I have had so many emails and phone calls over the past week showing that like me, most of you are living with the mix of fear and sorrows that appropriately come with a global pandemic. In the face of real danger and the tragedy of loss, it is important that we pause and acknowledge these feelings.
Many of us are maintaining social distance, staying at home in self isolation. It is useful to consider this as a chance to take the time to pause, to be kind and love those you’re with, or connect online or by phone with wider circles of loved ones.
A few things that may be helpful include:
Stay connected with people. Make plans to video chat with friends and family. Make phone calls, send messages and connect with people.
Create a routine:
It can really help to plan how to spend your time, split the day up into time to exercise, time to work, time to do something creative, or fun.
If you are able to go out, then get as much sunlight and fresh air as possible. Spending time outdoors in the fresh air can be so beneficial to both your mental and physical well being, improving mood and reducing stress and anxiety.
If you are having to stay at home then try to get out into your garden if you have one, or open windows and get as much natural light as you are able. Build physical activity into your day as much as possible. It could be an online workout, or just dancing to music, even cleaning your house.
Looking after children or young people at home:
Don’t feel bad about being more lenient with your children’s social media and mobile phone use during their time away from school. They are used to being around their friends and might find it difficult not to be around them.
Find out from their school what homework or digital learning is available to them, keeping some sort of routine as much as possible, with time allocated for work, breaks, exercise and fresh air if you can, and time for fun.
If you’re feeling anxious:
Think about access to media and social media
It is easy to get caught up in the never ending cycle of news, but this can cause some people to become paralysed with anxiety in which case it may be useful to completely stop interacting with the news. But for other people, it is important to know what is going on, not knowing makes it worse.
If you find that your levels of anxiety are spiralling, it may be helpful to limit how much time you spend on social media, or reading, listening or watching the news.
Remember, what focus on you amplify, so if you are finding that you are getting anxious, spending time focusing on something else, doing something you enjoy, can be hugely beneficial to your mental well being.
Don’t ignore your anxiety
It’s very normal to feel scared about something like this, so acknowledge your feelings and take a moment to give yourself permission to feel this way.
A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you do this. If you are not able or would prefer not to meet face to face, then online sessions are an option. However it is essential that whomever you consult is qualified to do so. It is not just a matter of setting up a camera as although many of the skills are similar, there are other important considerations.
Do something you can control
It can help to express your anxiety by writing a journal, or keeping a diary. Once you’ve written it down, you can practice symbolically letting it go. So allow the worry, write it down and then put it away, let it go.
Bring it back to the here and now
With anxiety, it’s often like you’re 10 steps ahead, so bring things back to the present. It’s easy to get carried away on all the ‘what if’s’, so bring it back to what you actually know, to what is happening right now
Make sure you are looking after yourself, doing what you can to help get a good night’s sleep, eating well and doing exercise.
“I always talk to my clients about a wellbeing check. Sleeping, eating, exercising. If we manage our health like this, it can help make us more robust against anxiety.”