Well, I don’t know about you, but prior to March 2020 I had no blueprint for how to cope during a global pandemic! My vocabulary didn’t include words and phrases such as ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdown’, ‘self-isolating’ or ‘new normal’. Nor had I ever bathed my groceries, yet there I was meticulously sanitising everything that crossed my threshold (I set up a paste table in my back garden that became jokingly known as ‘the decontamination and sanitisation station’ – catchy, no?)
18 months on and things are still uncertain, aren’t they? And as things begin to open up here in the UK, some people are running towards ‘freedom’ with open arms and others are retreating and seeking the comfort and safety of their own surroundings. There is still uncertainty regarding new variants and rumblings of the possibility of further lockdowns in the future.
Whilst we are experiencing a global phenomenon, a shared experience, its impact on our individual lives is entirely unique. We might be facing the same storm, but we are not ‘all in the same boat’.
There are countless ways that I have observed the pandemic impacting my clients, my loved ones and myself, such as:
- Isolation and disconnection
- Fear and anxiety
- Grief and loss
- Impaired cognition and disorientation
- Frustration and anger
In this blog post, I am going to focus on the anxiety that many of us have experienced and offer
7 tips to help manage and overcome Covid-related anxiety:
1. Be patient with yourself
Acknowledge that this is a situation we have never before encountered in our lifetime. Unfamiliarity and uncertainty can naturally bring about feelings of anxiety. Be gentle with yourself and avoid comparing how you feel you are coping with how others seem to be managing. We all have entirely unique circumstances, challenges and resources.
2. Go at your own pace
Just because you can now do something does not mean you have to. If you are not ready to launch yourself back out into a full social life, you don’t have to. Don’t worry what everyone else is doing, go at your own pace and build up from there.
3. Don’t completely avoid the things that make you anxious
When you continually avoid situations that make you anxious, it brings short-term relief, but can create longer-term anxiety. By setting small, manageable activities you can face your fears in a way that feels safe and not too overwhelming. If you are not ready to meet friends in a restaurant, for example, rather than avoiding going out at all, perhaps suggest meeting for a walk in the park or a coffee outside.
4. Think about your ‘circle of control’
We all spend vast amounts of time and energy worrying about things entirely outside of our control. The ‘circle of control’ is a strategy that will help you to guide your attention to the aspects of the situation you can control. So, for example, you cannot control the spread of the Covid-19 virus worldwide but you can influence your personal safety by wearing a mask and sanitising your hands. When you find your thoughts or anxieties running riot, draw (or imagine) a circle. Within this circle are all the things you can control or influence, write them in. Everything else belongs outside the circle – things over which you have no control or influence, write them outside the circle. Practise sorting your thoughts in this way: focusing energy and attention on only the things you can personally control or influence can reduce feelings of helplessness and overwhelm.
5. Talk to someone you trust
This might be a friend, family member or therapist. Expressing your fears or anxieties out loud can be helpful. Social connection is a wonderful way to combat the loneliness and isolation that many people have experienced during the pandemic. There are online resources to help you find someone to talk with too, try www.hubofhope.co.uk to check what is available in your area.
6. Write, journal, express yourself
Anyone who has ever worked with me will know that I am a great believer in the therapeutic value of expression through writing. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a really great way to begin processing and making sense of the experience. By writing, rather than merely thinking, you can begin to externalise the worry, rather than it keep swimming around and around in your head. Externalising a problem places some emotional distance between you and it, leading to less overwhelm. Additionally, journaling can be a great way of noticing your progress and how your thoughts and feelings may have changed over time, without you being consciously aware. Pick up your pen and just write, don’t over-think it, and see what surfaces.
7. Be mindful of your intake of media
The news and social media can become overwhelming if consumed in vast quantities. There is so much conflicting and unverified information out there too, it can be scary and confusing. Monitor your intake of news and social media and if you feel the anxiety rising, take a break. Maybe allow yourself to only check the media for a limited amount of time per day, or to only check one trusted source. You could ask someone you trust to update you if there are major developments of which you need to be aware so that you do not worry about missing out on crucial information.
I hope these tips help. How have you been coping with Covid-anxiety? If you have any ideas, please do share.