There’s a lot of negativity around at the moment, and it’s understandable. It’s unfortunately become a cliché, but it’s true to say these are unprecedented times. From the Oxford dictionary;
1. Never done or known before.
A lot of anxiety is caused by a fear of the unknown, a demand for control or a demand for certainty about what is going to happen. This is why so many people fear change. So when staffing levels drop, infection rates increase, schools close for an unknown length of time, shops run out of essential items, government advice and strategies seemingly changing by the day, the media providing a 24 hour shove-it-down-your-throat newsreel, we have a perfect recipe for anxiety. If that’s you, you’re not alone. As humans we are designed to worry, to be anxious. It’s in our genes passed down by our anxious ancestors. It’s how they survived. Worrying about the neighbouring tribe, sabre-toothed tiger, next meal etc, kept them on their toes. Always on the lookout!
We need to take a break. Take stock of our own individual situations. Remind ourselves of the facts as opposed to the maybes. So here’s some tips to remain as grounded as possible in the days, weeks, months ahead. They won’t all apply to you, but all will apply to someone.
- Turn off the news. There are plenty of internet radio stations without any news. If it comes on to the radio, turn it off or switch over. By all means catch up on the daily news, but it doesn’t need to be every hour on repeat. Our ancestors got anxious about sabre toothed tigers, they didn’t then go back to their caves and watch tv, read books and newspapers and discuss sabre toothed tiger related issues. They got on with their lives. When the media talks of panic buying, we panic, because we’ve been told others are. But do YOU need to panic?
- Recognise you are not alone, other people are in the same boat as you. We’ve not done this before. So be a bit lenient. Don’t demand of them they act in a certain way. This may be colleagues, spouses, partners, children. When our demands are not met we will end up with unhealthy emotions. Try to change thoughts like “You must do this”, “You shouldn’t do that” into, “I’d rather you did this, but accept you don’t have to” and “I’d rather you didn’t do that, but I understand it’s possible you will”.
- How are you right now? What is wrong with this very moment? Are your worries about something that might not happen? Something you’ve heard might happen? Are you wasting worry? “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of it’s troubles, it empties today of it’s strengths”. Try some mindfulness. There are plenty of free apps available for mindfulness. Headspace, Calm, Buddhify, Deep Meditate are just some.
- Join a support group. Again there’s many support groups available and you can use them as much or as little as you like. There is plenty of information on Anxiety UK website for free, but you can also join them for more content. For £40.00 a year you also get a years free subscription to Headspace, plus a lot more.
- Be grateful. Pick 3 things a day to be grateful for and write them down. This is homework I often set my clients. It might sound tricky in the current situation but consider the following….
Be grateful for being alive, being healthy. Hearing the birds and nature outside, that it’s just humans affected by coronavirus and that we’re able to take appropriate measures unlike other animals would be. Be grateful if you’re looking after your children who are off school, that you have the time to listen to them read. Properly read, not just a quick 5 minutes in the morning rush. Be grateful for the TV, the radio, for music, for films, for documentaries, for books, the opportunity for learning new things, for the scientists and medical professionals doing their best to look after us, the doctors, nurses, health care assistants, porters, receptionists, consultants, cardiologists, researchers, radiologists, cleaners, kitchen staff, paramedics, control room operators, 111 operators and the volunteers who give up their time.
Be grateful for the police who face a very uncertain time ahead. Remember they are humans too. Reduced numbers, increased workload, rushing to emergencies unsure if they’re about to catch the virus. Be grateful for their sacrifices on a daily basis, not just in these times but every day. Be grateful for the fire and rescue teams who will still be on hand in our times of need, the military, teachers, school staff, the refuse collectors, farmers, shop staff, builders, delivery drivers, TV presenters, camera operators, etc ..etc.. etc. Think of people you know and be grateful they do what they do. Be grateful that we are facing a world pandemic caused my a microscopic virus and not a world war. Be grateful that you’ve been instructed to self-isolate and not report for national service.
So write a list of 3 things you’re grateful for daily, keep your list and refer back to it as a reminder.
- If you have extra time on your hands, use it wisely. Learn. Learn some foreign phrases. There are free apps and websites to help you. Read. Listen to podcasts, audio books, watch documentaries. Learn about something you are interested in. There are hundreds of free resources. Another fantastic free learning resource is from the Open University. Free courses in many subjects like Law, Environment, History, Arts, Psychology, Health, Business. World pandemic or not, I would recommend this!
- Don’t compare. You may have heard the phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy”. This is why so much of social media and TV can have a negative effect on our mental health. These ‘influencers’ we can watch on TV, follow on Instagram, read about on the internet and in magazines who in our minds, we are just not as good as. I’m guilty of comparing myself to others at times, and it’s unhealthy. “It’s not fair because so and so has such and such”, or “She doesn’t have to do that so why do I?” Thoughts like these conjure up negativity, thieve joy, and require an element of fortune telling to imagine the other person’s happy ending and our miserable future.
- Think about some future positive possibilities. We face an uncertain time, but uncertainty doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom. There are scientists working around the world and around the clock for a cure and vaccine. Communities are coming together. This could be the start of a rejuvenation of community life for many. It certainly feels like that where I live at the moment. We may take less for granted in the future and enjoy this world of ours more and appreciate the people around us.
- Stay Connected. Isolation doesn’t have to mean isolated. Another word that induces anxiety as it implies we’re not going to see anyone or have human contact again. But there’s Facebook, Skype, telephones, friends, neighbours, families. Make contact with a long lost friend, cheer them up as well as yourself.
- Laugh. Guaranteed there is something to make you laugh. There’s plenty of comedy re-runs on TV. Turn off the 24 hour news and stick on your favourite show, whether it’s Friends, The Office, Only Fools and Horses. There’s plenty of comedy films too so watch these instead of the latest drama or thriller.
These are some ideas on putting a positive spin on these uncertain times. Turn down the negative, turn up the positive and, look on the bright side.