Tips for Managing Anxiety During COVID-19 and Beyond

If you’re starting to feel the overwhelm of all the recent news, you’re not alone. The feeling is literally global.

People are taking different views, some are panicking, some are minimising – both are potentially responses to fear.

We know when we go through a prolonged period of stress, our brain and body will feel the effects. We also know that when we are in fight or flight – the body’s automatic response to feeling threatened – we don’t make good decisions. So here are some top tips that might help, if you’re feeling the strain.

1) Acknowledge how you’re feeling

All feelings are valid. Whether you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, sad or numb, it all counts. You may be grieving, even if no one has died. This could include the loss of freedom from self-isolation or holidays you had planned which have now had to be cancelled. You may be mourning experiences that happened before the coronavirus outbreak. Your emotions matter, and it’s helpful to find ways to express them in a healthy way that works for you.

2) Read and / or Write

Reading a good book is a wonderful act of self-care, but it’s not always easy to concentrate when your mind is doing somersaults. Some people find poetry helps for this reason, short stories or books with short paragraphs, like Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive.

People express their feelings in different ways, but getting the words out of your head and on to paper or into your laptop can help clear some head space. Mindful journaling can be a healthy way to download what’s in your brain in ways that you can process. The video below offers some ideas, particularly for people who are caring for someone else right now.

3) Get Creative

There are so many ways you can express yourself through creative activities from drawing, mindful colouring and dance. Whether it’s writing your own music (unless you have musical anhedonia), singing your heart out to your favourite song, or dancing if you can, see if you can find something that works for you. A recent report from the World Health Organisation found that singing, dancing and acting has positive effects on our physical and mental health.

4) Move Your Body

A lot of mental health professionals will endorse the benefits of exercise and it’s true to say this is good for you. But when we think of it, our minds often turn to thoughts about going to the gym, a Zumba class or going for a run. Thankfully, all movement counts, whether it’s having a boogie (see above) whether it’s watering your garden or going for a walk in nature (if you can). If you’re self-isolating, even having a good old clear out at home could count as some exercise. Fresh air is just as important, and remember you can currently spend time in your garden if you have one, even if self-isolating, but check the latest government stay-at-home guidance for details.

5) Focus on the basics

According to the Royal Society for Public Health there are three things we should do every day:

  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Drink water

and yet, these are probably the very things that suffer most when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. We know that around 70% (if not more) of the mood hormone serotonin is made in your stomach – so it’s more important than ever when you’re struggling, to try to eat. It doesn’t have to be big meals, but maybe eat little and often if it helps. You could practice self-care by planning your favourite dinners, or ask for further guidance from your doctor, especially if your eating habits are becoming unhealthy for you. You can drink water with flavoured juice, if it helps. Sleep is also something that we can find hard when our mind is racing. Here are some tips on sleep that might help, especially if you’re working shifts.

6) Stay Connected

It’s easy when you’re feeling overwhelmed to withdraw, including coming off social media and that can be a healthy thing from time to time. However, as human beings we are tribal by nature, and so it’s important we feel we have somewhere to belong. Sarah Millican creates the #JoinIn hashtag on Twitter for people feeling lonely every Christmas, and has recently endorsed using it for those self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to modern technology you can also keep in touch with friends and family via Skype, WhatsApp and other methods of communication if you have access to them. Talk to your doctor about accessing counselling if you think it would help.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the different news stories. So keep up-to-date via news sources that you trust and the latest government guidance.

7) Practice Compassion for Yourself and Others

Kindness and compassion are not the same.
We tend to reserve kindness for friends and family – those we care about (that’s why we often don’t include ourselves). This is where compassion comes in.

Compassion is “wise kindness”. It’s being able to recognise our differences but still be able to work together. It’s helping someone you don’t know or like, but at the same time keeping boundaries. It’s helping in a way that’s meaningful, but knowing our limits.

You can show yourself compassion by writing yourself a love note (words of kindness that remind you that “This will pass”), or repeating a mantra like “May I be well, May I be happy, May I be peaceful”. Find ways to give yourself permission to relax, and drop some of the unhelpful commentary that’s spiralling in your mind. This is where techniques like S.T.O.P can help, or a loving kindness meditation to feel connected with those who do understand how you feel.

Make taking care of yourself a priority, and do what you can with what you have from where you are.

This video offers a suggestion on what can help manage a panic attack. Sound up if needed.

This article is aimed at people who are struggling with mild to moderate anxiety. If you’re worried about your health and well-being, speak to your doctor, you can ring the NHS on 111, and if you’re struggling with your thoughts right now, the Samaritans are available in the U.K. 24/7 on 116 123. Here are some links to other agencies that may be able to help.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2020

About Delphi Ellis

Qualified Counsellor, Mental Health and Well-Being Trainer, and Mindfulness Practitioner. Creator of Monday Mojo™. Talks 'Lady Business', raising awareness of factors which predominantly affect Women's Mental Health like pregnancy and domestic abuse. Helping to improve the global conversation, and bring an end to stigma and shaming. Dream Explorer as seen on the telly. Avid tea drinker.

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