Coping With Anxiety In A Crisis
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Sometimes, I feel as though I have been running in a marathon and I'm so close to the finish line. The more I move my legs, the further away it gets, until eventually I'm back at the starting point and I just can't seem to move my feet. I'm stuck and time is passing by and all I can hear is my heartbeat racing, washing out any common sense in my head. That's what anxiety is to me. I know where I need to go, I know how to get there, I have all the tools to do it... But that little voice in my mind and my inability to control my breathing, is enough to make me call me it quits and walk away from the challenge ahead.
How many times have you been asked how you're doing in the past few weeks? How many times have you responded "Good thanks, you?" How many times have you actually had a mental break to process what is going on around you? Have you been so caught up in learning that new recipe, losing weight, getting through the draining work day, that you've forgotten to take a minute to just breathe?
When I first heard about Coronavirus (COVID-19), like so many of us, I didn't really process what was happening. My initial thoughts were, 'It must be awful for Wuhan?!' 'How do people cope in isolation?' 'Where the hell did this even come from?' 'Was it really a bat?' I didn't really understand what it meant for us, as the UK, who would soon be following the footsteps of Wuhan, Italy, Spain and India, and also adopting a 'lockdown' style approach.
I've always been a home body. I love my own space, I love being in pyjamas (or loungewear- which is basically now the same thing, let's be honest), and most of all I can keep myself busy long enough to keep me entertained. I've been working from home (wfh) for just over 4 weeks and I have learnt more about myself in these last few weeks, than in the last few years. It turns out I actually like getting dressed up and going to work, albeit, it's usually boring office clothes, but I do enjoy doing my hair and face, and I (really fucking) enjoy seeing my colleagues and participating in office banter and learning about what pointless stuff everyone did at the weekend. I miss seeing people.
I've found that I'm less productive at home than I am at work, and surprise surprise, I snack wayyy too much at home. In fact, some days I have to pep talk myself to leave my pyjamas (yep, I said it), and I can't even remember the last time I straightened my hair which is slowly resembling either a birds nest or a garden shrub- I haven't quite decided which one I prefer yet? (Suggestions welcome).
What I have noticed is that interaction with other people is absolutely key for your mental health. I took for granted being able to pop to Sainsbury's to pick up ingredients for a new recipe or a bottle wine. I now have to plan this around online shopping slots. I find myself having anxiety at the thought of going outside for exercise because unfortunately, a lot of people aren't taking social distancing seriously, and parks are still semi-full. However, over time I have learnt that I can control my reaction to this crisis, and I am making a conscious choice to do absolutely everything within my power, to get through this as healthily as possible, both mentally and physically.
So how I have kept my anxiety in tact?
1. Allocating 'me' time - (between 6.30pm-7.30pm I use this time to work out or cook)
2. Having a work space - (my kitchen table is the new office which I clear away on Friday's)
3. Sticking to a sleep pattern - (I've been aiming for 7-9 hours a day)
4. Setting small, realistic goals - (my current goal is to clear out my 3 wardrobes)
5. Minimising the news - (not everything is true, so select what you feed your mind)
I had recently started working out 3x a week and I made a decision to continue this as best I could. This is one thing that really helps me to relax and I also feel amazing at the end of it. I remember hearing from Anna Saccone that you will never regret working out because the benefits will always outweigh the cons, and I couldn't agree more. I want to come out of this healthy, and in order to do that, I have to keep active.
It seems that a lot of people, like myself, are experiencing a lack of sleep or sleeping excessively, which can be a result of feeling drained or stressed. Make sure that you allocate 'me time' and also get enough fresh air. If you are wfh, keep in mind that you will be less active than usual too. My cousin recently recommended listening to a 'sound bath' (YouTube) and I found this relaxing but not enough to put me to sleep. However, I have found a good book has really helped me wind down, switch off and ease me to sleep. Try writing your thoughts down and leaving your phone on the bedside table, because it is proven to delay your body's internal clock. Think about what works for you.
How many of you had been added to several group chats on Whatsapp? Between checking in on my friends, keeping in touch with family and setting up several work group chats, this has welcomed the most random news. If I'm being honest, seeing Army Tanks driving down the M25 at any time of year, is going to make me feel somewhat anxious. I feel the panic of people around me when the news reports the next 'new thing' and quite frankly, unless it's from an official source (i.e. not the unreliable sources on WhatsApp), I don't want to entertain any more negative or false claims. I am already worried, anxious and fearful of how COVID-19 is going to affect my family and friends, and unless it's from the horses mouth, I want out. Listen to the facts and know and prepare for what you need to do. You can only control what is within your power.
The thing to remember is that there is always light at the end of the tunnel and our amazing NHS are working to find it. If you've been cooped up indoors and the kids are driving you insane, no doubt another mum is feeling the same type of way. Most importantly, talk about your feelings. If you're having a down day, I can guarantee someone around you is experiencing the same thing. It is okay to feel out of place in a situation that is unnatural. The thing to remember is, that though we are in a crisis, it is a crisis that we are all in together, & sometimes, you just need a moment to take it all in and breathe.
There are organisations with help available if you feel that you are struggling with your mental health and need support. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/