Managing anxiety during ‘lockdown’
By Professional psychotherapist and counsellor Linda Oram
Most of us know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety; our heart races, our thoughts are obsessive and intrusive, and we forget how to talk coherently. Everyday stress and anxiety is normal, but when it gets out of control it can cause utter misery. As a professional therapist, I see many clients who suffer with overwhelming anxiety, particularly during these unprecedented times of enforced isolation.
So what causes it and how can you reduce it?
Anxiety is a feeling which occurs in response to our thoughts. When you are suffering from stress, your mind and body are on alert, ready to fight or flee. During our caveman days, stress hormones were activated if we were chased by ferocious animals or had to fight off other cave-dwellers, but they would return to normal once the danger had passed. If these hormones are not switched off, they can lead to the chronic anxiety that many are experiencing currently.
It can be helpful to maintain some sort of a daily routine during isolation; as creatures of habit we need some sense of ‘normality’:
- Get up at a similar time each day, not necessarily your usual time
- Get showered, dressed into day clothes (no pyjamas!) and make your bed
- Have your morning cuppa in the garden or by an open window to boost your Vitamin D
- Do chores/work/studying in the morning
- Do something that you enjoy and makes you feel happy every day
- Spend some time relaxing each day
- Try to do 10 minutes exercise, such as walking, yoga, pilates, gardening or even housework
- Plan 2 or 3 things to achieve each day, not necessarily work-related
- Speak to friends/family each day; as humans we need social contact
- Begin a ‘wish jar’; write down all the things you wish you could do and pop them in a jar, ready to work through when isolation ends
- Tackle some of the jobs you’ve been meaning to do. So far I’ve decluttered my wardrobe, relabelled my herb and spice jars and begun to organise thousands of photos on my computer! (There are more ideas on my website)
- Watch or listen to comedies on the television, radio or podcasts
- Break down difficult chores into manageable chunks
Using simple relaxation techniques can also be a very effective way to calm ourselves down and help switch off those stress hormones. If you notice the anxiety beginning to overwhelm you, try some of these:
- 7/11 breathing – by breathing in for a count 7 and out for 11, the longer out breath stimulates the natural calming system in our body
- Say “STOP” to yourself when you notice the worries becoming intrusive
- Remember that crying is therapeutic and it’s ok to feel low at times
- Speak to someone, a friend or a professional, who can help you
I hope you have found this article helpful and that ‘normality’ returns for us all very soon. If you would like further help, or to talk about your anxieties, please do call or email me. I am here to help you feel better.