We asked an expert how to deal with pandemic anxiety when it’s all seeming like too much
Pandemic anxiety is real and very common, you’re not alone
There’s no doubt the pandemic has heightened anxiety and people’s own mental health problems. All across the country we’ve been thrown in and out of national lockdowns, told we can’t see our loved ones and found ourselves in the darkest of times. And now more than ever, given the current state of uncertainty, it’s important to hear that no one is alone and so many of us feel anxious, stressed and like we’re trapped in a dark space which continues to close in and get smaller.
Talking about your mental health is hard. Especially when you feel as though the pandemic is weighing heavily on your mind, because the pandemic is all anyone seems to talk about nowadays. And let’s face it, the looming presence of the pandemic and the word Covid hitting new headlines every hour is really, really hard to deal with.
The Tab spoke to Floss Knight, CEO of UK Therapy Guide and psychotherapist, to get their advice on how to deal with pandemic anxiety when it all starts to feel like too much. Here are Floss’ expert tips on how best to cope:
It’s important to know your triggers
We’re now going into our third year of living in a pandemic but that doesn’t mean things have become any easier. Psychotherapist Floss Knight says it’s important we learn about our triggers. She told The Tab: “One thing you can try and control is how much you allow external pressures to affect your mood and emotions. This can be exceptionally hard but try to limit things that exacerbate your anxiety, for example, turning off breaking news notifications if they trigger worries.”
Also try and remember you’re not alone in this. It’s very common to feel anxious about the pandemic. It shows us we have very limited control on what happens beyond our lives – this is why it’s important to learn about your triggers. Floss says: “The pandemic has had a very tangible effect on everyone’s life; it has caused significant loss, disruption and grief, and few people have been unscathed so far.”
Why do you think so many of us have heightened feelings of anxiety leading up to Christmas?
Psychotherapist Floss Knight believes our feelings of anxiety come from the difficult memories about lockdown and an effectively cancelled Christmas this time last year. She told The Tab: “Many of us thought things were getting better and suddenly, we have seen how quickly a new variant can change everything. Many people have heightened emotions as they remember this time last year, and it perhaps can cause difficult memories.”
The advice Floss gives is to make sure we each take time to look after our own personal wellbeing. Whether that’s by going on walks to try to help benefit our physical health or regularly checking in on our own mental health by asking yourself how you are really feeling. Floss advises to focus on things which we are able to change, like going on walks or setting aside time in our day to catch up with someone close to us whether it’s in real life or virtual.
Identify your stressors and write down your worries
It’s normal to feel daunted by this advice, even though it’s commonly given, but even working out what worries you beyond the pandemic can help to ease your anxiety, Floss says. If you find social media is a common factor, know that you have the choice to switch your devices off and take a break – it’s a proactive way of limiting your stress. Floss also told The Tab setting boundaries is incredibly useful. Don’t be afraid to tell your mates or anyone you’re with that you don’t want to discuss the pandemic – you might even find a lot of people feel the same.
According to Floss, writing down your thoughts can also help in relieving you of some anxiety. She says it can be an “incredibly cathartic way of externalising anxiety, worries and stresses. Try writing down how you feel – you can destroy it instantly afterwards – and see if that makes you feel any better.”
Reach out to mates and focus on what’s happening now
As Floss has said before, you’re not alone in your feelings. Speaking out to mates can be very helpful, but also please know there is expert help available if you’d rather not speak to a friend about your pandemic anxiety.
When thinking about the pandemic it’s easy to spiral into the classic “what if” route, Floss says, but this can actually encourage negative and intrusive thoughts. Floss continued: “Try and ground yourself by focussing on what is happening at this very moment. Illnesses and viruses are understandably scary, but try to focus on your current health, and take every recommended precaution to look after both yourself and others around you. That is all you can do.”
Here’s what you can say to a friend who’s feeling anxious:
Floss believes we all have a limit as to how much we can help our mates because we’re not always able to give the exact kind of support they need. First up you need to see what your friend would like to discuss. Floss says to see how your mate feels but know you’re not a mind reader. She also says: “If you are concerned about your friend and think their anxiety may be affecting their ability to go about their everyday life, encourage them to speak to someone who specialises in supporting mental health.”
If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.