Covid-19 Induced Anxiety -Self Help.
So, we’re six months into lock-down stress, and how are you coping? Have you noticed any changes in yourself? If you think you have become anxious do you recognise any of these symptoms or signs? Starting with the physical have you more stomach upsets, headaches, insomnia, restlessness, become more jumpy, changes to eating, changes to the way you talk? taking into consideration the fear factor thats around have you difficulty thinking straight, making decisions, absorbing information or thinking rationally? More distracted, overly tearful and emotional? Maybe you were already experiencing anxiety and these last six months have made it worse? These are all normal reactions to this situation.
Our brains are hardwired to respond to fear, in that mode we respond in one of three ways depending on what escape alternative is presented to us at the time. We Flee, we Fight or we Freeze. But the government are telling us to Freeze. Stay Calm, Stay Home and Stay away from others. (I appreciate these numbers have gone up and down and have changed over the months, but the message is the same)… so how do we manage that when our brains are switched on to the “fear factor”? Our whole existence is primed and ready for one of the above actions. But we still have to work and manage a zillion daily things in our busy lives. Apparently out there its a deadly virus, and anyone could be carrying it, your children, your friends, your local friendly till lady at Tescos…doesn’t make you want to go out and feel relaxed does it? its all over the news. DAILY. Its hard to escape. In these circumstances no wonder we are in a state. But there is something you can do to switch off your fear and re-engage normal brain function!
All my clients that I see with anxiety (and it is a common presentation), I help teach them how to breathe properly. It is extremely therapeutic and can calm you in minutes. You can do this anywhere, and is the NUMBER 1 self help tool for anxiety in the moment. With daily practise you can manage panic attacks with this too.
1. Focus on slow breaths first…. in through your nose, out through your mouth.
2. Aim for your out-breath to be one or two seconds longer than your in-breath.
3. Do that now for one or two minutes, just concentrating on the feeling and notice your
body relaxing into it.
4. Example…. breath in 1-2-3-4…..pause.....breath out 1-2-3-4-5-6…….
5. Try and breathe from your stomach and not your chest. Have a go at each and notice
6. Sometimes its nice to rest your hand on your heart or your stomach to give yourself a
little soothing comfort:)
Well done. You’ve now just sent a message to your brain, that everything is ok now. There’s no need to fear, everything is going to be alright. The adrenaline has gone from red alert down to amber and slowly with practise -will turn back to green, normal focus can resume! As soon as you notice you’ve become anxious again, breathe as above until you feel calm. Notice that feeling of calm. Remember to tell your brain you like this feeling.
If you want to further this practise - because, lets face it - its a nice feeling - then take some mindful moments each day and practise this, find a comfy place inside or out….maybe some music that is really mellow and evokes calm, music without lyrics or drumbeats are best for this, and schedule in some breathing, take note of your thoughts too. What are they about? Don’t get caught up in their story, just notice them and let them float away with the clouds for as long as you feel. You can always engage with them again later if you have to.
Take notice what your triggers are, you will soon notice these more - the more your default setting is calm. Working on your triggers can be a separate focus and if you find them too overwhelming/difficult then I may be able to help you with that. I’m only a phone call away.
There are many different practises of breathing and if you search for “2 minute breathing techniques” on the internet you will find many. The most simplest and super effective though is the one I have just shared with you.
There's a lot of scientific reasearch out there to back up the effectiveness of breathing on calming down stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. I won't bore you with it but I will say that I see a 100% improvement in my clients after practising it.
And lastly remember BE KIND to yourself and others. This may not be the time to go on a diet, this may not be the time to makeover your life. You'll probably struggle to concentrate, fail and make yourself feel worse. Don’t make this more stressful than it already is. Think comfort books, comfort telly, comfort everything. Everyone is still on pause, everyone is still managing their best in the circumstances. Understand that if someone is angry or aggressive, then they are also just scared.
Phone a friend, have a rant, share your concerns, watch funny silly stuff on tv, (turn off the news!!) have a laugh, do some self-care. This Covid environment may not be over just yet - and just because some people out there look like their life is back to normal it most likely isnt.
Here's to self hugging for the time being anyway. Goooaaan - give yourself a hug :))