In this uncertain world, we find ourselves feeling more anxious and mental health and self-care has become a huge issue with each and every one of us. Even those who have never experienced any form of anxiety or mental health issues will find they have a need to take stock of their feelings.
The difference between a healthy fear and anxiety
Both fear and anxiety produce a stress response within our physical bodies such as muscles tensing up, increased heart rate and shortness of breath. This is our fight or flight response which is thought to be a key necessity for our survival. One where our body alerts us to danger and we are able to make a choice of stay and battle or run away from the danger.
Anxiety is often a sense of uncertainty or dread and can commonly be a response to an imprecise or unknown threat. It’s a response to your minds interpretation of what could possibly arise rather than an immediate and clear threat. The mind does not seem to be able to distinguish between what is real or imagined/perceived. The difficulty being that our mind is not something that can be reasoned with through logical thinking when emotions are involved. There are many rules that the mind follows and unfortunately in a battle between logic and emotions, the emotions will always win.
What is Fear?
Fear is an emotional response to a definite and certain threat. The focus of the response is therefore very different. Although both are very much interrelated, as when most people experience fear, this fear will cause anxiety and similarly anxiety can cause fear. The symptoms are very much the same as a result, but the root cause is different. When suffering from fear, once definite and certain danger disappears, so too will the symptoms experienced. With anxiety this is not the case.
Physical Symptoms for anxiety
Anxiety presents itself differently with each person but the key is to recognise how it is presenting in your own body and mind. Knowing that anxiety not only affects your mind but also impacts your physical body is very important.
How to help relieve some anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic
I have produced a hypnosis recording that will help you by adding some subliminal programming and strengthen your coping skills throughout this crisis. But there are a number of other ways that you can help yourself and others through this difficult, uncertain and scary situation we are all facing together.
1. Keep yourself informed of the facts, not fiction- the mind can run wild when left to its own imagination. It is therefore crucial to ensure you are only filling your mind with facts and true information. It may mean, limiting how you interact with social media. Not allowing yourself to mindlessly scroll through reports and opinions that are not based on factual evidence.
2. Keeping perspective- the global pandemic is not the only stress factor most will be dealing with on a day to day basis. We may also be dealing with work pressures, financial pressures or grief and illness. Having perspective on all the issues can help in managing them effectively. Likewise, if life was going swimmingly previously and suddenly you are hit with the pandemic, it can feel very overwhelming. It's important to limit this feeling of overwhelm and ensure you keep a solution focused mindset.
3. No comparison- it's human nature to look at others and compare ourselves, although this is really not a healthy thing to do especially in light of the current situation. Seeing all those mums posting their home-schooling success and their lock down fitness regimes. Or seeing your colleagues mastering the working from home routine without seeming phased or disorganised in anyway. The truth is very different to what your eyes may see and especially to what they want you to see on social media. If you are taking care of yourself and your children are happy, you are winning through this crisis. Keep going.
4. Identify your triggers- keep a record of what triggers your fight or flight responses. Noting what is happening around you when you feel at your worst. You are then able to bring back an element of control which is another way to calm our anxieties. You may need to note these at the end of a day and reflect on each moment due to the fact that when an anxiety attack or panic attack is triggered, the thinking brain actually goes offline. The prefrontal cortex of your brain actually begins to shut down.
5. Grounding- to bring your thinking brain back online and break the cycle of anxiety or panic attacks there are several grounding methods that can be used to bring awareness back to your body and then your mind. Some examples of this are:
a.Breathing exercises (there are a number to choose from)
b.Taking your own pulse
c.Standing bare foot on the ground (preferably grass) and imagining grounding energy coming from the earth
6. Don’t shame or blame- feeling others are to blame for any issues you may be experiencing again takes away the control we all feel we need. Avoiding these negative thoughts and focusing on elements of life that we can control will help. Again, having a solution focused mentality. Similarly, shaming others for how they are dealing with or acting is a negative thought you are allowing into your mind. And no doubt you have certain emotions attached to those thoughts that are negative too. You are not able to control other people's actions so allowing those negative thoughts and feelings inside serves no purpose for you.
7. Its OK to ask for help- we are all dealing with difficulties and none of us will be able to get through these times of hardship without help and support from others. Even those that appear strong and able to cope will be getting support in some form from other people. We are definitely in this together and its ok and so important that we ask for help at the moments we need them.
8. Stay connected- technology enables us to stay connected better than ever. We may not be able to give out those all-important hugs to our friends and loved ones, but staying connected is easy with smart phones and internet applications. Recognise those people that promote a sense of calm with you and make an active choice to connect with those people, while avoiding any that bestow a negative energy and suck the life from you.
9. Recognise your stress habit loops- take note of what habits you exhibit throughout the day. Sometimes we can find we feel more anxious when we overeat or when we haven’t yet eaten for example. Noticing your habits throughout your daily routine and how those habits make you feel can be a helpful exercise to take part in.
10. Keep a routine and sense of purpose- your normal daily routine may be very much disrupted but can be helpful to set a new routine to follow during this period. This will bring back a sense of purpose to your day and also that all important element of control over what is happening. You will also find this will create and energy boost and prevent procrastination habits taking over our day.