Other than the isolation measures and social distancing, I sometimes think coronavirus isn’t affecting my mental health at all. But then, out of nowhere, I start to feel anxious and worried, and I can never put my finger on specifically what is making me feel this way – something which is worrisome in itself.
A few weeks ago, Stephen Fry appeared on the Andrew Marr show talking about these exact feelings along with why they’re happening and some advice on how to deal with them. He unwrapped the topic in such a clear and coherent way, that it left me feeling reassured and inspired. Taking a leaf out of Fry’s book, I started to find ways to reduce my stressed and anxious states and stop myself getting too overwhelmed. If these are feelings which sound all too familiar to you, then check out my tips below in tackling this pandemic induced stress and anxiety head on:
Cut through the noise
Whilst it’s important to stay updated on any progress or regulations to do with coronavirus, it doesn’t mean you have to be constantly, watching, reading or listening to it. Going from one scary headline to the next isn’t going to help. Instead, designate a period of time in the day to check in with the news. This could be on a quick morning twitter scroll, or the 6 o’clock evening news. Whatever it is, make sure it’s only once in a day and when it’s done tune out and don’t look at it again. That’s it for the day!
Give yourself structure
As Stephen Fry so rightly pointed out, part of the reason for our stress and anxiety is that our future has become so uncertain, and with that our sense of time has suddenly altered completely. No one can say with any certainty how long this pandemic will go on for, or how long we may be in lockdown. Because of that, there is a tendency for one day to bleed into the next. To combat this, try to return some structure to your life. Make a timetable! Even if it’s just as rough as: morning; afternoon; evening. Designate a different task or activity to each segment, so you’re following some sort of routine. You might want to check out my blog post on how to stay productive in isolation for further guidance on this.
Look after your body
It’s good to keep something consistent in and amongst all the inconsistency. Just because you might now find yourself at home on your sofa more often, this doesn’t give you an excuse to eat and act like a slob on a daily basis. Try to keep up a regular exercise regime, getting plenty of sleep and eating healthily. It’s important to look after your body, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, getting some veggies down you once in a while and doing some sort of exercise. Also, by doing this, it means that when you do want to give into a guilty craving, you can. Just make sure you’re striking the right balance.
Keep in contact
Isolation can get lonely, so it’s important to recognise when this aspect of lockdown is starting to affect you. Try to arrange calls with friends and family throughout the week so you’re getting that all too important social interaction. As social beings, we as humans thrive off communicating with each other, our brains not only react to facial expressions but ideas and tones of voice. I sometimes think that when I haven’t spoken to someone in a while, I close myself off, retreating into my own head where I then overthink things and make myself more anxious. If you share the same tendency then I encourage you to remain open with loved ones (near or far) and share your thoughts and feelings with them. This is even more crucial if you live alone. Be honest in your communication and tell someone how you feel.
Practice breathing exercises
This is something which is recommended on many health websites, including the NHS, which can be found here. Call it mindfulness or meditation, breathing exercises are a brilliant way to reduce stress and anxiety in an easy and safe manner. The benefits? It takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere. If you’re not convinced or need a little more help, apps like Calm and Headspace are a great introduction. Both offer a range of resources, from guided mediation, to sleep sounds and podcasts. If you’re stuck in a bit of an anxious rut, then plug in and follow the tranquil instructions of your online guide. They’ll tell you want you need to do, so you can clear your head, calm your mind and get back to feeling like you.
Be kind to yourself
Finally, be kind! These feelings of stress and anxiety are only natural. This is a global pandemic after all. Something that could never have been foreseen and one that is changing rapidly every day. If you slip up and don’t achieve one, or two, or all of the things you set out to do for the day, don’t worry! We’re always so quick to be hard on ourselves, instead of accepting defeat and saying today wasn’t the day, but there’s always tomorrow. It never does any good to dwell on the past, so brush it off, and tap into something which gives you comfort. Whether that’s running a glorious bubble bath and soaking in it, reading a few chapters of your new book, or ordering a Chinese and settling down to watch your favourite film. Be kind to yourself.
I hope this blog posts helps in some way if you are feeling stressed or anxious! I for one am about to head off and follow the advice of my last point by eating the milky-way buttons I spotted earlier in the fridge and putting on Princess Diaries.
Good evening to you,