. On her way she met a number of her feathered friends, telling each of them the sky was falling down. Before you know it, there was mass hysteria.
There are a few interpretations of what the story actually means, one of the popular theories is don’t believe everything you’ve been told. I won’t tell you how it ends but if you haven’t heard it before it’s not a happy ending.
Going back a few weeks I could feel my own anxieties start to increase from conversations with others and reading things online.
But when I started doing my own research, a lot of what I had heard was unfounded. For me I managed to ground myself in the facts.
When we start to hear things from other sources it is too easy for these sources to tap into our own anxieties and increase them. This is where acceptance can be helpful.
Accept what you can and cannot control.
You can control what you read, your time on social media or watching/reading the news. By limiting your time on social media you are limiting the amount of other people’s anxieties you are reading.
You can control your own hygiene; washing your hands, cleaning your home etc.
You can follow social distancing. You can find things to do at home.
You cannot control other people’s emotions, panic buying, predicting the outcome, laws and regulations and other people not following the rules.
If you start to feel your anxiety increasing what can you do to reduce it?
- There are some good guided meditation apps.
- Can you cut back on your caffeine intake?
- Take a break from the news and social media.
- Go for a walk, this can be good if you are needing to ground yourself – listen to the birds around you, take deep breaths in, feel the sun or the wind on your face.
- Turn on your favourite songs and get distracted in the music, even sing and dance.
- Exercise – there are a lot of good free clips on YouTube or free fitness apps.
- Reading? This can help calm you while getting distracted and lost in a good story. Audible gives you your first book for free if you would rather listen, or you can download the Kindle app which has free/cheap books available. If you are unsure you can download a sample of the book for free before buying.
- Colouring in is also a good mindfulness activity, getting lost in the moment and focusing your brain on something else.
These are just a few examples. You may have your own activities you use that help calm you, distract you or even burn off any excess energy causing restlessness.
All of the above is relevant to anxiety at any time, but more relevant than ever as we are navigating these unchartered waters.
Stay safe and take care and also remember, this will not last forever.
Counselling can provide you with that safe space to understand what is going on for you at your own pace. Online and telephone therapy sessions are now available. Click here for more info.