We’re currently navigating unknown territory as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and for some — myself included — this can lead to a lot of anxiety, which can in turn affect your personal and professional life.
I spoke to Dr Tania Abdulezer, a UKCP accredited NLP psychotherapist and certified reverse therapist at Mind Your Language, to find out how to manage anxiety as we get to grips with our new reality.
“Anxiety occurs when we are in ‘survival mode,’ activating our emotional and reptilian brain centres,” Abdulezer explains.
When this happens, Abdulezer says, it becomes impossible for us to access our rational brain, which is typically tasked with responsible problem-solving, memory, and other complex tasks.
Right now, anxiety is fueled by uncertainty about the future, a lack of control, and significant changes in how we live and work.
The fact that many of us are working from home means we’re not benefiting from the same experiences and interactions we might have had during a typical day.
“We’re having to adapt to getting our needs met in new ways. This is challenging, especially for those with family members at home, who will now require our time and attention and will often be feeling unsettled themselves.”
Abdulezer says the most common anxiety symptoms are those relating to the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These can include:
- Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
- Increased heart rate or breathing
- Feeling clammy or sweaty
- Difficulty concentrating on anything other than present worries or concerns
- A feeling of panic
Concerns and worries can be categorized as follows:
- Historical: Triggered by things that have happened in the past. It can help to discuss these with a trusted person or trained professional.
- Hysterical: Based on irrational fears. It can help to challenge the thinking behind these worries.
- Helpful: Based on events or circumstances outside our control. This is where it can help to focus on what we do know, what we can do, and what we can control. Think about how much control you have and then take action to influence the outcome where possible.
Tips for thriving
There are many different ways of coping with anxiety, but Abdulezer has shared her top tips for thriving — not just surviving — during lockdown:
1. Stick to a routine
Having a routine — and sticking to it — can help manage the symptoms.
For example, going to bed every night know what to expect the next day can help you feel at ease.
At least your routine is something you can have control over and if you’re struggling to focus while you’re working from home, get organized in the morning.
2. Exercise and listen to your body
Exercise is excellent for clearing your head.
If your government allows it, exercise outside — being in nature can really
If you’ve been asked to stay indoors, exercise at home.
Try and rotate your exercise routine to keep things interesting.
Listen to your body. Be kind to yourself and others.
3. Stay connected
Make sure you stay in touch with loved ones. Schedule regular video calls and phone calls.
Reach out to people via WhatsApp or SMS. Share your concerns with people you trust.
It’s important to take time for yourself but don’t become too isolated.
4. Ignore the news (as much as you can)
This is going to sound strange coming from a journalist but try and avoid the news as much as you can.
Constantly reading, watching, or listening to news stories can be pretty upsetting so protect yourself.
I’m not saying you should forego all news coverage but try and limit it to once or twice a day.
If you find your friends are constantly sharing coronavirus-related news or memes on Whatsapp, mute the groups, and limit how much time you spend on social media.
5. Stay healthy
Eat as healthily as possible.
Ensure your meals are balanced and you stay hydrated.
6. Make time for yourself
Make time to unwind.
Do things you enjoy: Baking, meditating, reading, journaling, or listening to music.
Be creative and find a ‘happy’ place in either your home or garden and spend some time alone there every day.
Practice gratitude and mindfulness: Give the Grateful App or Calm app a go.
Make a feel good list featuring activities and people that are sure to put a smile on your face — and keep it handy!
7. Ask for help
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and if your symptoms become unmanageable, let someone you trust know, and seek help as appropriate.
If necessary speak to a doctor about being referred to a trained therapist or counselor for help.
Remember you are not alone.