Managing Anxious Feelings During the COVID-19 Outbreak

 Anxious woman with head in her hands

 

If you’ve never been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the Coronavirus pandemic could be the first time you’ve experienced sustained bouts of anxious feelings.

Anxiety is usually a short-term response to the unknown or unfamiliar.

Often occurring when we’re feeling nervous about something (public speaking, job interviews, test results, etc), it tends to disappear once the concerning event or situation has passed.

Anxiety alerts us to dangers and challenges, encouraging us to do something; it was critical to the survival of our species but can feel a little redundant in modern life.

But anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic is understandable.  It can be useful, too, encouraging us to stay indoors, to socially distance ourselves and to regularly wash our hands.

But anxious feelings can spiral into something that isn’t helpful and pretty debilitating.  During the current crisis many people, even those who’ve never suffered from anxiety before, will find themselves prone to increasingly anxious thoughts.

What makes it worse right now is that everyone is talking about Coronavirus: every news channel, every newspaper, across social media platforms, group chaps, amongst friends and family…  It’s tough to step back from so much overwhelming information (and disinformation) because Coronavirus is all anyone seems able to talk about.

But this pandemic is likely to last for months, so don’t feel bad about taking a step back or cutting yourself off from some of the more destructive streams of information and conversation.

There’s lots you can do to help manage anxious feelings right now.

 

Limit the Amount of Information Your Consuming

 

You should reduce the amount of time you’re reading, watching or talking about Coronavirus.

Whilst it’s important to stay informed, too much information will increase feelings of unease.  Much of what you’re seeing on television and online is just information being repeated over and over.

You don’t need to keep scrolling to stay up-to-date. Pick specific bulletins to watch or listen to and avoid the rest. Take breaking news notifications off your phone and stop endlessly scrolling through social media.

 

Pick Your Information Sources Carefully

 

Carefully choose where you get your information from.

Opinion can easily be masked as truth and disinformation are easily shared ad infinitum across social media platforms.  For public health advice, look to the Government. The World Health Organisation’s website is useful, too.  Some might prefer the BBC or New York Times (some might not).

The people you know and love are probably sharing all sorts of batshit and erroneous bits of information right now. If reading it creates feelings of anxiety, then try to trace the source of that information. A simple Google search is often enough to highlight fake news and hoaxes.

Unless your Aunt Carole has a PhD in virology, take her opinion on COVID-19 with a pinch of salt.

 

Change Your Negative Thoughts

 

Finding yourself focusing on negative thoughts?  Remember you can change the narrative.  It’s easy to catastrophize so rather than thinking ‘If Grandma gets the virus, she’ll die’ recognise the thought as being harmful and then change it by thinking ‘actually, most people survive and make a full recovery’.

(Which is true, they do).

 

Get Moving

 

 

Exercise is so important in maintaining both physical and mental health. 

You could go for a walk or take up jogging.  Even digging or planting in the garden counts if it gets you a little out of breath and moving.

Gyms have switched to online classes and there are loads of things to do online.

EarHugz now has two at home exercise bundles available to order: Survival, and The Booty Kit. Both are ideal for home workouts until the gyms open up again.

We also added a post recently about some of the online resources you can use to stay fit until all of this blows over.

 

Do it Like a Navy SEAL

When you’re spiralling into anxious thoughts try box breathing. It’s a simple but incredibly effective technique used by US Navy SEALS to override the body’s flight-or-fight response.

 

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Take a deep breath in for 4-seconds
  3. Hold for 4-seconds
  4. Exhale slowly for 4-seconds
  5. Repeat

 

Take Back Control 

The pandemic has left many of us feeling as if we have no control.

We can’t see the virus; there’s no vaccine and we don’t know how long this is going to last.

Anxiety can thrive in situations where we don’t have the helm but there’s actually, quite a lot that you can do to keep you and your family safe such as following the guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation. Staying inside your home, following advice on handwashing, maintaining good social distancing, and isolating when necessary will reduce your chance of contracting the virus.

 

Keep Your Mind Busy on Other Things

Distraction can be as good as a cure.

Try and forget we’re living in a pandemic.

Put a pair of headphones on and escape into a playlist or podcast. It’s a great way of giving our brains a break.

If you’re planning on getting your workouts in, music can help improve your performance, too.

You could read a book or watch a film. 

 

Be Social Even When You’re Social Distancing 

If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, talk to someone.  Pick up the phone or send a text and start a conversation with other human beings.

Talk about your worries if you need to air them but try and talk about other things that interest or enthral you, too.

Your need to reach out could also help someone else.

 

Take a Moment to be Mindful

Yoga and meditation are always thrown around in times of stress as magic bullets to anxiety or depression, but they can work. 

They both focus on the present moment which is useful as anxiety is often anchored in the future, in the unknown.

Try worrying about a virus when you’re balancing in tree pose. Careful breathing during each posture helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, too. 

If it all sounds a bit hooey, then just sit quietly and look out of the window, read a book or take a long bath. 

 

EarHugz Supports the Mental Health Foundation

It’s important to maintain good mental health throughout your life, but it’s especially vital during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

We’re all still adjusting to how drastically our lives have changed and it’s okay to feel a little wobbly. Just remember that there’s lots you can do to keep your mind from swan diving into anxiety.

As always, EarHugz are donating £1 from each sale of its at-home exercise bundles and sweat-proof headphone covers to the Mental Health Foundation.  They do amazing work and by purchasing from the EarHugz website, you’re supporting that 😊

 

If you need to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, there are plenty of places to seek help:

 

Mental health foundation

MIND

Anxiety UK