As I write this, many of my friends are really suffering with anxiety over the country being in shutdown. Things that we take for granted such as meeting friends, going to the shops or even just going to post office, have been stopped.
Anxiety is a common affliction, and that’s not surprising. The modern world is much more demanding and complex than our brains were designed to handle. Pain is a symptom of a body in distress. Anxiety is a symptom of a mind in distress.
Firstly, it is totally normal to be anxious about lockdown and COVID-19.
Consider all you ask you mind to do. In normal circumstances you ask so much from your mind. You want everyone to like you. You don’t ever want to be embarrassed. You want everyone to like everything you say and do. You don’t want anyone to hurt you in any way. You don’t want anything to happen that you don’t like.
Now we asking you to stay at home, limit the face to face contact you have. Added to this you are worried by your friends and family.
That’s a lot to ask of your mind. No wonder you feel anxious.
Reduce the intensity of your anxiety with these strategies:
Take some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a run. It could be a yoga on YouTube, a streamed exercise class, even out in your garden weeding. Exercise is an effective way to burn off that extra stress. It promotes that fab chemical, seratonin that helps make us feel more able to cope.
Declutter your life. Clutter adds to anxiety. Tidy up your environment and notice how much better you feel. Start with the rooms and areas in which you spend the most time. If you are working from home then include your personal work space too. Because we know that COVID-19 is killed by soap and water, washing surfaces and steam cleaning (if you have a steamer) helps your mind understand that you are doing something positive.
Declutter your brain. Take care of the things that are on your mind. Procrastination creates mental clutter and stress. Trying to remember things is challenging for your brain too. Make lists and use a calendar and alarms to ease the load on your poor brain.
Spend time with your pet. Pets are great for reducing anxiety. Play on the floor with your cat. Take the dog for a walk. Sit and watch your fish.
Think about something positive. You’re only anxious because you’re thinking about something that makes you anxious. Give yourself a break and think about something else for a while. Now is the time to turn off the television and stop watching the news. Schedule a time when you will listen to the news but don't keep it on all day.
Change your diet. Your diet can have a negative impact on your stress levels. Play around with your food choices and find out what works for you. Now is the time to go find those things in the cupboard that you thought would be good and you've never eaten.
Give yourself something to look forward to. It can be a great relief to have something positive to look forward to. It can be something as simple as making a dinner you love to scheduling facetime with a friend.
Distract yourself. This is what bad habits are, distractions. However, not all distractions are bad habits. Read a good book. Re-watch your favorite movie.
Find a solution. You can't find a cure for COVID-19 but you can find a solution to some of the other things that are worrying you and causing you anxiety. If you are missing your family, call them. If you are missing your friends, facetime them.
Take slow, deep breaths. Your breathing naturally becomes shallow and faster when you’re stressed. You can counteract a lot of the physical symptoms of anxiety by just slowing down your breaths and increasing the depth.
Play the name five things game. Bring your mind back to the present. Look around your environmentand name five things you see. Now, name five things you feel. For example,“I feel the pencil in my hand. It feels smooth and warm.” Try to name five things you hear; Smell the air and describe what you smell. Smell nearby objects until you’ve described five smells.
Dance. Or sing. Or jump around. Do something you don’t normally do. Anything out of the ordinary can break your pattern and relieve some of your anxiety. Remember how as a child, you would dance around the house as though no one is watching - do it again. Close the blinds, put on your favourite track and just dance.
Get help. It nothing seems to work, seek professional help.
Give you mind and body a break by minimizing your anxiety. Avoid the belief that you just have to suffer with the discomfort of anxiety. Do everything you can to find relief without making your challenges worse. If you’re unable to find a suitable solution, get help from a professional.