Today’s blog is written by Assistant Psychologist Gabby Donaldson.
We have now done one week of our second national lockdown. For some, this lockdown may not have made much of a difference to daily life. You may still be going to school, going into work or continuing to work from home. But, for others, this lockdown may feel rather unsettling and create feelings of uncertainty and worry. I have already spoken in my previous blog about gratitude and taking notice to improve our wellbeing. Today, I want to talk a little bit about managing anxiety during this second lockdown, giving you some strategies which I like to use whenever I feel anxious.
At Headspace Guildford, we see lots of young people and plenty of adults who are struggling with anxiety. Clinical Psychologists are training to both listen and understand what is going on for you, and to help you with strategies and techniques which help you overcome the anxiety and feel better.
The first point to remember is that it is OK to feel anxious. Our body has a fight-or-flight response which kicks into action whenever we sense threat or danger, and this gives rise to anxiety. Currently, we have identified coronavirus as being a continuing threat, and therefore, understandably, our body’s fight-or-flight response can become active. What this means for us is that we can experience re-occurring anxiety which, at time, can be really tricky to deal with. So, firstly, keep telling yourself that it is OK to feel this way. You are not the only one who is experiencing anxiety at the moment. I am going to give you 6 strategies which I use to manage anxiety or worry, all of which you can try straight away.
- Talk to someone. I have put this one first as I think this one is the most important. If you are feeling worried about something it is really important to talk to someone about it and not bottle away all those feelings. Don’t be ashamed of feeling anxious as we all experience it at times!
- For times of high anxiety and panic, taking deep breaths is really key. You can sit, stand or lie down, whichever you prefer, just make sure to open your chest to let the air flow more easily. Breathe in slowly through your nose for 5 seconds and then out slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds. You can repeat this as many times as you like. I also recommend doing this in the morning and evening anyway!
- If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with a thought or worry, try and become aware of your surroundings and take notice of the 5 senses. One technique I love to use is working through each of the 5 senses to identify what is around me. For example, thinking of 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel/touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste (this order can be varied). By doing this you can be brought back to the moment and recognise you are in a safe space and ready to work through your worry step-by-step.
- Look after your physical health. I don’t need to say a lot about this as I am sure you already know. But it is really important to look after both our mental health and our physical health. Try to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water as this can help manage feelings of anxiety and make us feel better in ourselves. Exercise is also key as not only does it help us physically, but it is great for reducing low mood and anxiety as exercise causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins which help reduce stress and improve wellbeing.
- Do not underestimate the power of a good night sleep! I don’t know about you, but whenever I don’t sleep well, I always feel rather down and irritable the next day. This can impact how we perceive and process the level of threat a situation may have, for example, by seeing something as impossible to deal with when in fact there are ways we can easily manage it. It is recommended children get between 9-10 hours of sleep each night and adults between 7-9 hours of sleep. To get a good night sleep, make sure you wind down and relax before bed, write a ‘to do’ list for the next day so that your mind isn’t distracted, read a book and switch off electronic devices an hour before you go to bed.
- Get creative! Being creative can help to focus the mind due to its calming effects on the brain and body. It is really important to make the time each day to do something that we love. This could be mindfulness colouring, making Christmas cards, gardening, baking, or building Lego blocks.
I hope you find these strategies useful in managing any anxiety throughout this second lockdown. Remember, you are not alone in how you are feeling. A lot of us are feeling worried at the moment which is why it is so important to take care of our mental health. Give these a try and don’t forget to reach out to us if you need someone to talk to about your worries.