Did you know that two thirds of 16-69 year olds in the UK are affected by boredom, stress and anxiety? (Source: BBC News) That’s a lot of people sitting on the edge of their seats. They say it’s because of the changes to our lives that Coronavirus and lockdown have brought; limiting who we can see, where we can go and how long for.
Strangely, when I first heard about the virus, the pandemic and lockdown, I wasn’t that phased. I was in the ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine’ camp. For someone like me, who struggles with anxiety and worries about everything, my inner calm started to panic about not panicking. Then I saw this quote and realised I wasn’t alone:
“I’ve noticed that the people I know with anxiety disorders (self included) seem to be much calmer than the general population concerning the Coronavirus. Guess all these years of dealing with imaginary worst-case scenarios has actually made us more capable of dealing with real threats when they come #silverlining.”
Since the end of March, my anxiety has been coming and going (the only thing that seems to be allowed) and so I’ve had to find ways of coping that don’t involve any external help. Below are some tips on how I’ve been managing my anxiety during lockdown.
For me, exercise is really important in helping to quieten my anxiety. The act of moving, getting a sweat on and deep breathing really helps the twisting and turning in my stomach. It also tires me out so that it dulls the constant feeling of alertness. The endorphins from exercise can really help to make you feel better, both physically and mentally too. Try going for a walk first thing on a morning or doing a virtual exercise class, anything that gets the blood pumping.
Like anyone who’s got raging anxiety, my mind is going at 100 miles per hour, constantly. I can’t keep up with what’s going on and always feel exhausted. I tried mindfulness but it didn’t work so well on me. Lots of people find it really good though. What I did try, which is pretty effective, is a guided meditation. This is a form of meditation where the speaker takes you on a journey, from relaxing your muscles to being in a lavender field in the sunshine. It’s good because it helps you to focus on one thing and the breathing helps the racing mind too. I found these meditations on Spotify (and it’s called Guided Meditations) but I’m sure there are some wherever you download your music/podcasts.
As someone with a creative brain, writing has always been helpful for me. From having a diary that I would write in as an angry teenager to now, where I’ll blog about the feelings I have. The best bit about it is that you don’t ever have to show anyone what you’re writing. It’s just a way of getting your anxiety onto paper and out of your mind so you can have a bit of quiet.
4.Using the 5,4,3,2,1 technique
Practically, this is something very helpful if you feel your anxiety taking over or a panic attack coming on. This technique should help to ground you can bring you back to the present. You just have to remember:
- 5 things you see around you
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can touch
- 1 thing you can taste
5. Breathing exercises
I don’t know about anyone else but when I’m really anxious my breath gets short and shallow and that’s when the panic starts to come. Something I learned through the app, Headspace, was to breathe in for four, hold it for four, breathe out for six. Repeat this four times. If you’re like me and have a Fitbit, there’s a setting on there called ‘Relax’ which takes two minutes to complete. You breathe in and out in time with the graphic that appears on the screen. Really handy if you’re out and about.
6. Listening to music
Music can be a brilliant way to channel how we’re feeling. I mean this in two ways. If you’re a musician or a song writer, try to create a little something to help you feel less edgy. Put your feelings down in songs or music notes. If you’re not a music maker, be a playlist creator. Spotify has many chillout playlists with soft, instrumental tunes to soothe your mood. I’ve created my own calming playlist for when I feel really anxious and can’t sleep or I listen to Enya, which really helps me.
7. Switching off
Being barricaded at home means there’s more time to be present on social media. This can be really helpful in terms of keeping in touch with family, friends and colleagues but it can sometimes cause harm too. I’ve noticed, since the start of lockdown, my weekly screen time has increased by 40%. For me, that’s huge. I generally try not to spend too much time on social media as I struggle with comparing myself to others which has a bad effect on me. So, I make sure to have time apart from my phone. This could be leaving it in the house when I’m out walking/running or leaving it upstairs when I’m watching something with my partner. Try to switch off and do something offline instead.
8. Having a bath
Put on a relaxing playlist, run a hot bath and add in some Epsom Salts (which help with muscle relaxation) and some lavender scented bubble bath. Lavender is proven to help reduce stress and anxiety and smells pretty good too!
As I said above, being creative might just be an outlet for your anxious feelings. I enjoy doing a bit of colouring because it means I can focus on something positive and fun for around 30 minutes. Once you’ve finished why not display on your fridge, like your mum used to do when you were small? So you can see your achievement every day.
10.Talking about it
Sometimes, you might not want to talk about it. One of the other tips might suit you better. I know that sometimes I don’t want to tell anyone about the worries I have in case they think I’m silly. But it is good to talk, whether that’s to a family member, friend or one of the amazing mental health charity support lines. You’re not alone, remember that.
I hope that you might be able to use some of these tips to get you through some anxious times and hopefully, make your mind a calmer place to be.