Coping with anxiety in the time of corona virus

Here is a one page document to download to help calm overwhelming feelings of anxiety in these difficult times.

Coping with anxiety in the face of coronavirus                

In these strange times it is difficult not to feel anxious.  We do live in the face of a real threat and fear is our natural response.  To manage that anxiety we need to get our rational brain back in charge, at least a bit more. So let’s face the facts.  To date in the UK there have been 6,650 cases of coronavirus detected, and sadly 335 people have lost their lives to the disease.  We have no idea at the moment of how far this will spread throughout our population.  We are facing uncertainty in a situation that we have no control over.  Uncertainty and lack of control will provoke anxiety in most of us.  

At the same time we are all facing a daily struggle to adapt to a lockdown situation. We lack the comfort of our routines, our social contacts and the reassurance of our normal resources being available, plus countless other major and minor worries.  This situation has brought us starkly face to face with our vulnerability and lack of control; two things we like to ignore most of the time, but which in reality are always present.

We have been given both a reason and an opportunity to learn new coping skills to deal with the anxiety that threatens to overwhelm us.  Take some time away from the obsessive watching of news and social media to dedicate to developing mastery over your anxiety.  This will help you cope with the challenges ahead, will help you to keep relationships on an even keel even in lockdown, and importantly, will help to boost your immunity.  When all this is over you can use these skills throughout your life to feel more calm and competent in any situation.

First things first.  You need to develop anchors so that when your mind begins to spin out of control with worry you can calm yourself and focus.  

First anchor: the breath.  Deepening your breath will help to switch your system out of the fight/flight mode into the calm and relaxed mode.  Take deep slow breaths, down into the diaphragm counting in and counting out and anchor your attention in the breath.  Take a few minutes to do this until you feel your heart rate slow down and your anxious feelings ease.  

Second anchor: your senses.  Just stop whatever you are doing and focus on what you can see.  Let the image of your surroundings enter without thought or judgement.  Notice the shapes and colours, the light and movement.  Focus on what you can hear.  Let the sounds enter without thought or judgement, just as if they were soundwaves without any cause or meaning.  Open your ears and let all the sounds in equally.  Now feel any feelings or warmth, touch, movement.  Anchor your attention in your senses and notice how, right here right now, everything is ok.

Third anchor: the body.  Now drop your attention inside the body.  Sweep your attention through all parts of your body from top to bottom. Notice any feelings of comfort or discomfort, any tightness that you might want to allow to soften, the clothes on your skin, warmth or coolness.  Notice any emotions that arise as you sweep through your body, possibly around your heart or belly as these are seats of the emotions. Just allowing everything to be felt because this is what it is like to be here now, and this is ok.

Your anchors are there to ground you and calm you whenever you need them and you can practice anchoring your attention to these three focus areas as often as you need. I find that after time my body deep breathes without my conscious intervention as it learns what it needs.

Now that we have more time on our hands this too can fuel anxiety giving us more time to think up worry on top of worry.  Try to spend some time in activities that distract you and soothe your soul.  Give yourself a few moments to think and recollect things that you have enjoyed in the past that you could pick up again now, or have been wanting to try for a while but never had the opportunity to do.  Play long lost music, read the books that have been calling, bake the cake, phone the friend, learn the skill, dance the moves and sing while you do it.

And maybe use a little time for reflecting on life. This time out is a rare and precious gift in our normally busy lives.  Ask yourself the big important questions on what is working well, what is not, what change would you like to see, what do you want in the next 3, 5, 10 years.  Take time to daydream. 

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