Listening to Russell Howard, the comedian, a couple of weeks ago, he talked about how the coronavirus is affecting us all in so many ways. As he said, the situation is ‘heartbreaking, boring and scary’ all at the same time.
If you suffer with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, it’s particularly frightening and isolating. Your usual support, whether that’s family, friends, support workers or CAMHS, may not be easily available now and that increases the feelings of anxiety.
Here are a few ways that will hopefully help during this stressful time and keep you going until things return to some sort of normality.
One of the first things is to STOP blaming yourself for the way you’re feeling – be kind to yourself and practice self-care, starting with:
- Understanding your anxiety – it’s frightening for most of us and we’re all bracing ourselves for what might happen next. The uncertainty is one of the most difficult things because we don’t know if things might worsen and spiral out of control. So try to understand that it’s natural to feel anxious but that your anxiety can be managed.
- Try to focus on what you can control – we don’t know how long this will last and we can’t control other people’s behaviour, so worrying about them won’t make a difference. For your own peace of mind, look at things you can control, like washing your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds each time, staying at home as much as possible, avoiding crowds or gatherings, keeping two metres apart from other people when you go out and following recommendations from the health authorities. Staying apart from others when you’re feeling anxious can make you feel more isolated than ever, but ultimately it will help you and everyone else to get back to some sort of normality sooner rather than later.
- Keep yourself informed but don’t check the news obsessively – try to limit it to twice a day. If you start to feel overwhelmed, step away from the media for a part of each day.
- Write down your own specific worries about how coronavirus may disrupt your life in the future. Try to focus on a list of possible solutions. There won’t be perfect outcomes but there will be some things that you’ll be able to change and look at differently. Once you’ve found some other options, put down a plan of action and then, put the list to one side. Things can change quickly so you may need to adapt some of your possible solutions, but that’s alright.
- It’s absolutely natural to be concerned about what might happen if you’re no longer able to work, you have to self-quarantine or your children’s schools remain closed. To stop your feelings spiralling out of control, close your eyes and focus on breathing in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts, five times. Notice what’s going on around you, from the different sounds to the smells and keep breathing like this until you feel calmer. Try audio meditations to help you regain an inner calm.
- Make this time a priority to stay in touch with family and family. Think about scheduling in regular chats by phone or video calls. Although this is hard to do if you’re depressed, it’s important to stay connected in the best way that we can and reach out to people for support.
If you’re really struggling, try contacting one of these:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – If you’re feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Coronavirus Resource Center – Get answers to many common questions about coronavirus, as well as links to other resources. (Harvard Health Publishing)
National Domestic Violence Hotlineexternal icon – Isolated at home in an abusive situation and need help? Call 1-800-799-7233.
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