Anxiety. Possibly the second word of the moment, after coronavirus. And possibly just as contagious. Anxiety is often about the ‘what ifs’: a deep dread of what might happen. And now a big ‘what if’ has happened with the coronavirus pandemic.
We are living in anxious times. Anxiety is all around. You may be feeling uncertainty about your personal stuff – work, income, health, loved ones, mortgage, safety, social distancing, community, future. Mix that with the big stuff going on – how long the lockdown will last, will there be a vaccine, will the economy suffer, will life ever be the same again – and your anxiety could be through the roof.
Anxiety can be catching
Anxiety can be catching, especially if you’re more sensitive to ‘what’s in the air’ than others. Research backs this up. A study published in the July 2014 issue of journal Psychoneuroendocrinology looked at “whether the stress inevitably unfolding around us has the potential to ‘contaminate’ and compromise us”. It concluded that an “empathic stress” response could heightened when observing stress in a loved one close to you – and to a lesser extent when witnessing distress in total strangers. So, it’s hardly surprising that you might be experiencing anxiety at this distressing and unprecedented time.
It may help if you are able to separate yourself from the ‘big picture’ outside and concentrate on your own personal world for the time being.
How to unplug from collective anxiety
The antidote to anxiety is control
… or at least the illusion of control. You have no control over what happens in the pandemic globally, but you do have control over how you manage your day and what you give your attention to. Take each day as it comes and give your full attention to this day – rather than worrying about all the days you’ve already been in lockdown.
Routine and structure can create certainty
It’s uncertainty that exacerbates anxiety. Ensure you follow a routine. Stay focused on the small tasks of the day and feel a sense of achievement in completing them.
Identify your stabilisers
What sustains and soothes you? What uplifts and enhances your mood? This may be exercise, reading, cooking, gardening, a hot bath, talking to friends on Zoom, watching your favourite box set. Work out what keeps you stable in these wobbly times.
Don’t feel you have to get rid of your anxiety
… or that it’s wrong somehow. What you’re feeling is natural, under the circumstances. Try to tolerate the feelings. Pushing them away can often make them stronger. Focus on what your body is sensing. Note your feelings, without having to do anything about them. Breathe through them. Survive them.
Watching the news can make you feel worse
It can be difficult to avoid the news, admittedly, when you’re at home and the latest statistics on coronavirus are playing out on TV, radio and social media. But the constant bombardment of news can make your anxiety balloon. Think about how you can contain rather than expand your anxiety. Tune in instead to the positive stories out there – like 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore walking to raise multi-millions of pounds for charity. There are so many heart-warming and creative activities going on right now that can offer an antidote to fear.
Knowing we’re all in this together may reduce your anxiety
Coronavirus is a leveller. It doesn’t discriminate. Even the Prime Minister and future king have been affected. Sometimes anxiety can rise when you feel you’re missing out on things, or when you worry if something might happen to your loved ones. Everyone is staying at home and staying safe, and that may be reassuring for you.
You may gain a new perspective
You may have been used to ‘sweating the small stuff’. But now that a worst-case scenario has happened, you may find yourself thinking less and less about that small stuff. The worries you used to twist over in your mind may be diminishing. If you take a moment in the day to check in with yourself, you may find that you are gaining a new, healthier perspective on life and what truly matters and brings meaning.
If you are struggling with anxiety and need professional support to help you manage it, then get in touch with us. We offer sessions by phone and online video seven days a week. Our Front of House team will match you with the right therapist for you. Call us on 020 8673 4545 or email [email protected].