Dealing with Anxiety during the lockdown

Anxiety as a factor of Loss during the Covid 19 emergency

In the last blog I looked at anger as an element of loss during what is a global trauma. Some people may be reasonably contented at being locked down and feel that safety is the most important consideration at the present time. Others, however, may be exposed to the full impact of loss and may be suffering from anxiety at the loss of freedom, income, social contact and possible tension in the home, especially if they have to manage children in this severe lockdown. Other people may have bad anxiety at the prospect of getting sick. This is becoming evident to me from the phone calls I am getting about stress and distress.

Anxiety consists of physical symptoms. When my child died over 30 years ago, I experienced severe anxiety. I remember the skin on my hands peeling, the nauseous feeling in my stomach, the tremors through my body and the headaches. Anxiety has a wide variety of symptoms, too many to be mentioned here, but we can look at how to cope with it.

Bearing in mind that unlike depression, which is a low mood, and difficult to deal with there are many ways to alleviate anxiety. One of the most potent feeders of anxiety is negative thinking, which if indulged in frequently lays down detrimental neural pathways in our brain. There is a good technique called SOS which many people find very useful to dispel negative thinking. S = Stop, O=Observe, S= shift. So, when you are beset by negative thoughts say in your mind the word Stop, then observe what happens when you go into a negative world, and then Shift to more positive thinking.

What happens when we are anxious is that the Sympathetic Nervous system in the brain is active, so it is important to get techniques to access the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which brings about calmness. There are several techniques to achieve this, two of which are abdominal breathing and the Butterfly Hug,

Abdominal breathing is probable one of the best ways to calm the body but it can take a while to learn. Basically, it is about breathing through your stomach. Put a book on your stomach, breathe in through the nose and watch the book rise as your stomach rises. Practise this every day until you have mastered it. You can see examples on U Tube.

There is a very good technique called the Butterfly Hug which quickly brings calmness. This is very simple and you can see it on the interned by simply Googling ‘Butterfly Hug’.
Practising good self-care is essential to limit anxiety. These can include exercise, painting (I purchased some adult tracing books and paints from Amazon for my wife, and it absorbs her and eases her anxiety.

There is ample proof from research that diet is closely linked to anxiety and it is important to look closely at it especially when there is a danger of comfort eating during the lockdown. Sugar is very detrimental to our health, and apart from weight gain it provokes anxiety. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine also create anxiety, and it it a myth to assume that they calm us. they have the opposite effect.

Self-care is essential to ease anxiety and here is a long list of self-care activities and you might find one or two useful. They are very simple, but a small thing can make a big difference. I compiled these many years ago and some are obviously not feasible during the lockdown,

Physical self-care
• Eat regularly (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
• Eat healthily
• Exercise
• Regular medical care
• Take time off when sick
• Massages
• Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, other physical activities.
• Take time to meet sexual needs
• Sufficient sleep
• Wear clothes you like
• Vacations (long and mini)
• Make space for time alone without interruptions.
Psychological self-care
• Time for self-reflection
• Personal counselling
• Use a journal
• Read literature that is unrelated to work
• Do something at which you are not expert
• Work on decreasing stress in your life
• Listen to your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and feelings.
• Let others know different aspects of you
• Use your intelligence in new ways e.g. going to art museums, sports events, theatre, etc.
• Be open to receiving from others
• Be curious.
• Say no to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional self-care
• Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
• Stay in contact with important people in your life
• Praise and affirm yourself
• Find ways to increase your sense of self-esteem
• Re-read favourite books and re-view favourite films
• Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places, and seek them out.
• Allow yourself to feel your feelings and to cry.
• Find ways to make you laugh.
• Play with children
Spiritual self-care
• Make time for reflection
• Spend time with nature
• Find a spiritual connection or community
• Be open to inspiration
• Cherish your optimism and hope
• Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
• Try at times not to be in charge or the expert.
• Be open to not knowing
• Identify what is meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
• Meditate
• Pray
• Sing
• Spend time with children
• Experience awe
• Contribute to causes in which you believe.
• Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)

SELF-NURTURING ACTIVITIES.
1. Take a warm bath
2. Have breakfast in bed
3. Take a sauna
4. Get a massage
5. Buy yourself a rose
6. Take a bubble bath
7. Go to a pet store and play with the animals
8. Walk on a scenic path in a park
9. Visit a zoo.
10. Have a manicure of pedicure
11. Stop and smell some flowers
12. Wake up and watch the sunrise
13. Watch the sunset
14. Relax with a good book and/or soothing music
15. Go rent a funny video
16. Play our favourite music and dance to it by yourself
17. Go to bed early
18. Take a ‘mental health day’ off from work
19. Fix a special dinner just for yourself and eat by candlelight
20. Go for a walk
21. Call a good friend – or several good friends
22. Go out to a fine restaurant just with yourself
23. Go to the beach
24. Take a scenic drive
25. Meditate
26. Buy new clothes
27. Browse in a book or record store for as long as you want
28. Buy yourself a cuddly stuffed animal and play with it
29. Write yourself a love letter and mail it.
30. Ask a special person to nurture you (feed, cuddle, and /or read to you)
31. Buy yourself something special that you can afford
32. Go see a good film or show
33. Go to the park and feed the ducks, swing on the swings and so on
34. Visit a museum or another interesting place.
35. Give yourself more time than you need to accomplish whatever you are doing (let yourself dawdle)
36. Work on your favourite puzzle or puzzle book
37. Go into a hot but or Jacuzzi
38. Record an affirmation tape.
39. Write out an ideal scenario concerning a goal and then visualize it.
40. Read an inspirational book
41. Write a letter to an old friend
42. Bake or cook something special
43. Go window shopping
44. Buy a mediation tape.
45. Get a therapist to do a relaxation/visualisation exercise with you
46. Listen to a positive, motivational tape
47. Write a special diary about your accomplishments
48. Apply fragrant lotion all over your body.
49. Exercise,
50. Sit and hold your favourite stuffed animal.

Stress reducers
1. Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning.
2. Prepare for the morning the evening before (prepare lunches etc.)
3. Use a notebook for reminders of what you have to do.
4. Keep a house key concealed outside.
5. Keep all kitchen and outside equipment maintained on a regular basis.
6. Carry a book in your car so that you can read if your partner is shopping (or you might like to join him or her!)
7. Don’t procrastinate. Do it now.
8. Plan ahead.
9. Don’t keep going with faulty equipment. Get it fixed or get a new one.
10. Allow a quarter of an hour extra to get to appointments. Be there well on time
11. If you attend religious service leave in plenty of time so that you will not arrive in bad humour.
12. Always have a plan B.
13. Don’t put the bar too high. Keep your expectations and standards at a normal level.
14. Count your blessings rather than dwell on the negatives.
15. Do things slowly. Begin by tying your laces slowly.
16. Learn to say ‘no’.
17. Turn off your phone when you are relaxing.
18. Keep things simple.
19. Try and mix with non-worriers if possible.
20. Try and walk around for short periods if you have a sedentary job.
21. Go to bed early and make sure your bedroom is for sleeping (and sex)
22. Try and be neat. Know where everything is.
23. Learn how to do abdominal breathing.
24. Keep a journal
25. Prepare well for any task you have to do (e.g. giving a speech)
26. Talk things out.
27. Have a nice environment to live in. Get comfortable chairs and decorate your house nicely (you deserve it).
28. Live one day at a time
29. Do stuff you enjoy.
30. Thank God for being healthy and having energy.
31. Realise that you have a lot of control over your life.
32. Love people.
33. Have a pet (preferably a dog)
34. Take a shower (or bath) to decrease stress.
35. Help others
36. Try and look well and dress well.
37. Have a good diet and take pleasure in knowing that you are looking after yourself.
38. Don’t cram your day with too much work.
39. Don’t be perfectionistic.
40. Be positive in how you think and eliminate destructive and negative self-talk.
41. Do one thing at a time (unless you are a woman!!!).
42. Take proper breaks during the day.
43. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
44. Forgive. Nobody is perfect.
45. Have an optimistic outlook.

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