Coronavirus and easing anxiety

I’ve seen hundreds of clients and encountered many different psychological issues during thousands of hours of offering therapy, but I’ve never experienced anything like the stresses and strains that Covid 19 has delivered because it has affected everyone somehow. 

Most of the following advice will almost certainly apply, and will help, in non Covid 19 times too:

Be wary of false news

Be especially wary on social media and instead look up trustworthy sources of information. I listen to the governments guidelines and experts who advise the government. Rumour and guesswork can fuel anxiety. Having high quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control, but it must be reliable, properly researched, information. 

Keep in touch with friends and family

Social media can be doom laden, but for many it is also a great way to connect with friends and family. With self-isolation and social distancing, we can’t meet up with people like we are used to doing, but we can use social media for social support. 

“At times of stress, we humans work better in company and with support. ”

Recently, on top of just chatting, I’ve heard of conversation over pints in virtual pubs, quizzes, tea parties, playing bridge and book clubs - all online.

Think mindfully

There is that balance between being rationally informed and then taking appropriate considered actions or exaggerating things and feeling a heightened sense of anxiety. So, stop, consider and contemplate. Ask yourself what the authentic reality of the situation is.  

Talk and think calmly

Try not to sensationalise things in your head or be overly dramatic when talking to others… stay measured… stay grounded. Try to keep the whole issue in perspective. Avoid spiralling into panic. Try and stay in the moment, the here and now. Talk and think in a composed moderate way. That control part is key. Stressful situations are often beyond our control, and we sometimes create anxiety and worry when we try to control what we can’t regulate. Focusing on what can be controlled, on the other hand, can decrease feelings of anxiety. 

Think positively and be grateful

This virus is obviously not a good thing, but please do not catastrophise.

If you’re at home it is probably a good idea to create and stick to a daily routine and where at all possible, and within government guidelines, keep life as normal as possible. Sandi Mann, a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire is a similar positive thinker and she suggests we can lift our mood by regularly concentrating on the small things that bring pleasure to us. Mann says that considering these six questions can ease tension: 

1. What experiences, however mundane, gave you pleasure?

2. What praise and feedback did you receive?

3. What were the moments of pure good fortune?

4. What were your achievements, however small?

5. What made you feel grateful?

6. How did you express kindness?

“I try to be grateful for what I have, instead of what I do not have by keeping a gratitude diary. I write down three things I am are grateful for every day. ”

These can be small things like a comfortable chair, hot water from a tap, a good meal, a funny joke, someone’s smile, birdsong or a ray of sunshine.

Avoid and distract 

Avoidance is, in some settings, frowned upon in psychological circles, but I focus purely on what I can do, which is often very little or nothing at all. It’s easy to ruminate and spiral about the issue that is causing stress. Avoiding bad news is one tactic and if a depressing thought comes into your head, distract yourself. Distractions will vary from person to person, but in these difficult times, indulge. 

It’s good to talk 

Recognise, acknowledge and accept that you feel might feel sad, low, anxious, puzzled or frightened… It’s OK to feel this way. Please don’t ignore or box up these feelings. If you are struggling emotionally, please don’t spiral into a panic or go into a close down but open up to someone, contact a therapist for Skype, Zoom or Facetime sessions to talk things through and place your emotions appropriately. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it is facing up to a reality and taking brave and decisive action.

Don’t fixate on being happy

This statement may seem counterintuitive, but it is OK to feel bad. If you stop and consider, you can usually place the bad thought. Energetically chasing happiness, whilst suppressing our true feelings, can mean contentment eludes us. If you do feel happy then dwell on that pleasurable moment, don’t rush past it.  

Think wellbeing

Try to exercise and eat healthily and try to keep busy catching up with all those things you’ve not had time to do around the house and garden or read or listen to music or research or just chill out with some good old escapism like a box set.

Try Meditation

Why not try some guided mediation, there is some on this website and plenty of other good stuff on the internet. 

Try the 20 metre 20 second stare. Look at a small object 20 meters away and do not move your focus from that object, then count 1 thousand, 2 thousand, 3 thousand, 4 thousand and so on until you reach 20 thousand. This meditation practise clears your head of other thoughts and only takes 20 seconds. 

Alternatively, if you get a stressed or anxious feeling inside try ‘Breath in let go’. Breath into the uncomfortable feeling and let go with a big out breath. 

Remember that we are all in this together

Be responsible. Social distancing and self-isolating are difficult, but they are necessary. We all need to take individual actions for the overall good. 

Look out for and help others as well as ‘you and yours’

Thinking of and helping others in a community spirited way gives us a positive belonging, feel-good sensation which is hard to beat.

Sadness is inevitable

Many of us will experience sadness because of Covid 19 related events. Support others and yourself empathically. Try and carry out deep sensitive listening if someone is distressed.  

Finally, we are all under a cloud at the moment, but in my experience, clouds pass away and the sun eventually comes out. Please remember, while this episode is seriously tough it is exceptional, it is unique, and it will definitely not last for ever.

By Shane Lutkin, Lead Psychotherapist, Emotionalskills 

In light of Covid 19, therapy sessions will be held via Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, or telephone, as opposed to face to face appointments.

Call 07986 488690, or email info@emotionalskills.uk

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