Tips from a psychotherapist for coping with anxiety around COVID-19
With the coronavirus pandemic dominating the news and drastically changing all of our lives, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed out and/or anxious. Here are some simple steps to help you cope with those feelings from psychotherapist Bob Smith…
Choose just one source of information
Things are changing day-by-day and it may be critical for you to know what the state of play is, especially if you’re a business owner or self-employed, or one of the millions of people being asked to stay home for 12 weeks.
But you can do that with just one news outlet. Be it a newspaper or the BBC, you’ll find it much less overwhelming if you check in with the same media outlet every time instead of simply searching Google for the latest and being swamped with loads of different results and exciting headlines.
Limit your news time
Limit the time you spend each day catching up on all the coronavirus latest. You could perhaps set one hour a day to watching the news or reading about the virus, then spend the rest of your day getting on as normal, or as normal as possible. Life continues!
Be strategic about when you watch the news
Not only should you limit your time on your selected news outlet, but you should also make sure to give yourself time to process the information you receive. Don’t, for example, choose to catch up immediately before bed or you might find yourself turning things over in your mind instead of dropping off to sleep, and this can have a knock-on effect.
Keep in touch with family, friends and loved ones
FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Zoom, do what you can to stay in touch with family. It can be very hard when you feel down or anxious, and it may take a lot of effort, but regular contact will be worth it.
But be sensible with your social media time
While social media is great for keeping in touch with people, sharing what you’re up to and feeling connected, it can also ramp up your feelings of anxiety. If you’re finding you’re sinking hours into Facebook every day, it might be time to set yourself a time boundary for going online.
Keep moving as much as you can
Exercise in all its forms, including walking, will absolutely help to relieve the tension in your body. Go outside if at all possible. Even in lockdown, you can still go for a walk or a jog once a day as long as you stay at least two meters away from people.
But remember, strangers aren’t your enemy!
Social distancing measures aren’t stopping you from saying hi to other people as you pass by them at a safe distance. Little things like a greeting will help you feel connected, not just to others but also to the community around you. Remember that we’re all in this together!
Access the helplines which are there to support you
There are a number of support lines out there to help you through difficult times in your life. Use them, that’s what they’re for. There is absolutely no shame in it.
If you’re living very rurally, you may go for days without seeing people so contacting a helpline can be one of the most important things you do.
Seek professional help if things become too much
Remember if your feelings are starting to become intense or overwhelming there are counsellors who can help. I’ve started offering my clients sessions via Skype and WhatsApp and many other practitioners are doing the same.
Bob Smith is a psychotherapist of over 25 years and former founder/director of Birmingham Counselling & Psychotherapy Centre.