The Covid-19 pandemic that has swept the globe in 2020 is certainly bringing some changes and challenges like we have never known before. As well as threats to our physical health, it also brings real threats to our mental health. People are feeling more anxious than ever. And that’s not surprising. We have no frame of reference for these times, so our mind is grappling to make sense of it all. Knowing how to manage anxiety during the coronavirus crisis is very important. Here are a few things to remember :
- It’s normal and natural to feel anxious right now
- Be kind to yourself, acknowledge this a difficult time
- Anxiety is something we manage, not cure
- A little bit of anxiety is needed to get stuff done, like maintaining good hygiene and following social distancing rues, but too much will become toxic
- We will need to learn how to make a new normal for ourselves
Caring for ourselves holistically, is a great way to manage anxiety during this time. Socially, Thinking, Emotionally, Physically and Spiritually. (STEPS) Here are two tips to care for yourself in each area:
SOCIALLY- caring for ourselves Socially, is all about maintaining healthy relationships with others.
Relationships are difficult at the best of times! But during these times of isolation, they are going to be even more difficult because we can’t socialise with our friends and family and we are isolated at home with the same people for long periods. As a result, this is going to put pressure on relationships. Here are some ideas:
- Virtually hang out. Catch up with friend and family virtually. Have Friday afternoon drinks with work colleagues, face time with nana and long phone call with friends.
- Communicate with kindness. Try to communicate with those close to you with kindness and respect. People’s tolerance levels are low and we are more touchy.
Try not to be reactive with communication. If things get heated, take a break and go outside if possible.
THINKING: caring for our Thinking is all about our psychological health.
Managing anxiety during these times is very important. Anxiety is a result of our perception of danger. At the moment we don’t perceive we are safe, we perceive danger, so our body will get ready for action with the Fight Flight Freeze response. Our body responds with increased heart rate, dry mouth, upset tummy. All these are reactions to perceived stress and thus getting ready to fight off the danger. They are good to get us out of trouble but not for long term. It’s important to remind ourselves, there are Things we CAN and CAN’T control. One thing we CAN control is our thoughts. Here are some ideas:
- Limit the amount of media you watch. I can’t stress this enough. When you watch frightening media reports, your brain will perceive that you are in imminent danger and get ready to ward off the danger. And this will cause us to feel more anxious. Yes stay updated, but don’t overdo it. Remember, media is designed to scare us so we will stay tuned. But we don’t have to. Limit the time you spend watching media and tune in to positive reports too.
- Focus on the positives. Now some say that’s impossible, but it’s not. One way is to practice gratitude. In other words, notice 3 things everyday you are grateful for. Write it in a journal or take photos of them. Research tells us that gratitude actually changes the chemical composition in our brain to be more positive.
EMOTIONALLY: Caring for ourselves emotionally is about filling our emotional tank so we are resilient.
Being resilient is the ability to bounce back and cope in times of crisis. So we want to keep our tank full in these difficult times. Here are some ideas:
- Be kind to yourself, do things you like. Give yourself permission to care for yourself. Ditch the “self-care is selfish” scripting. It’s not selfish, it’s more important than ever. If this is new to you, write a big list of things that you can do that you enjoy doing and try them. You may need to be a little inventive here as we are not able to do a lot of our normal activities at the moment.
- Have a Routine. Humans thrive on routine, and our world has been thrown out of routine at the moment. However, we can take control of routine in our lives. I suggest writing a routine out, having blocks of time set a time for different activities. If you have kids, involve them in creating their own daily routine as well.
PHYSICALLY: Caring for ourselves physically is all about caring for our bodies.
Obviously, we need to practice all the safe hygiene standards that we are being taught. Having a healthy body will not only help us ward off sickness but will also benefit our mental health too. Here are some ideas:
- Continue to eat well. It can be tempting to comfort eat during difficult times but try to limit the junk food and alcohol at this time. Use the extra time at home to plan and cook tasty and nutritious meals.
- Get enough sleep. It’s really important that we get enough sleep. Sleep is when our brain and body regenerates and a lack of sleep will perpetuate anxiety. If you are having trouble sleeping, a nightly sleep routine can help. Have the same bedtime each night, limit screen time in bed, have a relaxing bath before bed etc.
SPIRITUALLY: Caring for ourselves spiritually is about pondering the big life questions.
For some it is a religious practice, but for some it’s about connecting with something bigger than ourselves. Here are some ideas:
- Try mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of everything around you, in the present without judgement. It is a great way to manage anxiety. It is a skill to learn. It will feel awkward at first but keep trying. The app I suggest for beginners is “Stop. Breathe. Think.”
- Keep a journal. Getting your anxious thoughts and feelings down on paper is like soothing them. I suggest journaling for just a few minutes each night, to express what you are feeling. If you are new to journaling here are three prompts which might help:
Something I am:
- Grateful for
- That surprised me and
- Challenged me.
Above all, as you learn to manage anxiety during the coronavirus crisis, be kind to yourself and others during these difficult times.
As Brene Brown says “We can be our worst selves when we are afraid, or our very best bravest selves”
if you would like some more tips and support during the coronavirus crisis, please join my private Facebook Self care Group for Women.