How to deal with Anxiety and COVID-19
Experiencing increased anxiety during COVID-19 is understandable given the uncertainty we are being faced with. Anxiety disorders like Generalised Anxiety Disorder , Health Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic disorder , which are often associated with a difficulty dealing with uncertainty may become more prevalent during a time like COVID-19.
It is important to understand that anxiety is a normal reaction to uncertainty, however, increased and excessive amounts of fear will create emotional strain on you. It is important to understand what you can do to manage things around you, especially in a time when you may feel powerless. It may feel like everything is out of control right now, but this isn’t entirely true.
COVID-19 is serious and does require us to do things to keep ourselves and others safe. However, what is not helpful is over-estimating danger. For example, the fatality rate is estimated to be 1-3%, therefore most people will recover from this illness. That is not to say we shouldn’t take appropriate caution. Allowing the facts to guide our emotional behaviour is key.
The following tips will help you manage your anxiety symptoms better during this time.
How can I help manage my increased anxiety during COVID-19?
- Stay informed but limit the time you spend watching the news and on social media
- Limit how much time you spend watching the news as this can increase your anxiety. Identify what your limit is, as this will be different for everyone. For example, once per day may be your limit, or short intervals a few times a day, etc.
- Rely only on information from trusted organisations, such as the UK Government and the World Health Organisation
Managing your “What if’s”
In times of increased uncertainty, we may find ourselves excessively falling into thinking about “what ifs” and it can be difficult to stop ourselves from doing this. The tools below can help you better manage “what if” thinking.
- Using grounding strategies can help with this and bring back rational thinking
- Be careful with how you are thinking- identify if you are using any ‘Unhelpful Thinking Styles’, e.g. jumping to conclusions, mind reading, assuming.
- Develop accurate and more helpful perspectives of “what if” worries. Being mindful of facts vs opinions will help also.
- Consider if your worry is something that you still need to worry about and you can practice learning to let go of what is out of your control.
Work On Accepting Uncertainty
We are currently facing a lot of uncertainty and it is important to understand that to help manage your anxiety levels during a time like COVID-19 it may require you to practice learning to tolerate uncertainty.
Focus On What You Can Control
When we are panicked or feeling more anxious, our default can often focus on what we don’t have control over and will tend to minimise or disregard what we do have control over. During COVID-19 there is a lot we do not have control over including how long the pandemic lasts or what is going to happen in the community. It is important during this time to acknowledge what you do have control over including how you protect yourself from increased risk of COVID-19 such as:
- Washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) with soap and water or a
- Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoiding touching your face (particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth).
- Staying home as much as possible, even if you don’t feel sick.
- Avoiding crowds and gatherings of 10 or more people.
- Avoiding all non-essential shopping and travel.
- Keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and others when out.
- Getting plenty of sleep, which helps support your immune system.
- Following all recommendations from health authorities.
Practice Relaxation Daily
Engaging in relaxation and mindfulness exercise’s daily, not just when you are anxious can help prevent your anxiety from increasing during COVID-19.
- The Headspace app for mindfulness practice has free and simple resources to use
- A simple breathing exercise to practice for 5 minutes every morning, afternoon and evening
During a time where self-isolating and social distancing is recommended this can increase the feeling of being alone and can make us feel more anxious. Humans beings require connection and although this is limited at present there are many ways that this can and should still be done.
- If you have the urge to withdraw during this time, try schedule in times throughout the day to speak to family and friends using digital methods.
- Try not to rely solely on text communication like WhatsApp, email and texting. Having visual contact using video calls will increase the level of connection you feel.
- Social media helps to remain connected with people at home and aboard however it is important to limit the amount you engage with this as spending excessive amounts of time can have a negative impact on your mental health.
- Although staying connected with people is very important, it is also appropriate to ask to refocus the conversation if you find the topic of COVID-10 being overly discussed.
Seek Additional Support If You Need It
- Most providers will now be offering support via phone and online.
- Continue with your current treatment remotely or start online therapy with Onebright for immediate access to help.
- You can also use various app-based self-management tools.
Links to useful support sites and resources:
WHO- Events as they are happening
NHS-Looking after your mental health during COVID
GOV.UK- Stay up to date with COVID-19
How can we help support you during COVID-19
If you are struggling with your mental health and are starting to feel anxious or down, then below is a list of services we have that will be able to support you:
- Online therapy – we can offer one-to-one therapy delivered through Skype, FaceTime or via telephone.
- Self-guided therapy – Access an online portal that will allow you to work through your problems whenever suits you, anytime, anywhere.
Please do not hesitate to contact us.