In the current situation of Covid – 19, anxiety is very much being felt by all around us. For some, it may be a heightened feeling of what we are already used to feeling, or for some, it may be something they have never felt before. Anxiety can be debilitating and take over your world. It is helpful to know what we are feeling, why we are feeling it, and if it is reasonable now? The fact that we are feeling anxious at the moment is a normal response to a genuine threat to existence, but we shouldn’t be feeling debilitated.
Anxiety is a human being’s response to a threat, in particular, our threat to existence. As the feeling of anxiety is horrible, we generally see anxiety as unfavourable. However, anxiety is a crucial survival response. We need this response to prevent harm, and it is otherwise known as our ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response. It was particularly significant when faced with a woolly mammoth; if we choose our response wisely, we would be safe. However, we are not faced with woolly mammoths today, but in modern life, we are still surrounded by what our brains perceive as a threat. It is essential to note that each of us analyses threat differently, and we also all have different responses. Being mindful of differences is critical when understanding yourself or supporting another in times of anxiety. The key is working out what it is that makes you feel anxious, and if it is reasonable to eradicate that threat then do. Still, it may not be feasible, so therefore you may need support with working on your response.
So, let’s look at a what a reasonable anxiety response to the current situation of Covid -19 may look like (this is not inclusive and will differ from one to another);
· Believing, listening, and taking the government advice on how to reduce contamination and spread of Covid-19. Taking specific information to your age and health status.
· You are concerned/worried but still being able to function and attend to your basic human needs and of those of your dependents.
· Having an emotional response to the situation, this, after all, is a very tricky time for us all, and emotions are a normal response at all times.
· Being able to think and process thoughts other than based on Covid – 19
When should we be getting more support;
· When we believe we can’t trust or take government advice and either, do not follow advice putting or self and others at risk or focus on doing more than we need to.
· Obsessive worrying about the situation, not able to function or attend to basic needs, and of those of your dependents.
· Being debilitated by emotions and feelings of fear.
· Trying to control others around you to feel safe
· Upping the control, feelings, and thoughts of if I or others do XYZ, I will feel ok and be safe.
· Looking too far into the future, worrying and catastrophising on the result.
As anxiety is human being response to fear we tend to feel anxiety in our bodies, some of the symptoms may be as follows but yet again the key to understanding if this is reasonable is – a churning feeling in your stomach, feeling light-headed or dizzy, pins and needles, feeling restless or unable to sit still, headaches, backache or other aches and pains, faster breathing and a rapid, thumping or irregular heartbeat (for more symptoms of anxiety, please see the links at the end of this article)
Whether you are experiencing reasonable anxiety or extreme anxiety, there are some exercises you can do to reduce the symptoms. When we are anxious, we are generally not in the here and now unless that woolly mammoth is standing right in front of you. You need to bring your attention and thoughts back to the here and now. Our brains that are working on overdrive will realise that there is no threat in the present and how we can act reasonably to the current issues. You can use the following to bring yourself back to the here and now- Mindful meditation, colouring, exercise/activity, and journaling. Also, talking your fears through with someone that can help rationalise threats is helpful, eg, therapist and counsellors. As caffeine mimics the brain’s reaction to anxiety, it may be useful to reduce your caffeine (please speak to a health professional before taking this advice).
Essentially, you are supposed to be feeling anxious right now as this is our natural response and that it’s ok, you’re not alone. Even if you feel your anxiety is under control (and you don’t feel the need for extra support), it’s still worth keeping in touch with your social network, talking and ensuring your wellbeing is high on your agenda. Please take time to look at the few links below and in general your local authority websites will have more localised links to support.