BY: Janine Mitchell
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As a generation, we have never been so anxious. Anxiety manifests itself cognitively by a loss of concentration, behaviourally by the avoidance of certain situations (fear), and physiologically in disturbed sleep, rapid breathing and emotional agitation often leading to hypervigilance.
Then along came COVID19 which impacted on increased levels of loneliness and isolation. This has all been outside of our control. There has also been concern and safety for loved ones. There has been increased levels of fear, overwhelm, and worries as a result of uncertainties. This is all in relation to social distancing, becoming ill, anxieties about leaving the house or being in public spaces and much unease.
A recent UK survey by the Office for National Statistics found almost half (49.6%) of the population are experiencing high levels of anxiety. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has also reported increasing numbers of patients with anxiety, depression and trauma symptoms.
Lockdown may have presented with positives such the opportunity to reflect, more time at home with family, more sleep and less travel and disruption which all may have a positive impact on mood.
So what will life look life as we adjust to life outside lockdown and as restrictions are eased?
There may be anxieties about whether we can actually be safe. Being in an around groups of people, when we have become so used to being in our own company, or that of our household. If anxieties get to a place where they are unmanageable and interfere with daily life, it’s then when it can be a cause for concern. Perhaps difficulties with poor sleep, worries about leaving the house, being around or close to others and being in a space where we are catastrophising about the future.
What to do? What are the signs to look out for?
Feeling tensions in the body
Shortness of breath, possible panic attacks
Irritability and tiredness
Feeling feint or dizzy
Reoccurring thoughts or worries about the future
Feeling constantly unsettled and agitated
The continued need to check the news or social media
It will be useful to practice short journeys, in the car or on public transport, with your partner or a friend. Plan more frequent trips to places such as the shops. Arrange increased social distance visits with friends (in conjunction with current guidelines).
Ensure you add daily exercise to your routine, preferably outside. Exposure to vitamin D can have immune boosting properties.
Ensure you are looking after your diet, eating healthy, unprocessed foods and restrict your alcohol intake.
Be in the Now
Focus on the present. You can’t control what has happened and you can’t control what is yet to happen. By being in the present, you can feel in a more relaxed space. Practicing mindfulness activities can help with this.
What can you control
If you are worried about control, think about what you can and can’t control.
Try some deep breathing exercises and become more practiced at these. That way, you are both getting out of the fight or flight response and you are also lowering cortisol, the stress hormone we release when we are suffering with anxiety. It also allows for deeper breathing, rather than shallow breathing in the chest.
Remember to take one step at a time. Slowly but surely will allow you to be more comfortable with your new behaviours. As human beings we are much more adaptable than we realise.