A healthy mind is critically important to you and everyone around you!
Here are some things you can do to help your anxiety while you take healthy, reasonable steps to manage the stresses COVID-19 is placing on you:
From early March 2020 all our therapy sessions have been via video apps.
All of us, like you, have found ourselves adapting to a new way of living, som things may seem simple and say, other things we may find have been annoying, frustrating or worse.
Isolation, not knowing what is coming next, not being sure where threats may be to you or your family – all of these things can be very hard on your mental health, and I have seen clients in various states of coping when we do our sessions. When clients appear on our session app, initially I have witnessed various levels of anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some clients even start off with the fact they don’t feel like they are coping well.
The good news is that during and after the sessions, after distinctions are made, after recognition of how to manage thoughts with good rules, boundaries and limitations understood, leading to new ways of thinking, resourcing and managing thoughts and other health scenarios, clients are reporting a significant and enduring shift away from fear and anxiety to a stronger more confident thought processes.
Of course, during times of such unprecedented crisis It is pretty normal that there is a sense of not knowing what is going, of not knowing what may come next that can feed feeling uneasy, anxious and worried.
However – there can exist many varied levels of anxiety. There are ways of managing levels down and feeling better and more in control.
Concern about what is going on and the future is understandable, thinking about what you can do and how you can respond to the crisis is appropriate, however, being frozen in a state of constant anxiety is not only not helpful to you, it can be harmful to you – there can be worry that become so extreme that is could stop people from getting through the day.
Anxiety tends to occur when our brains are confronted with a difficult or critical situation.
The brain natural response is one where it compels us to take action – currently there is still some confusion about what all the possible actions may be, so this ambiguity, can tip thinking to go into a cycle where the mind can enter a loop of concern, thinking, overthinking, This overthinking can then tip over into overwhelm when that cycle isn’t managed. Overthinking can take you past that important point of recognition of what you can do as an action, what at that point in time would be a reasonable and rational response and instead go past that and into a place that’s a vicious thinking cycle that isn’t good for your mental health.
– Of course - Right now, do what you can, as we do need to be prepare. Do do those things that are important to stay safe , taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously. Follow the government and health authorities ‘safety guidelines’ – and keeping yourself and those you love .
Signs that it is important to get get into action and to access help quickly when you are overthinking can be things like:
Sleep issues, panic attacks, feeling sad or depressed or feeling overwhelmed or immobilized – these are all non virus related health issues that aren’t related to COVID-19 infection, however they can have significant impact on your mental health. Behaviors that don’t support you can impact you and be a poor model of behaviour for others in your family. When you create anxiety patterns they can become habitual – so it is important to take steps to not let those behaviours become entrenched, and instead have better coping mechanisms that you can use well and for your better mental health into the future!
Here are several tips to give you a start in managing behavioural responses that could lead to anxiety escalating – use these tips to take healthy, reasonable steps to manage the stresses COVID-19 is placing on you:
Connection and connectedness:
Talk! Continue to talk to and communicate with friends and family about stuff that is not COVID-19 related.
Pets & Mental Health - If you or a friend or family member is currently isolated with no human touch or contact pets can be a vial lifeline to good mental health outcomes. A pet can be companion and give and receive touch, which helps with physical recovery from all sort of health crisis scenarios – perhaps if thre is no pet in the household, there is a chance to ‘mind’ on of the friends or family pets for a while, or perhaps to foster for a rescue or even adopt a pet. This action can seriously be a lifeline to those living in isolation
Rules, Boundaries and Limitations:
Sick of hearing about COVID-19? OK – then create clear rules about ‘COVID-19 related content in discussion - whether one the phone, via social media, texts, emails etc - you can advise the content and tone that you will or won't accept! -
Make rules and communicate them and keep them clear:
“I do not want to keep talking about (COVID-19 related stuff) all the time” - &
“This is a COVID-19 no-go zone today thanks!” can be excellent ways to make sure you don’t get too much of stuff you don't want to focus on at a time like this when everyone feels scared.
If you do have a friend or family member who will not stop talking about COVID-19, after being asked not to - then maybe socially distance from them until they respect your requests.
Same with friends or family members who are sending you articles or text messages with fearful messages in them. This fuels people’s anxiety. Consider asking the person to stop doing it or blocking the person for a while.
Seek people who are also somewhat positive and engaged in life.
Peaceful and Meditation time
Your limbic system deserves calm, quiet, soothing moments, following guidelines you can still get some exercise & some fresh air and sunshine. Let your inner forearms get some sunshine on them, let your eyes get some sunlight into them – this helps the body to create and regulate vitamins and to regulate hormones – you deserve this boost. Also, you can get a sense of control over your space and your attitude at this time.
Routine – got a good one – then keep it going!
Keeping to a good routine helps you to maintain and keep good patterns! Each day – do your routine – whatever it is – have your breakfast, Have a shower, get dressed, even put on make-up & fix hair etc. because routines tend to reassure us that the world doesn’t have to change too much. If you start to see a pattern of too sleepy or unengaged and “taking to your bed” get active – get into a different supportive more active routine!
Anxiety or Panic Attacks?
change the pattern up – those feelings are best not to be focused on, as focus will only cause amplification – so turn the volume down on those thoughts, focus on gentle and rhythmic breathing – breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds, then breath out slowly through your mouth for a count of 4 seconds and repeat - until you sense a change to the breathing – notice something different that works for you.
Get help with better patterns and processes
Help yourself and get faster results by discussing how to improve better mental health practices with a person who can help you with some strategies.
For quick results that tend to lead to great long term results you will typically work with a Therapist to achieve quick results due to their understanding of process and strategies and focused on you an your goals. (Online, Video App based therapy is available and works very well)
Your GP may already have you on medication for anxiety and even with other strategies you are using, if you still feel unwell, call for an appointment with your treating doctor, see if there is anything they will suggest on the medication front to provide added support to you during this time.
Social Media & News
Minimise the amount of news and social media consumption.. Keep informed but not all day – Instead only watch the news once a day.
If you are finding it hard to watch once per day and cope – then instead get a trusted friend of family member to give you calm updates about the situation – things you need to know only.
Use the filters and content management on social media – you can control your news feed – if it is too much, then stop using it and phone, video conference or text friend & family s to make a connection instead.
keep COVID-19 content away. Instead, Read a book, or watch something funny, relaxing or entertaining instead.
Select fun, light-hearted programming. In a crisis it is time to leave the grim reality shows, or horror or crime stories unwatched. The extra adrenaline and cortisol your body releases when watch such content can overload your body and mind and therefore aren’t helpful.
A little bit might be OK – however alcohol is known to have a rebound affect that can in fact cause added anxiety the day after. You and your relationship can do better without alcohol related stresses – so do limit your intake please.
What can you control? Times of crisis, such as we have such as now, can make people feel things are a not in our control. Of course, we can take time to distinguid what I in our control and what is not in our control.
Most things – nothing has ever really been completely in our control anyway. We can only control a small sphere and mostly that I our attidue and how we choose to respond to what is going on.
Find those things you can control in your life. We talked in this blog earlier about rules, boundaries and limitation you can use to manage communications and continue to make good choices about how to keep yourself safe.
You can also make choices to eat healthily, to plan for the future – things you wish to do – after the crisis, you can clean, plan and update your home environment using time a bit differently play games, chatting with friends and planning future social events – doing some virtual video based social events now as doing all those sorts of things can help distract you and also improve your sense of feeling more in control.
If you find any negative self talk going on, know that you don’t have to listen to it at all, feel free to tell negative thoughts to ‘shut up’ and only listen to those thoughts that support you and others at this time.
Remember epidemics and conflicts do not last forever – at some point, COVID-19 will also cease - or – be made manageable by the the application of science – the entire world is working on this problem, it can and will be resolved at some point in the future.
Lets keep in mind, everyone is unique and dealing with this crise in different ways.
Be mindful that you do not want to fuel the anxiety of others either. Be a place of calm in a storm, become informed – but not go down the rabbit hole of crisis obsession.
Let yourself be free from overthinking and obsessive thoughts and don’t focus on feelings or thoughts that don’t serve your mental health
Things will change and we are all in this together! So lets keep mentally healthy, so that we are all out our very best moving forward! If you wish to learn more about process and strategies with a therapist who can help you. I am Kerry - I am here to help.