The past year has had a profound impact on the nation’s mental health, specifically the anxiety surrounding the virus itself. Yo-yoing in and out of lockdown has sent mixed messages to us all about what we should and should not be doing. With a road map for the easing of lockdown announced on February 22nd, many individuals have been left concerned about how they are going to re-integrate themselves into ‘normality’.
If you have experienced an overwhelming increase in anxiety and worry during this time, you are certainly not alone. In fact, the Office for National Statistics has reported that high levels of anxiety has sharply elevated during the coronavirus pandemic, with over 1 in 5 individuals reporting that their work has been affected. It is, therefore, more important than ever to try and manage our worries with strategies aimed at easing concerns surrounding Covid-19.
- Media distancing
All anxiety stems from uncertainty and an active imagination, which produces catastrophic thoughts. Consuming continuous media coverage of the coronavirus can drive anxious thoughts and cause heightened levels of apprehension. It is extremely important that, if you are fearful, to distance yourself from the media and only consume vital information. Set times for when you will check the news – and make sure you choose to only look at reputable channels.
- Do not engage in worry
Whether you are worrying about contracting the virus or stressing about the impact of the pandemic on your studies, the more you focus on worst-case scenarios, the more anxious you will feel. Unfortunately, you cannot stop these thoughts from entering your mind, but you can choose to refocus your energy onto something more positive. Next time you find yourself inundated with questions that you cannot answer, engage in creative activities such as puzzling, painting or journaling.
- Try not to over react to physical symptoms
Try not to scan your body in search of Covid-19 symptoms because this behaviour will reinforce your worries and increase anxiety. Often when we search for something, we will find it.
- Focus on being productive and new ways of enjoying life
Choose to focus on the things that you can control, including your response to the pandemic rather than the global crisis in-of-itself. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new and engage in activities that you normally do not have the time for. My reduction in face-to-face teaching hours means that I spend less time commuting into University and have more time to create pieces of artwork for my home.
If you are stuck for something to occupy your time, The National Careers Service have got a whole host of free courses on offer to help individuals learn new skills.
- Engage in stress reducing activities
Guided meditation, yoga, exercise and a gratitude journal are all practices that will lower stress and improve mood. Try to practice at least one each day.
- Preserve some sense of normalcy
Unless you are in a high-risk category and must shield, it is important to get outside and inject some normality into your day. You are unlikely to contract Covid-19 from an outdoor passing interactive and so this is a great opportunity to take off your mask and feel semi-normal once again.
- Be kind to yourself
It is perfectly normal to have feelings of angst and worry during a global crisis, so do not be too hard on yourself. Reach out to friends and relatives in an effort to boost morale and be grateful for what you have got.
- Seek out professional help
If your Covid-19 anxiety is escalating to uncontrollable levels, talk to a professional who can offer support and advice. Book an appointment with your GP or use the NHS IAPT service which allows individuals to access psychological therapies from a self-referral.