Their windows and doors remained closed for 12 months. When people dropped off provisions, they were instructed to leave them on the doorstep. During the beautiful spring and summer of 2020, my neighbours did not even go out into their garden. Was this due to the pandemic? Yes, it was certainly triggered by the pandemic but the main reason they refused to go out of the house was due to fear and anxiety. They were simply terrified.
For many, anxiety that may have been under control pre-pandemic has spiralled out of control. Health anxiety has become more pronounced, with hyper-vigilance and scanning becoming a daily feature, as the fear of catching COVID grew. Social anxiety that may have always been uncomfortable has now taken on a life of its own. Life was simpler when you could avoid going out due to lockdown but with restrictions lifting, social anxiety has resurfaced and life has once again become challenging.
News stories of people dying, added risks attached to being vaccinated and the unpredictability of the world we live in right now has meant that now, more than ever people need help managing their general anxiety and health anxiety levels.
So, what can you do?
- Speak to someone. It can be a professional counsellor, a family member or a trusted friend but talk to someone about how you feel. We can all get stuck in our thoughts, where nothing makes sense. Talking to someone helps us to get perspective on a situation and draws out our ability to help ourselves.
- Get outside. When the sun is shining, take a walk and soak up the rays. Vitamin D lifts our mood and exercise increases those feel-good hormones.
- Challenge unhelpful thinking patters. One of the big players in generalised and health anxiety is the chatter in our heads. Our thoughts are not always our friend. Our brain does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined so if our brain perceives our world as being unsafe, our body will react with feelings of anxiety, panic, and fear.
Useful questions to ask yourself when negative thoughts are running rampant around your mind:
- What is disturbing me?
- If I was speaking to a friend what would I say to them to reassure them?
- Am I over-estimating the danger or under-estimating my ability to manage the situation?
- Is what I am thinking true?
- What evidence is there?
- How do I balance this thought?
- Can I flip it to something more positive?
- Is there anything I can do right now to help myself?
- What would a friend tell me to do right now?
When our mind and body have gone into panic, we have triggered our body’s natural reaction to danger. Once we have tapped into the fight, flight, freeze response we need to calm our nervous system down.
Useful exercises include:
Mindful breathing or square breathing:
- Find a space where you can relax
- If sitting in a chair, place both your feet firmly on the floor so you feel supported.
- Slowly exhale all of the air out of your body.
- Gently inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4.
- At the top of the breath, hold the breath for a count of 4.
- Then gently exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
- At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for the count of 4.
- Continue this for at least 5 minutes
Refocusing your body’s energy.
- If you can, get up from where you are and go do something different. Where possible get up and move. The movement will help drive the adrenaline out of the body. Dance, shake your hands and legs, do anything to burn up that nervous energy.
Take a bath or shower.
- Water induces a state of relaxation. If you can’t lie in it or stand under it, listen to it. Click Here for a lovely track on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77ZozI0rw7w
- Find your internal safe space. Visualise a happy and safe place for you. It could be walking along a beach with the warmth of the sun on your face. It could be walking through the forest on a crisp, winter day or walking through the mountains. When you feel anxious close your eyes and go to your happy, safe place. Imagine the sounds, sight, smells, feel and taste of your environment. Enjoy it!
For more information on how to manage generalised, health or social anxiety feel free to get in touch. We have a monthly anxiety support group, individual counselling sessions, and other physical services which help with anxiety reduct