REMEMBER, THIS IS TEMPORARY
Tuesday 7th April 2020
At these uncertain and unprecedented times, many of us (if not all of us) are experiencing increased anxiety. For many, this anxiety is associated with high levels of uncertainty. Furthermore, this uncertainty is only exacerbated for people affected by cancer with patients worried about how their treatment and care may be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Likewise, people who are worried they may have symptoms of cancer are uncertain of what they should do next with the highly publicised burden already placed on the NHS. Our hub of coronavirus information and guidance answers some of these questions so please check this out, but it is important to note that if you are experiencing any symptoms of cancer please do contact your GP.
One way to reduce anxiety caused by uncertainty is to regain some sense of control. Focus on the things that you can control such as washing your hands regularly, reducing your own risk by staying at home and taking the time out of your day to do a mood-lifting activity, such as dancing round your living room to music, and most importantly spend less time thinking about aspects you are unable to control.
But, let’s be honest, this is a really difficult time. Most of us are feeling fearful, anxious and scared. There are going to be times where these feelings dominate our days. We are all trying our best to cope with this uncertain environment and that’s all we can do. And of course, shifting perspective so dramatically is often easier said than done but if we all at least have the knowledge of some methods that may allow us to feel that we can regain some control and reduce anxiety then we are in a better position to look after our wellbeing. So, here are some top tips to managing coronavirus anxiety, perhaps choose 2 or 3 you think may work for you:
Limit media influence
It is helpful to be informed. It is also important that you do not expose yourself to anxiety-provoking news all day long. Limit the time you spend reading articles and maybe mute notifications on your phone so that your exposure is voluntary. Also ensure any information you do consume is from a trusted source as a lot of the information out there can be negatively skewed and sensationalised.
Tackle the anxiety paradox
Often, the more you try to not feel anxious, the more likely your anxiety will increase. When anxious feelings arise, simply notice them, without judgement. Allow yourself to be with uncomfortable feelings and anxiety will reduce over time.
Practice self-care and self-acceptance
Get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet (easier said than done in today’s climate – more on this later) and practice mindfulness when feeling stressed; focus on the present, don’t think about the past or worry about the future.
Good self-care helps support a healthy immune system. When thinking of ways to implement self-care, it may be beneficial to consider the different senses. For example, play calming or uplifting music whilst looking over photos from past holidays, with a soft blanket, hot chocolate and a scented candle.
For many of us, we are living with unprecedented demands; work deadlines, home-schooling children, ensuring our household is sterile and keeping everyone’s spirits high whilst living in isolation. It is easy to get caught up in having to meet expectations in all of these areas, but it is important to remember that these are unprecedented times and accept that expectations may have to adapt to encompass increasing demands. Moreover, it is important to remember that we are undertaking these tasks in a state of uncertainty and stress, which does not promote excellence. Try to focus on accepting yourself and the current situation without question or thinking about what you would have been doing if this pandemic was not happening. The current situation is unprecedented; we are all doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help
If you have a therapy team, they are still there for you, even if it is from a distance. Reach out! Or, if you feel like you are having trouble coping, reach out for help for the first time. Find a list of helplines at the bottom of this article if you feel you need to talk to someone – and please do!
Have structure in your day
Having a routine is a sure way to feel like you are in control. Go to bed and wake up at a set time. Perhaps even write a rough timetable for your day, allowing time for productive work and self-care.
Ditch the PJs!
Of course, we are all going to have days when our loungewear (or PJs) feel like the only option. But try not to let your PJs be the only clothes you wear for the foreseeable future! Dress for the social life you want, not necessarily the social life you have right now. How we dress can dramatically impact on our mood. Get showered, brush your teeth and put on comfortable clothes.
Breathe in fresh air
Getting some fresh air always lifts spirits. If you are worried about contact with people, try going for a short walk from your house early in the morning or in the evening when it may be less busy. If you are in a high-risk group, try sitting next to an open window or turn on a fan.
Reach out to loved ones
Connect with others at least once a day whether that’s by text, phone call, FaceTime or Skype. We are all going through this together, you are not alone in this or in your feelings. Reach out to get support and at the same time, offer support to others. Most importantly, make plans for when all of this is over, and we can spend time with loved ones again. Plan fun!
Stay hydrated and (try to) eat well
Now, this one is always a ‘top tip’ for looking after our mental health. Stress and eating often do not mix and we either over-eat or forget to eat. But, in the current situation, we are being told to go to the supermarket infrequently and for essentials only. Moreover, when we do venture to the shops there is often limited availability of most items. But where possible, stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods. This may be an opportunity to try out those fruit and vegetables you tend to leave on the shelves and adapt your old-favourite recipes!
Find your own space
If you are isolating with others at home, private space is a luxury for many! But, where possible, try to identify a space where you can relax separate from where you work and that you can call ‘yours’. Try to make this space comfy and calming with a blanket and a candle.
Notice the good in the world
Take the time to acknowledge the positives happening every day. It is important to counterbalance the overwhelmingly negative news out there with the endless stories of people supporting others in amazing ways. There is always hope. Perhaps try to write down 3 positive things for each day. For example, I had a great chat with my friend over the phone, the sun was out, and I read a chapter of my book.
Set yourself a project
Is there something (home-based activity) you have always wanted to do but haven’t had the time? Find something that will keep you busy and distracted from what is going on right now. A large puzzle, paint a picture, binge watch a series on Netflix, learn sign language… Whatever you choose, set yourself goals and try your best to achieve them.
Finally, talk about your worries and fears. This is a rubbish situation. It isn’t an easy time. Holding all of your emotions in definitely won’t help but talking to someone might, if that’s a friend, family member or a professional that is your choice. And remember, this is temporary. We may not know when life will return to ‘normal’, but it will. All of us will learn something from this experience. If you are struggling, try to think of a time when you got through a difficult situation. And know you will get through this too.
If you would like any further information or have any questions please send us an email and we will get back to you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Children’s charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.
Phone: 0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)
0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)
Advice on dealing with domestic violence.
Phone: 0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
Phone: 0800 917 7650 (24-hour helpline)
National Gambling Helpline
Phone: 0808 8020 133 (daily, 8am to midnight)
Phone: 0300 999 1212 (daily, 10am to midnight)
Provides information on dementia, including factsheets and helplines.
Phone: 0333 150 3456 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and 10am to 4pm on weekends)
Cruse Bereavement Care
Phone: 0808 808 1677 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
To find your local services phone: 0808 802 9999 (daily, 12pm to 2.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm)
Phone: 0808 168 9111 (24-hour helpline)
Phone: 0808 801 0677 (adults) or 0808 801 0711 (for under-18s)
Charity working with people with a learning disability, their families and carers.
Phone: 0808 808 1111 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Advice on all aspects of parenting.
Phone: 0808 800 2222 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 3pm)
The UK’s largest provider of relationship support.
This article was accurate as of the 7th April 2020.