Are you feeling restless, distracted, is your heart racing, are you unable to sleep, or is your mind in over drive with seemingly irrational thoughts or do you have physical symptoms such as headaches or tummy aches? You may be experiencing anxiety.
Due to COVID and the uncertainty and change that it has brought, many people who have never identified as anxious are suddenly finding themselves suffering from symptoms of anxiety.
But anxiety is not all bad. We can view it as a safety mechanism. It is the part of us that keep us safe when our mind (the amygdala in the brain) perceives danger. The problem is that our mind quite often manufactures the danger. All the possible "what ifs" that go through our mind to stop us from taking action and move forward in order to keep us safe. It is anxiety that comes to our rescue to keep us safely in our comfort zone.
Whenever we are faced with change or uncertainty, anxiety is a very common response and the COVID pandemic has created greater uncertainty than many of us have ever had to live with before.
A study recently published in the Lancet shows a huge increase in depression and anxiety disorders during the pandemic around a 25% increase and not surprisingly the main bearers of this increase has been women & children (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02143-7/fulltext).
There are many reasons for the increase in anxiety disorders and depression right now, whether it be increasing uncertainty, restricted mobility, inability to see friends and family, feeling unsupported, fear of getting ill or our loved ones getting ill and maybe even dying or the economic uncertainty and stress created for those whose business or work has been affected or even just not knowing when life will go back to "normal".
All of these reasons are enough to increase anxiety and for many, the lack of normal everyday interaction has increased anxiety about being out in public again as we get ready to open up. Here in Melbourne, for many, after so long in lockdown, there is definitely an increase in fear or a hesitancy about getting out there again. After so long locked away in our houses, getting out and sitting in shops, crowded bars & restaurants can be triggering. It is so easy for our minds to create catastrophic thinking and to go into panic.
In America, the APA found that half of Americans felt uneasy about adjusting to 'normal life' interactions with the lifting of the COVID restrictions (https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2021/03/one-year-pandemic-stress).
Having some experience of anxiety is not irrational in this context. It is perfectly acceptable and normal. So what can you do to manage your anxiety?
Managing your anxiety
- First accept your anxiety. This may sound a little strange, but try to make friends with it and be curious about what it might be trying to tell you. It might be just trying to tell you to take it slowly, not rush out & make a zillion plans as we open up again. Ask your anxiety what it is protecting you from.
- Be kind & compassionate. Be gentle with yourself and if you feel anxious about going back to 'normal' see what you can do to return a pace that works for you.
- Aromatherapy. Obviously, my favourite way to deal with anxiety is using essential oils. Here are my favourite essential oils for anxiety: neroli, rose, lavender, bergamot, frankincense, clary sage, ylang ylang, marjoram, mandarin, orange, patchouli, lime, may chang, fragonia, black spruce, jasmine, rose, geranium, vetiver
- Breathe: focus on your breath. Put one hand on your tummy and one hand on your chest and feel the breath coming in and making your tummy/chest rise and then going out and your belly/chest sinking. Or focus on the feeling of the air coming in and going out through your nostrils. This brings you into the present moment and takes the focus off your thoughts.
- See your thoughts as clouds floating by, try not to get entrenched in them but look at them like a bystander.
- When overwhelm sets in, turn off your phone, stop checking social media & other media.
- Try to focus on the things that you can control, no matter how small they might be.
- EFT (tapping) is a wonderful for managing anxiety and calming the central nervous system. See here for more. And check my instagram as I will post a video specifically on dealing with anxiety as we open up.
- Meditation: my favourite meditation app is Insight timer, there are so many teachers who have put meditation tracks on this app but also who run live sessions. You can even make donations to the teachers. There are also many fantastic meditation teachers out there doing meditations online.
- Mindfulness: be in the here and now, listen to sounds around you, smells, feel the breeze on your skin or anything else that bring you into the here and now.
- Grounding: go outdoors & walk with your bare feet touching the ground.
- Go out in nature, even if you can't go for your regular bushwalks, or hikes, get out to the park or local reserve.
- Journal: write about your worries. A good practice is to write them all down & then burn the paper as a way of letting them go. Sometimes writing down your anxieties & saying them is enough to for them to dissipate. If it helps you to think of solutions then go ahead, but that is not necessary in order to let your anxieties go.
- Stay in touch with friends & family. Share your fears & anxieties with someone who you feel safe with. Connection with others and feeling supported can really help.
- Do some self caring (see here for my previous blog on self caring).
- Use affirmations. Affirmations are positive sentences to help you reframe your thoughts. They can be repeated regularly, written repeatedly or written on card and stuck up on your mirror or in your wallet, somewhere that you can see them regularly.
Affirmations for anxiety
As I breathe, I allow my body and mind to relax.
Right now and right here, I am safe.
I choose to focus on positive thoughts & outcomes.
I choose calm.
All is well ( a Louise Hay favourite)- the whole of her affirmation is "All is well in my world. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe!"
I deeply & completely love & accept myself.
I trust the process of life.
I experience love wherever I go.
I choose to feel happiness & joy.
I am resilient and I will get through this.
There are many ways to deal with anxiety and if you do these regularly, you will be able to manage it, even if it seems unlikely at the beginning. Of course, if your anxiety is severe, you should see a medical professional.