Living with Worry and Anxiety amidst Coronavirus Outbreak
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
There is so much worry surrounding us in the world today and I hope this post can offer some light into what is a dark and difficult situation for us all.
What is worry? We all experience worry from time to time and to different degrees. Sometimes worrying about a future event can be helpful, ensuring that we make plans and set goals. However when we worry excessively about something we tend to only focus on the "worst case scenarios" leaving us feeling like we can't cope or get through a particular situation. An example of this at the moment might be something like:
I have a cough > I have Coronovirus > That means I passed it onto my parents and my friend the other day and now they have it > They're going to die > I killed my parents and my friend.
Who's guilty of having these catastrophising thoughts? I know I am!
Worrying excessively over time can cause us to feel different physical sensations in our bodies such as headaches, chest pains, upset tummies, shaking and shortness of breath. Worrying excessively can affect our sleep habits, our performance at work/ school/ college and our interactions with family and friends and our abilities to relax and enjoy our hobbies. Worrying can be seen as a problem if it gets in the way of you functioning and doing the things you want to do everyday. Have a think...are you worrying excessively at the moment?
There are 2 main types of worries:
1. Real problem worries: If I don't wash my hands I might pass on the corona virus to someone else. If I stand close to a stranger for more than 15 minutes I might catch the Corona virus.
Often there are solutions to real problem worries e.g. regular hand washing/ social distancing/ isolation at home.
2. Hypothetical worries: I'm going to kill my whole family by giving them Coronavirus. I'm going to be jobless and have to move out of my apartment. I'll never be able to go to the gym again. Everyone is going to die. There's not enough food in the world for us to survive this pandemic.
Living with these worries over time can be exhausting :(
What can you do about your worrying thoughts? I'm forever talking about self-compassion and kindness but for me this is as important now than ever. Firstly I believe we need to pause and recognise that this is a really difficult time for all of us. You are not alone with your worries. Your worries are valid. rEach out and get support, chat to people or a professional to help you.
Here are a few tips to help you manage your worries and find more peace in your body. Practice them regularly to see the benefits:
1. Breathing and mindfulness: Invite a deep breath in, hold your breath, and slowing exhale it all out slowly. How good does that feel? Now try this again, breathing in, holding your breath and as your exhale repeat this mantra in your mind "this too shall pass". This time, if you like lift your shoulders as you breathe in and drop your shoulders down as you breathe out. Repeat a few times a day or start each day with a few mindful breaths. Remember, consistency is key! I promise if you practice breathing regularly you will see a difference in your ability to calm your body and your mind over time. There's lots of free yoga and mindfulness videos on youtube and instragram at the moment so feel free to message me if you need any tips.
2. Worry check: Practice identifying if your worry is a "real problem" worry or a "hypothetical" worry. Maybe ask yourself some questions about your thought:
Is this a useful thought for me right now?
Are there any facts to back up my thought?
Can I solve this worry/ problem right now? If not, can i do something to distract myself from it.
3. Worry time: Sometimes allowing yourself a set time in your day "to worry" can be useful. E.g. allowing 12pm to be your time to acknowledge your worries and listen to them, maybe write down some of your worries in journal giving them some attention. Then at 12:10pm for example practice moving on with your day and doing something different.
4. Make a list of things you can/ can't control:
Some things you can control: How often you scroll through instagram/ watch the news about the virus. How often you chat about Coronavirus with your friends or family. Do you practice social distancing and hand washing? Do you have any hobbies that you can do at home? Speaking kindly to yourself, is this something you do?
Some things you can't control: If others stand too close to you, how people around you react and act, what will be on the news tonight, if there is enough peanut butter in the supermarket, if friends will keep in touch with you...and so on.
5. Find meaning and balance: It's more important than ever to engage in hobbies and find enjoyment in the outdoors. Be creative and make a gym at home, take up a new hobby such a art or knitting. Find something that makes you smile and practice doing it regularly. For some of us this might just mean playing some music or reading. Our routines have changed so setting yourself a goal to do something meaningful each day for a set period of time will help you to build some healthy habits. Another option might be to video call a friend or a colleague instead of a regular call. Find the gems amidst the rubble during this uncertain time.
6. Be kind! Be kind to you. Treat yourself like you would a friend or a child. Reach out to others, show support. Be the rippling effect in the pond :)
I'm offering skype/face-time/whatsapp video/ zoom sessions to chat through the above and more. If this is something that you/ a friend/ a colleague would like to chat further about please feel free to reach out.
We're all in this together. Michelle