How you can deal with anxiety
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First it was Brexit, and then came the coronavirus - it’s little wonder we are all feeling a little anxious right now. But there are steps you can take to make everything feel right again
We are living in unprecedented times. Isolated in our homes, distanced from friends and family and a loss of routine, anxiety is on the rise. It’s human nature to worry and those with existing issues are particularly vulnerable, but in an ever-changing world, what can we do to ensure our worries aren’t all consuming?
According to Anxiety UK, almost one in five people feel anxious a lot of the time, with half of us feeling more anxious than we used to. Calls to the charity are up 364 per cent. ‘We’re seeing a spike in calls, be that due to isolation, worries about the disease (Covid-19) or the effects that this will have on life following this. Fearing being “out of control” and “being unable to tolerate uncertainty” are actually common characteristics of many anxiety disorders,’ they comment.
The impact of feeling fearful is restless sleep, fear of going into public spaces, increased heart rate and obsessions with illness. With news now accessible 24-hours, it’s not surprising that the World Health Organisation has advised people to avoid watching, reading or listening to news that is causing distress and seek information from reputable website like the NHS rather than relying on ‘Dr Google’.
Recognise that anxiety is normal. Try and work out the triggers and understand what makes you anxious, advises Gerard Barnes of Smart TMS, which treats patients with extreme anxiety. ‘These can be anything from raised voices at home to stress at work, anything that puts your brain into a certain state. It’s typically stress situations and this year has been a big stress situation for everyone.’
Coping mechanisms proved to reduce anxiety levels include mindfulness - focusing on the present moment and relaxation techniques such as meditation. Incorporate a few minutes a day into your daily routine - apps like Headspace will help. Make time for yourself and eat a healthy diet. Exercise also has a positive impact on our mental health and going for a walk is good for you on many levels. ‘It gets you out into nature, which is good way of relieving stress and brings you into the moment as opposed to being in your head,’ says Gerard.
Social isolation can also have an impact. We are a social species and being tactile and in touch with each other is an important part our lives. Social media has an awful lot to answer for, but technology has also shown the positive side with Zoom and Facetime connecting families.
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Making sure you maintain your wellbeing can help you cope in stressful times, agrees Stephen Buckley of mental health charity Mind. ‘Try to keep physically active and build this into your daily routine, but also find ways to comfort yourself if you are feeling anxious – perhaps by connecting with a friend or family member. Try to keep your mind stimulated as much as possible by reading books, listening to podcasts or doing puzzles.’
Worry about the things you can control and don’t worry about things you can’t. Understand you are not alone and remember the phrase: ‘and this too shall pass’.