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Essential tips to mentally survive Covid-19 anxiety and stay afoat during the pandemic!

This post was inspired by this quote: “In this rush back to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to” – Dave Hollis.

The current Pandemic is a wholly unwelcome disruption to so many peoples lives and is a lethal killer of the most precious in our society, the vulnerable.

The only way to fight it is for most of us to pause our normally busy schedules and drop routines, social contacts, patterns and automatic behaviours.

While unexpected this may be an unusual chance slow down enough to reflect: what parts our normal lives do we miss and what parts are we feeling relief from?

Several clients who are now working with me online have told me in the last few days that not seeing certain people, not being able to do certain things or not having certain pressures has been a relief.

Likewise, many will be enjoying things right now that they didn’t get to enjoy in years. Time to sit, reflect and meditate. Time to read, garden or walk outside.

Time to really spend quality time with family or unexpected renewed phone or online connection with friends/relatives may be some of the unexpected benefits of this pandemic.

However, this global Pandemic obviously has scary real downsides to it, these are pushed in our faces through online and news forums every day.

The news and buzz about this seems in some ways inescapable and as a therapist tuned into anxiety I am finding that the accumulative effect of all this news and changes is causing nearly everyone I know Covid-19 anxiety, myself included!

However, if in any situation we focus only on the negative then we will be mired in the negative.

Focusing on the negative can only be helpful in so far as we do it to remain safe ourselves.

Anything more than this, when we are helpless, may just be upsetting ourselves and reducing our capacity to cope.

Looking at what positive things we can do to play our part is essential: whether that’s just keeping going with renewed purpose if we are working in the front line, or keeping busy if we are staying at home right now is a positive and better place to deliberately put our focus.

Why I call it staying Afloat:

An unprecedented crisis like this in an unprecedented digital age of information is a bit like being left floating in an unpredictable stormy sea.

Every development from this crisis is like a surge of waves that keep crashing over our heads as we bob in the water.

These covid-19 anxiety waves are going to keep coming and hitting us if we stay static and wait for them to come.

Ironically, the best thing we can do right now is restrict our movements and cut engagements and social contacts, so we are sitting ducks for the external waves of bad news and our internal waves of reactions/worries to engulf us.

The waves come via the news, social media, rumours and press briefings but also rage within us all as worries, concerns for others and the felt sense of collective fear.

Some waves will be personal, tragic, awful, huge and shocking and hard to avoid, but if we look at the analogy of the skilled surfer in the stormy sea: they will always duck under many such waves and nasty ones that can’t be surfed.

They don’t swim against the current and fight each wave, they dive under the waves. They accept the waves have more power then they do and they don’t waste their energy bashing through each one.

Just waiting for waves to hit us in the face can mean we get pushed under by them, bounced off the floor and spun around losing all sense of control and balance.

But every cloud has a silver lining and if we are skilled in our awareness and attitude, we can avoid the worst bad waves and pick our moment to catch waves of unexpected positivity and use them to surf away and keep above some of the worst emotional surges.

Maybe our experience on this wave also can be a new lesson for how we live after this pandemic passes.

This may be feeling free from others and parts of life that don’t serve us. Or it could be learning to ride a wave towards a newfound sense of community, family or self-care.

It could be reconnections with hobbies that we forgot excite us! Or a reconnection with ourselves. It could be having to face our own shadows and grow or learning about our own resilience and power!

But whatever wave of meaning and growth we use to keep going, what we can’t do is use this time to wallow and fret. This reaction may come over us but if we recognize what we are doing then we can respond.

In such an unprecedented time I feel so strongly about this that I would say nearly each one of us needs a plan to maintain our personal mental wellness during this Pandemic.

Just as we need to think about our physical health, we need to think about our collective and individual mental health at the Macro and Mirco level!

Wellness, mental health, resilience, happiness and coping mean different things to each of us but below I’ve put together a basic plan of action that I’m offering to clients regardless of their age that may be of help.

This can help whether we are a school pupil or a retiree or anywhere in between, because the nature of the mind is the same and the same variables of excessive worry, loss of routine, overthinking/worrying, isolation and unhealthy behaviours will always cause anxiety.

The six Rs to stay afloat during Covid-19.

Use the six Rs to stay focused and well in quarantine, self-isolation or Covid-19 Anxiety.

The six Rs of staying well are: Routine, relationships, relaxation, review/re-think, reward and refocus.

The Six Rs to Mentally Survive Covid-19

1. Review/re-think: This is where we need to sit down and look back on how we have been spending our days and check how many hours have we been spending on the worry clock/submerged by the waves of negativity. This can be a review of our whole daily process and our internal process and on what has been working for us and what has not during this crisis. If we sit idly by in the surging ocean of information and emotions we will drown, we have to review how do we keep our heads above water and how do we stay afloat. What do we need to cut? What were we doing to cope that we can’t continue to do (excess drink and other coping mechanisms). How is our thinking during this. See our section of articles on distorted thinking if worries and overthinking are a major problem.

2.Routine: Establish a routine, try to keep as many normal things going as possible, plan the day and keep regular things going such as meals, exercise, housework, getting up and going to bed at normal times. Draw up a plan for each day allowing for breaks, chores and all of the following steps below.

3. Relationships: while we can’t see people in the flesh we can connect virtually. Ring friends we haven’t spoken to in a while, reconnect and stay connected with important people in life. Social distancing is physical distancing not total distancing, we need to stay together while we stay apart. Minding relationships may also be true in reverse. If some relationships are not helping our covid-19 anxiety levels right now then do we need to take some space and put in some boundaries? These can be really important to stay well and not get sucked into other people’s anxieties.

4. Relaxation: This one may seem silly if all we have is time to relax. But real relaxation means a break from unhelpful stimulus and turning down our central nervous system and is essential to get stress and covid-19 anxiety out of our bodies. Some suggestions include taking a bath or long shower, meditating, or getting out for a walk, doing a muscle relaxation or stretching/yoga routine. Games, happy films/tv shows, reading all these things can be beneficial. In this time of increased stress we have to account for reducing this stress and we also need get plenty of rest.

5. Reward: we have to have some fun and reward our good actions. Any behavioural routine like we want to implement needs to be rewarded but only when we comply with what we are supposed to do. A good kind of reward is also to give ourselves acceptance, love and kindness in this harsh time and to let ourselves off the hook and say I am doing enough, and I am enough.

6. Refocus: this point means we have to refocus from all the negative that this pandemic is bringing to the world and bring it back to ourselves and what positive waves or lessons is this giving me in my life. What wave will we use to ride out of this thing and in 10 years when this is all a memory and we think back to the months in 2020 where life stopped what lessons will we have taken from this unprecedented time.

These six Rs of will help any of us stay afloat and mitigate our stress in this extra difficult time. Left unmitigated many of us will drown in a sea of Covid-19 anxiety which for many healthy people actually more uncomfortable than the symptoms of actually getting sick.

Reaching out for help can also be vitally important at this time too.

As a psychotherapist I am keeping going in this extra difficult time and will be providing online video sessions to clients via Zoom or will be doing phone counselling.

Sessions to help re-frame and gather our thinking on these types of issues can be valuable to share our thoughts, feelings and emotions and gain clarity on how to best survive this Covid-19 anxiety storm.

If anyone reading this would be interested in hearing more about online or video sessions please feel free to message me through our Facebook Page, to call/text me on 087 063 0948 or email: info@anxietyireland.ie.

I’m always delighted to explore how sessions could help people to cope during a difficult time.

Some of our other articles that may be helpful include on Managing Covid-19 AnxietyWhat if thinking and Covid-19 self care.

Distorted Thinking styles are also extremely important for how we deal with and suffer from anxiety. Distorted thinking styles include: FilteringPolarized ThinkingOver-generalizationMind ReadingCatastraphizingPersonalizationControl FallaciesThe Fallacy of FairnessEmotional ReasoningThe Fallacy of ChangeGlobal LabelingBlamingShouldsBeing Right and Heaven’s Rewards Fallacy.

Thanks for reading and please like, share or comment if this was useful!

Stay safe,

Michael Ledden
Founder Anxiety Ireland

Anxiety is like a merry-go-round, going nowhere, it’s time to step off.