photo by: Michael Amadeus
Do you already suffer from anxiety? And is the global pandemic situation making things even worse for you?
How can you stop Covid-19 from ruling your mind and your life?
How to handle anxiety in a global pandemic
1. Yes, watch for news bingeing.
In the past, once you realised that news bingeing was triggering your anxiety, you could just do a ‘media detox’. And when it was over, nothing would have changed much.
And now here we are, in a world where things really are changing, and fast. We do need to keep updated on new government decisions and regulations, and can’t just blank the world out.
But don’t fool yourself into pretending you don’t have some control here. We all know some news outlets are far less factual and far more sensationalist. Fight your mind’s urge to go there and stick to reliable journalism. And cancel things like automatic updates popping up on your computer that make your anxiety worse.
2. Make a timer your best friend.
Actually time your news reading and research. It can feel annoying at first, but also be very eye-opening.
- try to keep to 15 minutes at a time
- keep a daily tally of news reading and research
- or time how many hours between each news ‘check in’ so you can’t fool yourself that you need to check again.
A timer is also very good to help with anxiety ‘drifting’, where your thoughts are so anxious that you suddenly realise an hour has passed and you’ve done nothing. Setting a timer to go off on the hour, every hour, can pull you back ‘in’ to reality.
3. Tag on the tools of the trade.
Anxiety is a full blown physical experience. And as a sufferer you will know the tools of the anxiety trade…. but might practise them less than you mean to.
So double duty with that timer going off each hour, using it as a reminder to spend two to five minutes on an anxiety tool like:
- a mindfulness mini-break
- deep diaphragm breathing to a count (seven in, eight out, for example)
- a body scan where you relax all muscles especially shoulders and jaw
- grounding – putting your attention on your feet for a few minutes and imaging the earth supporting you
- blasting your favourite song and dancing it out
- visualisation – create a ‘happy space’ visual, such as a field of flowers, you can conjure up for a few minutes when anxious.
Consistency helps with anxiety tools. The more you train your brain to turn to such tools that work, the more you keep your anxiety in check.
4. Also watch for group anxiety bingeing.
When we are anxious and our mind is tripping out on illogical thoughts about global pandemic? Our first desire would ideally be to talk to someone who can calm us down.
And yet it’s far more common to instead seek out others who will accept and confirm our illogical, frantic thinking. Of course two or three anxious people talking together do not lower anyone’s stress.
Ask good questions about who you are reaching out to:
- Is this the right time to talk to this person?
- Is there someone else who would be a better solution right now?
- And can O call this other friend when I am feeling a bit calmer?
5. Don’t up your fear factor by breaking good boundaries.
Already anxious, and see your ex, who has always been manipulative and upset you, has got in touch? Or that toxic friend who uses you for attention she never returns?
Don’t use your anxious ‘but a global pandemic might mean the end of the world’ thoughts to cave in and respond to people you know are bad for you. If anything, now is the time to guard yourself even more carefully over people who create any kind of fear or upset.
6. Use an intermediate to have a break.
If you find you can’t get on top of your news bingeing, and you are in a constant state of panic? Take a break, even a full day or two, by enlisting the help of a trusted friend or partner who knows about your anxiety.
Ask them to contact you immediately with emergency news, but then otherwise to just give you a daily update on the essentials.
7. Don’t trust your thoughts.
Yes, a global pandemic is a serious challenge for all of us. Yes, our world might really change beyond what we yet understand. Yes, we might lose loved ones. These are all serious concerns.
But your anxiety will make things worse still. That’s what anxiety does. It relentlessly seeks out the very worst possible scenarios and sidesteps any positives.
Borrow from CBT therapy and do a ‘thought chart’. This involves recording your negative thoughts, finding their opposites, and finding thoughts that are more a ‘shade of grey’. Learn the process in our article on balanced thinking.
8. And try switching your perspective.
From our modern Western lives, global pandemic can seem like the worst thing that has ever happened in the world.
But there are people amongst us who have lived through war, natural disaster, or famine.
Who could realistically argue that world hunger kills more people yearly than Covid-19 will (under nutrition is responsible for 3.1 million deaths a year in children alone, according to the World Hunger organisation).
Gratitude is one of the most powerful, proven ways to shift perspective. What five things can you be grateful for right here and now? And what five things, not matter how small, went RIGHT today instead of wrong?
9. See the hour before bed as more precious than ever.
Anxiety is the enemy of sleep, and sleeplessness affects our immune system.
See this as war. You against all your bad habits in the name of protecting your heath.
So this is not the time to ‘just read some emails’ before bed when they might be upsetting, or to call that family member who always makes your anxiety worse.
Turn off. Do all those things you always say you will but don’t. A guided meditation, drinking a sleep tea, taking a bath, whatever it takes to unwind a bit.
And if you suffer night anxiety, where you always wake up at 4 a.m. mid panic attack, it might be time to go to bed that one or two hours earlier like you’ve always said you would.
10. Laugh and cry.
Holding onto emotions can make us feel more tightly wound and anxious. Make time for a good cry when needed.
And don’t underestimate the power of laughing to slow down anxiety. It doesn’t make you a bad person to feel good despite global events, or commit half an hour a day to watching your favourite comedian on Youtube. It makes you someone committed to wellbeing.
11. When in doubt, help others.
Ready to hear one of the fastest ways to escape your racing, busy thoughts? Get so busy helping others you don’t have time to listen to them. Research shows it improves wellbeing and also lowers blood pressure.
Walk an elderly neighbour’s dog, get someone in quarantine groceries. If you are in lock down, get creative. Write letters, comment on forums, join one of the many ‘online hubs’ forming where people offer their services to each other for free.
12. Get unconditional support you can count on.
In the last few years, therapy has gone more and more online. You can now do not only individual therapy over Skype, but also couples therapy and family therapy.
Ready to get some professional help to get your anxiety under control? We connect you with some of London’s best talk therapists. Or use our online booking platform now to find affordable online counsellors and psychotherapists you can talk to from anywhere in the world.
Still have a question about anxiety in a time of global pandemic? Post below, or share your best anxiety tips with other readers.