Managing Stress and Anxiety in the times of COVID-19
To think about anxiety and stress, it's useful to have a quick reminder of what both stress and anxiety actually are. Stress is the response to an external event such as an argument, lockdown, work and so forth. Anxiety is often an internal reaction to stress and creates feelings of apprehension and or dread. It is the feelings that often last post the event.
Acknowledging that we have only recently been accustomed to Covid-19 and are still recovering from the first lockdown, which for many people, although difficult was novel too and therefore many people resorted to baking bread (when you could get the flour) or becoming creative with the use of substitute ingredients; using TikTok and establishing physical activities. Exercise may have increased due to closure of gyms and so forth and the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020) reported that exercise peaked within the first 2 weeks of lockdown, then declined but it has still remained at high levels than prior lockdown.
Despite the initial novel response of baking and picking up new activities, our minds eye is now predicting how we will manage the second lockdown. The first lockdown was new and with the benefits of the sun and longer lighter and brighter days, managing anxieties was easier with the help of distraction and the uniqueness of the whole world stopping. However, now that we know we are enshrouded by the darker nights and coupled with many disappointments such as the lack of celebrations over birthdays, cancellations of events and now creeping up to Christmas, for many people the toll is becoming even more real with the prediction that it will be a "long harsh winter of loneliness".
It is important at this point to be mind of language. We have not had a 'harsh winter' for many years as it has been mild over the past many years. Weather records show that we have had more milder and wetter winters over the recent years and we have had many winter months, as many as we've been alive. They are all manageable. My hubby often remarks, "it isn't cold, it's because you haven't put the appropriate clothing on!" As annoying as this statement is, it is true. We can manage this winter like all others and maybe even appreciate the uniqueness of it being different. There again, is a big difference between embracing solace and terming it "loneliness". How many times over the years, have you wished you had more time? Well here it is. Almost a gift to do of your choosing. This doesn't mean that we need to rejoice the pandemic. Instead, it is about acknowledging your feelings, recognise them for whatever they are, tiredness/frustration, worry, anger, loneliness, grief for self and hopes being dashed to grieving for others. Let's learn to acknowledge the feelings than become those feelings. Almost like watching an old black and white negative in the old-fashioned camera, see it but learn to step away and not become the feeing. That little bit of distance gives you a chance to learn to have a day that is meaningful to you and for you to direct it in the way you want than the emotions navigating the day for you.
Keep to your routines, we are creatures of habit. Try and get up and get dressed at the same times and have a routine established. Chunk your day into breakfast, morning activity, lunch, afternoon activity, tea and evening activity. Remember the rules for the second lockdown are more lenient so you can meet a friend outdoors and have as much outdoor/exercise time as required. Relatedness is really important as we are social creatures. That does not mean that we only relate via social media. Pick up the phone, write a letter, reminisce with a friend or a loved one. Use memory to your advantage as reflecting back on good old times, takes you straight there in your mind's eye. Dont forget to do things like be creative and make time capsules, this is a once in a lifetime event and you are a part of this event. You have a role to play.
Eat well, as we know mood is affected by the food we consume. Quarantine 15 arrived is a result of people gaining weight during the stay-at-home routines and habits. Data from the Covid Symptom Study showed that there was an average increase in body weight across the country from anywhere between 0.7-3kg as people resorted to more snacking, less movement and increased alcohol intake along with a less healthy diet. The second lockdown gives us a heads up to what we need to do this time round. Let's focus on self-improvement on a number of different levels including potentially picking up new skills such as learning to cook healthily.
Finally, be kind and compassionate to yourself. Do the best you can, you will have set backs as life is never meant to be perfect. I leave you with a quote that keeps me going from a psychologist named Chernin who sadly passed away from brain cancer at the age of 36 and stated "none of this is my fault, but it is my absolute responsibility as to how I choose to deal with it".
If you want to know more about the services that I provide or are struggling and need some help, you can find the Compassionate Minds Healthcare Website below: