I have written previously about my anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak but I wanted to put down some more thoughts, since the situation worsened. I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder a few years ago, after the birth of my youngest child. Mental illness wasn’t new for me, as I had first suffered with depression aged 12, following the death of my beloved grandad, and had battled with it on and off ever since.
When Benjamin was little, my anxiety mainly manifested itself as worries about the children’s health. I became a little obsessed with making sure everybody was healthy, and if somebody became poorly, my anxiety would go into overdrive.
I have since had two courses of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which has really helped me to deal with my anxiety. I am also currently on medication for this, which I also think helps a lot.
I wanted to share the ways I am coping with my anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic we are currently in the midst of, so that those who might also be feeling stressed and experiencing the symptoms of anxiety can try these coping mechanisms themselves.
Obviously I am not a medical professional, so if you are experiencing severe symptoms and don’t feel you can cope, contact your doctor or a dedicated helpline such as Mind or The Samaritans, who will be able to help you.
I have a book, Overcoming Worry and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which I was asked to order for myself during my CBT sessions. It is really interesting and so useful to read through if you struggle with worry, leading to anxiety. The great thing about CBT, as opposed to counselling, which I have also tried, is that it teaches you skills that you can use yourself at home.
This book is great at explaining the reasons behind your worry and then going on to give you the tools you need to work through them on your own. I would highly recommend the book to those who suffer with anxiety, but many sections can also be applied to the current situation, which has many people feeling stressed and worried, understandably.
Getting Fresh Air
At the moment, the UK government lockdown is still allowing us to get outside for some fresh air and exercise once a day. I would really recommend this, even if you feel like you would rather stay inside and hibernate, as it does help to clear your mind and to feel less hemmed in. If you are self-isolating or simply don’t want to risk coming into contact with anybody else, get out in the garden (if you have one), or even lean safely out of a window for a few minutes each day, just to get that fresh air.
Again, you might not feel like it, but exercise is really good for combatting anxiety and boosting your mood in general. I have started to get up earlier, before I need to work and teach the children, to fit in one of my fitness DVDs and it has made so much difference. I feel fitter and healthier, but I also feel more productive, and it puts me into a great mood for the rest of the day. You don’t have to do anything too strenuous, even some light yoga will help get those endorphins released.
I know the temptation of snacking on all the treats when you are feeling anxious and unsure of everything. I spent the first week of lockdown eating every piece of chocolate I could get my hands on, as well as crisps, plenty of ready meal curries (I became a bit obsessed with them) and a cheese board with Ed on a couple of evenings. By the end of this binge I felt lethargic, bloated and pretty rubbish. I am not saying you need to embark on a strict diet, but eating some fresh fruit, vegetable and homemade meals can make all the difference to your physical and mental health.
Avoid the News
One of the ways I cope with my anxiety is to overload myself with information so that I feel as prepared as I can be, even in uncertain situations like this. However, being constantly switched on and reading every news bulletin, seeing all the negativity in the press and on social media was affecting me massively. I felt constantly on edge and my anxiety was in overdrive, making me feel like I couldn’t breathe (which isn’t great when you also suffer from health anxiety and one of the symptoms of this awful virus is breathing difficulties).
I made a conscious effort to stop reading the news as much, and I now either don’t read/watch or listen to it at all or look once a day, after the government briefing. Not keeping up to date doesn’t mean I am in the dark, I still know what is going on and that inevitably many more people have passed away or contracted the virus each day, but I knowing the full details is not going to change anything for me, and to help my own mental health, I will be avoiding it as much as possible.
Right now self care is more important than ever. I have been trying to set aside some time for myself, away from Ed and the children, as much as possible, to clear my head and relax. I like to have a hot bath and a pamper and read a book. I have also bought myself a puzzle (these are like gold dust at the moment online, I will warn you) and a Disney colouring book, which I have been doing when I feel a little anxious and worked up, especially in the evenings.
Keep in Contact
I hate talking on the phone, even to family and friends, so it has been a big thing to be video calling so many people, but it is really good for my mental health to still feel connected, and to be able to talk and see people even if I can’t be with them physically. My family have had regular games nights over Facebook messenger, and I have Zoom on my phone for work calls, as well as using WhatsApp and FaceTime calls to speak to my mum, nan and sister with the kids.
Write it Down
I find writing or typing things out really helps me, as you can probably tell from this blog. When I find myself getting anxious, it is good to understand the reason behind the worry so that I can deal with it. Yes, coronavirus and the state of the world right now might seem like the obvious reason, but there are different worries which can stem from this larger worry such as financial problems, fear of losing loved ones or becoming sick yourself, or feelings of claustrophobia from being ‘stuck’ inside your house for a prolonged period of time. Having your worries written down can help you to confront them and to see if there is anything you can do to help make yourself feel less stressed, even in this difficult time. I saw something on social media which I found comforting, rather than thinking that you are ‘stuck’ at home, remember that you are ‘safe’ at home. A change in mindset can really make all the difference.
I have rambled a little, but I wanted to share how I have been coping with feelings of anxiety and low mood during this pandemic. Yes, I have had therapy in the past and I am also on medication, which I am really thankful for at this moment in time as I do think it has helped prepare me in some small way for this totally anxious time, but by implementing some of the above into your daily lives, hopefully it will help reduce some of the anxiety you are feeling too. Remember, if you are struggling and feel you cannot cope, talk to a professional. Don’t suffer in silence.