The Covid crisis has meant that the last year has been incredibly difficult for everyone, the world over. Never in history has the world had to deal with anything like Covid, and the restrictions and implications it has had on the population of the world will have repercussions for many years to come.
The fear of Covid will have impacted on everyone’s mental health, whether we realise it or not. If you asked people to write down their three biggest current fears, it is likely that a high proportion would say the following:
I am afraid that I, or a member of my family, will catch Covid
I am afraid that this will make me, or them, very ill
I am afraid that because of this I, or they, will die.
These are very real fears, but how do we stop these fears from escalating and making us worry unnecessarily?
“Fearless Female” by Wendy Dignan is a free downloadable resource that is available online, and provides practical hints and tips on how to cope with the worries and anxieties that many of us have during the Covid Crisis. It is natural to worry as this is our way of trying to mentally solve problems, and deal with a potential threat that hasn’t actually happened yet. Normal worry is beneficial as it helps us to anticipate future events and obstacles. However, unhelpful worry takes things out of proportion and can consume our daily lives.
How you can deal with worry
Allocate worry time – this helps you take control of your worries. Set aside some time each day to worry. During this time you can worry as much as you like about as many things as you like! However, don’t do this just before you go to bed, as you will then have trouble sleeping! If a worry comes into your head at any other time, add it to your list and move on. Come back to it during your Worry Time. Review them during your Worry Time – if the worry no longer causes you concern, cross it off. If there is something you can do to help your worry, do it. If you have no control over the worry, accept it and let it go.
Distraction – this is a useful tool that helps you focus on something else, not just on your worry. Many of us are working from home at the moment and this means there are less distractions for us. Keeping your mind occupied will help alleviate some of your worries – it’s hard to worry when you are busy! Do something you have been meaning to do for ages, as it will make you feel better when it is done, and it probably won’t take you as long as you thought it would!
Mindfulness – anxiety and worry mean you are always living in the future. Learning to be mindful brings you back to the present. Being mindful is a skill that will help you through the rest of your life! It is a way of focusing on your senses and your body. It helps you to live in the moment, not think back to the past or worry about the future. To practice mindfulness you need to be comfortable and away from outside distractions. Once you are mindful, you can try meditation, but don’t worry, you won’t have to sit in the lotus position!
One simple way to meditate is to visualise yourself going on a walk around your favourite place, the garden, the coastal footpath, a beach. Focussing your mind will help lessen your worries.
Finding your balance – constant worry makes you constantly feel “out of sorts”. Although our world and our routines have changed, our needs are the same. We still need to maintain a healthy balance in our day to day lives, between fun, achievement and being social. Our balance can significantly alter our moods. If you spend too much time on fun, you won’t do tasks that are important, which can lead to negative feelings. Sometimes it is better to do the difficult daily tasks first. They often don’t turn out to be as bad as we first thought!
Try to do at least 3 things each day, under the following headings:
Fun – it is important to do something each day that you enjoy. It could be reading a book, going for a walk, sewing, baking, or any other hobby that you enjoy.
Achievement – having meaning and purpose to your life is an important part of feeling happy. Achievement isn’t just about having a job or building a career, it is more about your life purpose. This is especially important for people who have just retied. Without identifying your life’s purpose and goals, you will live a life less focused which can lead to feelings of discontentment.
Social – even introverts need to engage socially from time to time! We need social contact, but this is difficult at the moment. Technology plays a huge part in this, so make the most of Zoom meetings and phone calls!
Challenge faulty thinking – try to move from the worst case scenario to reality. Anxiety and worry makes us distort our sense of reality. People who worry tend to put everything through a filter to make it the worst it could be! They then go into a Worry Spiral, where a whole plethora of worries join together and add to the original worry.
Anxious thoughts are triggered by something perfectly reasonable which make it seem rational, e.g. how will I cope if I catch Covid? Ask yourself how realistic this is – if we take precautions, we can minimise the risks (hands, face, space). Limit the time we are in public spaces, e.g. shops. Can you get online deliveries? Put in a cleaning regime in the home to keep your family safe. How will the family cope if I am ill, or die? Think about how realistic this is. A high percentage of people who get Covid have mild, or no, symptoms.
Practical Balance Exercise
Step 1 - Make a plan – what will you do tomorrow? List the most important things you need to do today under the fun, achievement and social headings.
Step 2 – End of day evaluation:
Did you achieve them?
Did you do something that made you feel rewarded?
Did you get a good balance of things?
Did you have fun?
Did you socially interact?
Step 3 – Repeat the process tomorrow, but think about what you could do differently to make it a more productive day.
Some final tips
Maintain a balance
Exercise and stay healthy
Set a routine
Watch out for Fake News
Limit worry triggers
Be kind to yourself
A final thought…
You can’t pour from an empty cup! Be kind to yourself as well as others.
Girlguiding have created an short e-learning course for adult volunteers to help you support those who are struggling with mental health difficulties. It also talks about managing wellbeing during times of crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic we’re all experiencing.