by Geraldine Jones MA, MBACP (Accred), Psychotherapist and STARS Dorset Clinical Lead

For many COVID-19 has ignited flames of anxiety- for those who already struggle with their mental health, it has poured fuel on the fire. Anxiety is a normal human response to adverse situations.

It is important to be more vigilant in observing your psychological state, when everything in the environment evokes the fight/flight system. This landscape, of the anxious mind, can be calmed and understood if we are mindful in our approach and show ourselves some compassion. Compassion relies on neurobiological mechanisms and these processes involve the brain’s limbic motivational and reward circuits. Attachment and compassion are highly effective stress reducers; oxitocin is released and feelings of well-being follow.

Do things that bring you joy

  • Whether cooking, painting, gardening, reading, walking in nature or dancing, give yourself time to enjoy the things you love. Be in contact with others through online platforms, such as Zoom or Houseparty. Have lunch with friends on line. Do your Yoga or Pilates on line; movement helps to give our body a sense of freedom. Take up ballet or return to an instrument you once loved to play.

Create a routine but have fun doing it your way

  • Routine creates a route to certainty in uncertain times. It provides you with a sense of agency and control and it helps make your life at home more predictable in unpredictable times.

 Limit media exposure

  • It can be tempting to maximize exposure to the headlines but the news itself can be emotionally charged and shifts our attention bias to the speculative .It is more helpful to limit your exposure to certain times during the day and turn off news notifications on your phone, so creating boundaries to protect your emotional world.

Be mindful of introversion - it breeds

  • Being at home for many is safe, secure and comfortable but this means it can stir the introvert in us. Remind yourself that you get energy from others and reach out: brains need other brains. This will end and we all need to find our way back into society.

 Boost your immune system

  • Hydrate, drink plenty of water. Up your intake of vitamin C, step outside to increase vitamin D development. Eat sensibly and look for foods high in zinc, for example spinach and pumpkin seeds. Look to beetroot to increase vasodilatation and reduce inflammation. Include fermented foods in your diet, as 70% of our immunity lies in the gut. Include miso, kefir and sauerkraut in your diet. Colourful peppers and tomatoes are high in antioxidants, which remove damaging oxidizing agents. Drink thyme tea- it is delicious!

 People will respond differently

  • Some may worry more, some less. Watch out for people who catastrophise because it can damage your own sense of stability. Catastrophising when there is nothing you can do is not helpful! Engage in the ‘here and now’; ask yourself what can you see around you? What can you hear? What can you smell? Practice being in the moment.

 Look wider

  • Anxiety focuses and narrows our attention. Observe communities coming together, local communities, online communities, admire the enduring battle of our NHS. See all the small acts of kindness around you and be inspired by them. Keep your eye on those countries coming out of the worst and listen for the news of amazing science discovering drugs and vaccines to help in the fight.

Encourage those you work with or live with to reach out for help, from mental health professionals if necessary.

  • Many employers provide Employee Assistance Programs for those who work for them- this is a time to draw on these resources. Experienced therapists have moved their practices online supported by both BACP (British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy) and UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy) and are available to you through out the crisis.