As I write this, the world is experiencing something completely unprecedented as it faces the unknown quantity that is COVID-19.
Many people are in self-isolation, working from home, looking after children as schools are closed, cancelling events for the foreseeable future and businesses are closed and struggling.
It is worrying times and worry can lead to anxiety for everyone and if you already live with anxiety or other mental health issues, these times have never been tougher.
We all have mental health which works on a continuum; sometimes our mental health is good and sometimes it’s not and we can slide to any point on that scale at any moment of any day.
The current climate is giving people more awareness of their own mental health as the worry and reality of COVID-19 hits.
Overwhelm and anxiety are something that can easily affect us all, but there are things we can do to help ourselves both generally and in specifically at this time.
I’ve put together a few coping strategies for managing anxiety which can easily be implemented by you when you need a little support to bring some calmness into your life.
Not all these ideas will work for everyone, but hopefully from these ideas you can find a few which you can build into your good daily habits.
So, in no particular order…
Breathing is the most fundamental thing we can do to not only survive, but to keep anxiety levels controlled and bring some calm to ourselves when all around is moving so fast.
There are many focussed breathing techniques you can use, but two of my favourites are simple yoga breathing - slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth - and ‘4, 7, 8’ breathing. This is when you breath in for 4 beats, hold for 7 and out over 8.
By making your out breath longer than your in breath, you will help slow your heart rate and bring a sense of calm.
I cannot tell you how important sleep is for managing your mental health.
After breathing, I think sleep is the most important thing we can do to help our minds and body rest and heal. But some people struggle to sleep well
With a combination of other things I’ve mentioned such as hydration, diet, exercise, breathing exercises, reading and meditation we can all improve our sleep patterns. In the current climate, the best thing we can stockpile is sleep.
Be kind to yourself, embrace emotions
It’s really important to be kind to yourself and not beat yourself up when you’re riding a rollercoaster of emotions.
Supressing emotions can be really detrimental to our mental health and the best thing we can do is let them be, understand them, accept them, let them pass and move on with more resilience.
Cry and laugh when you need to. Never feel bad or self-conscious about feeling happy or sad. Embrace the emotions, be honest with yourself and others about how you feel and share that gem of knowledge with everyone.
Make Yourself Feel Good
Especially when we are deprived of doing what we normally do in terms of going out and taking part in things, do everything you can do to make yourself feel good.
Stay healthy with nutritious food, home exercise regimes, fresh air and hydration and do all you can to make yourself feel good.
Have that pamper session, wear the nice underwear, get dressed up. Even if no-one will see it, this is about making yourself feel good and happy.
Days when I’ve got a great matching underwear set on are days I feel like I’m winning!
For more food and nutrition advice check out The Food Ninja.
Review & reflect
Take time to understand and accept situations, review your current environment and situation and reflect on what has gone and what is, purely as a means to make a conscious decision about how to move forwards in the best way for you.
We don’t and must not reflect to feel sadness and wallow in things that have passed, but by reflecting we can learn and move forwards with strength and resilience.
Even in the hardest of times, laughter, humour and smiling will help us through so spread that stuff around like glitter.
Find some funny cat videos or your favourite comedian to watch, read a joke book, smile at the person on the other side of the street.
Whatever you do, do it with a smile.
Writing things down is a really great way to accept and understand your emotions and feelings with a view to managing anxiety.
Regular journaling, can really help you understand yourself in order to build resilience and the opportunity to write down how you really feel is quite cathartic. The process of reading your words back can also help you to get to grips with your own emotions.
Losing yourself in a good book does not only help learning, it can help the mind be free and imaginative. It gives your mind permission to step away from its own thoughts and anxieties and to get some much-needed rest.
With so many ways to read and so many different books, reading is a never-ending source of help and support.
I like to have several books on the go at the same time; a mix of autobiographies, self-help, business and novels.
Meditation doesn’t mean you have to have the skills and patience of a meditation guru!
Just taking a few minutes to sit quietly with your eyes closed, focus on your breathing and be at one with your thoughts can really help to bring a sense of calm and control anxiety.
There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube and other similar places, or you can use and app on your phone to assist.
A couple of great apps for meditation and helping with anxiety are ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’.
I use ‘Calm’ not just for the meditations but also the sleep stories meditation lessons.
Headspace has just released some new free content too called ‘Weathering the Storm.’
You can use these (and other) apps for free with in app purchases available.
Mindfulness does not have to be all ‘woo woo’ but in fact it’s just the appreciation and skill of being in the here and now; not worrying what has gone or what is ahead but just focussing on what is around you right now.
You can be mindful whilst walking, playing or listening to music, cooking, eating and many more ways.
Simply take a moment to appreciate your current surroundings. That could be what you see, taste, hear, touch, smell; utilise all your senses to help ground yourself.
Switch off notifications
Many of us spend a great deal of time on social media and our ‘phones and as we change our habits due to self-isolation, working from home and lockdowns we are likely to find ourselves online more than ever.
In order to manage our anxiety and overwhelm better, it’s advisable to switch off the notifications on your ‘phone so you can be self-disciplined and more in control of your own usage.
Stay away from news
Yes, this is hard, especially as we want to know all the latest breaking news surrounding this global pandemic, but a lot of news stories are sensationalised and this is not good for our anxiety levels.
News is 24/7 these days, but our usage of it doesn’t have to be. Re-order news feeds, switch off notifications and only check in on the news at designated times on your terms. Your anxiety levels will thank you for it.
Surround yourself with uplifting info
Once you’ve made a choice to limit the sensationalised news and stories, surround yourself with uplifting information. Find some great online resources and groups or books and magazines and get involved with as many things that make you smile and feel involved as possible.
Find people and groups who ground you
Staying grounded is key in managing anxiety. Surround yourself with amazing people who will keep you in check, have your health and interests at heart and will be there for you in moments of both joy and crisis.
Having people and groups you trust is paramount, so choose who is best for you and who makes you feel safe and included. Don’t be afraid to talk to these people when you need to and share your feelings and emotions. You are not a burden and your level of understanding could be the kind of non-judgemental listening someone else needs, so be there for each other. Your tribe is everything.
Be a reducer not a producer
Be the person that helps to reduce anxiety and not produce it. You are not alone in things so put all the coping strategies in place to help yourself and this will help reduce the anxiety in yourself and others.
Think what you do have control over
You have control over your choices and your actions. Don’t be led by news and social media hype and panic. Make your own judgements, take the advice of experts and control your choices. By taking charge of your decisions you will be able to limit overwhelm and anxiety and make the best judgements for you.
Is your response appropriate
When everything around you feels chaotic and out of control, the one thing we must control is our response to situations.
It’s so important to ACT and not REACT to things. Choose your response wisely after you’ve asked yourself if your actions or words are necessary, kind and appropriate.
How we act to things helps us keep emotions and anxiety in check.
How can you influence a situation?
Once you have decided on the appropriate response to an event or situation ask yourself how you can influence things positively. Can your knowledge or understanding help someone else to feel better so the mutual support will help you all through?
Try to find ways to think positively and influence a situation for emotional and physical benefit of yourself and others.
Creativity is good for the soul. Whether it’s a creative hobby, creative thinking or learning new creative skills, focusing on something creative can help with your mental health.
Music, writing, drawing, painting, colouring-in, sewing, knitting, cooking; there are so many ways to get creative so find your thing.
Create a new routine
We can be a little habitual and often that gives us comfort when trying to manage our anxiety, but the reality is these times call for a tweak to our usual routines, but this doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming.
First, with the other work we’ve done on our minds in place, we can accept the situation and rationally accept it. We can then prepare to take different measures.
See things as an opportunity; an opportunity to cook different foods, an opportunity to communicate differently and safely with people, an opportunity to build new exercise regimes at home, a new way to work, a new way to school our children.
The best thing about opportunity is that we get to create exactly what works for us, in a way that works for us. So, make small actions and changes and be consistent with them to create new routines and habits.
It’s good to know that your current situation and feelings will pass and so we are not stuck in the ‘here and now’ but we can look to future plans and goals.
Have a mix of small goals to get you through each moment of each day and some big amazing goals to strive for. Be as creative as you like and make them all exciting.
From every situation, no matter how overwhelming it feels at the time, there will be a positive if you look for it. Finding the positive in a seemingly negative scenario is what can help our anxiety as it gives us hope that things are within our control and understanding.
When anxiety starts to bubble due to the chaos around you, stop and take a moment to step back, view things from every perspective and look for that small glimmer of positivity and then build on it.
What can you learn?
Finally, the most important thing we can do (after breathing and sleeping!) is to learn and develop. Be open to learning about yourself, your emotions and those of other people.
A focus on learning and development can help us manage anxiety because we can see the point in things and understand and accept that everything has purpose and meaning. When we understand that, we can create better coping strategies for ourselves and move forwards with purpose and a renewed vigour.
Just remember you are never alone; together we can support ourselves and each other and I’m always here and happy to help.
If you want some friendship, online happiness or to join in the conversation to support better mental health and help yourself and others, then hop on over to my page at www.facebook.com/modefor or my #createmyhappy group at www.facebook.com/groups/createmyhappy