It is a very strange time, one like no other that we have seen, and as such, there is much confusion, uncertainty and fear around us. This is a very normal reaction to this quite abnormal situation that we find ourselves in. Throughout this time of universal change and uncertainty, it is important that we take steps to mind our own mental health, in addition to all of the precautions that we are taking around minding our physical health. Worry and anxiety can be heavy to carry around, so to lighten the load, take some time to practice self-care and self-soothing where possible.
As we all take steps to reduce our social contact and practice social distancing, here are some things that you could try that might help manage any anxiety that you might be feeling:
- Limit exposure to the news – do not overload yourself with information about what is going on. Mindfully check official news updates once in the day if necessary and otherwise switch off from the news. Trust that if anything breaking happens, this information will get to you. Perhaps task a trusted friend or family member to get in touch with you if there is something that you would need to know related to current events.
- Limit exposure to social media and fake news – Set yourself a time limit for scrolling online. Tailor your news feed to block gossip or fake news websites. Remove yourself from groups that scaremonger or spend too much time talking about the virus.
- Maintain connections – we have to get creative about how we stay in touch with people now. Connection with people is essential to our mental health and well-being. Do you usually meet with friends/family at a certain day or time? If so, arrange a virtual meeting instead – try video or conference calls. Netflix has a feature where it allows groups of friends to hang out and watch the same show at the same time. Maintain connection as much as possible.
- Maintain a routine – try to go about your usual daily life as much as possible. Routine is comforting and grounding and also gives us a focus.
- Practice mindful breathing – take a big, deep breath, right down to your stomach, fill your lungs and blow this out. Breathing helps regulate the central nervous system and in particular our Vagus Nerve, which is responsible for our stress reactions. Short, sharp breaths, as if you are blowing bubbles, is also a good technique for regulating the Vagus Nerve.
- Exercise – keep active – it is essential for mental health. With most gyms being closed this will mean getting out into the fresh air (while maintaining a safe distance from others). Organise an outdoor gym session with friends, go for a walk, be in nature. These are all calming activities.
- Sleep – maintain a healthy sleep routine. Engage some practices of sleep hygiene, such as decluttering your sleeping space, removing all unfinished items from your bedroom, reducing blue light exposure before bed i.e. no phones!
- Self-care toolbox – Create a self-care survival kit. Fill it with items that help you feel good, feel calm and feel safe. What would you put in yours?
- Mindfulness/mediation – try an app like CALM or google ‘guided visualisations’ for lots of useful videos on YouTube.
- Anxiety check – check in on yourself. Take note of your worries/fears. Write them down if you can. Are you overthinking? Are you catastrophising? Introduce reality thinking – challenge your worries, ask yourself ‘is this likely’ what is more likely’ Keep a note of the themes that keep coming up for yourself – these are the areas that need your attention most.
- Reach out – share your fears, worries, anxieties with a trusted friend or relative. If it feels too overwhelming, consider some counselling sessions. There are low-cost options available for counselling and many practices are now providing telephone and online counselling for clients at this time.
Above all else, remember that like everything, this too shall pass and we are all in this together.