Coping with anxiety during Covid19

By David Newby (Copyright 2020)

During the coming weeks people are going to be riding the rollercoaster of change as we grapple with the new realities that confront us. Right now we may well be feeling a sense of disorientation and disbelief as we follow the unprecedented events unfolding across the world. At times it will feel like it is not real but as the impact of the lockdown begins to affect our daily routines and as the virus begins to affect people we know, our sense of bewilderment will soon be replaced by feelings of anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a free floating emotion – we can’t put our finger on what it is that is making us anxious but we experience feelings of unease that begin to affect our sleep patterns, our thought processes, our moods and our behaviours. Some are already anxious and are on medication to help mitigate the effects. For others this is a new experience and we need to find ways to reduce our levels of anxiety. Here are a few things that may be helpful at this time:

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you are anxious rather than pretending to have it all together
  • Acknowledge to someone you trust that you are anxious. As you talk it through you may find that they feel similarly and so you will immediately have someone who is in solidarity with you and will not feel alone in your struggle. You may also find that you are able to articulate some of the things that are making you anxious and get perspective on them. 
  • List the things that are contributing to your anxiety and divide them into two groups – the things you can influence and control and the things you can’t influence or control. 
    • The kinds of things we can influence or control may include things like 
      • Personal finances where we can do realistic budgeting and introduce cost saving measures. 
      • Health where we can develop plans for social distancing, handwashing, healthy eating and exercise. 
      • Relational where we worry about people we love and care about and we can choose to make regular contact with them. 

Be wary of inappropriate controlling behavior. This is often evidenced in frantic activity such as excessive “spring cleaning”, excessive exercise routines or trying to control the activities of those around us. These are indicators of our anxiety controlling us rather than us controlling our anxiety.

  • The kinds of things we can’t influence or control may be things like: 
    • Will we find a vaccine for Covid19?
    • Will our country run out of food?
    • Will the economy survive this?
    • Why are some people behaving as if there is no crisis?
    • Will our health system cope with this crisis?
    • Will we be the next Italy?

Many of these thoughts are prompted by watching the news or by interacting on social media. Whilst it is important to stay abreast of developments, it is not helpful to let them dominate our lives. When reading or watching the news, focus on those things that directly affect you such as regulations during the lockdown and let the rest go. If this is difficult then switch from the news channels to light entertainment and get your news from online news feeds where you can choose the news articles that you want to read. Choose those that affect you directly and ignore the others. 

Similarly, with social media. Beware of importing other people’s anxiety into your own situation. Communicating with a friend who is struggling is an expression of care and solidarity. Reading the horror stories of people you have never met and whom you have no possibility of assisting, is importing unnecessary pain and trauma into your reality and right now you need all your energy focused on yourself and those for whom you have a responsibility to care.

It may be that despite your best efforts, anxiety continues to disrupt your sleep and your daily life. This may be an indication that you need additional support to get you through this. Don’t hesitate to visit your doctor and chat about your symptoms so that together you can decide on a course of action or medication to get you through this

Be safe