Covid-19 is here. Well, its all changed since I last blogged. I’m sending anyone reading this a virtual shake-hand or how about a hug eh ? I’ve been reading a lot of advice about looking after your anxieties and mental health in these uncertain times, and wanted to respond with a series of steps/ideas one post at a time with the intention of building resilience.
I also wanted to have time to reflect on what is working for me..rather than come out with try ‘XYZ’ just because I’ve read it somewhere !
Ok Number 1, Let’s just say this IS an anxiety provoking, scary and uncertain time, unprecedented in our lives. SO, it is NORMAL to feel some anxiety in these ABNORMAL circumstances. For some of us, its a pervasive low level feeling, or punctuated by peaks of high stress and panic.
However, anxiety and adrenalin (amongst other stress hormones that provokes the fight flight or freeze reaction is probably being triggered on a regular basis. With my anxious clients we discover that this system has learned to misinterpret something harmless as a threat over time and its been reinforced by avoidance and reassurance. BUT, with Covid-19 there is a real threat, a risk so I’m saying its OK, to have a wobble.
So how do I keep it all in proportion ?
Know your anxious response, what happens ? Heat racing, any tingling, change in breathing, tghness, ‘butterflies’ ? Rate this response from a 1-10, 1 being completely chilled, 10 panic-attack and decide FOR YOU what an acceptable amount of anxiety is, to say watching the news, going out to shop to what would be disproportionate.
So, say I think about going shopping I may notice thoughts about “what will the queue be like”, “will I get what I need” “how long will I be gone” “what if people don’t socal distance?” and rate those as a ‘4’. We know that avoidance makes anxiety worse and isn’t really an option if we need to shop so what do we do ?
This is where a simple but effective grounding exercise can help. Rather than notice what’s going on in your mind and your body (symptoms), notice each sense in turn, mindfully to how your body is being supported ny the chair/ground/carpet, now turn your attention to what you can hear, smell, see (and describe it), and taste. This attention switching brings us to the present, the now and therefore away from the diatribe in our minds.
Try it, and you will be distracted ! But, gently, notice the thought/distraction/story and return. This brings my anxiety down to a 1/2 and that feels much more manageable !