Many of us are finding it difficult to stay positive in this latest lockdown. Our hopes and expectations for life to have got back to normal by now or even soon have been dashed. We have been treading water for so long that some of us are sinking into the clutches of Covid-19 Stress.
This is understandable, the circumstances of Covid-19 Stress are particularly challenging for us.
The increased restrictions, financial burden for those who have lost their income, fear for our health, worry for our loved ones, fear of going out, loss of our lives as they were, guilt for the conversation you have with someone at the supermarket, confusion about the vaccine, fear about how the future will look – the negative emotions can be overwhelming for some of us.
By now, too, some of us may have had Covid-19, many of us know someone who has become sick, or even died from Covid-19. The restrictions can change at any point in time and it’s this uncertainty, this unpredictability and change that our brains also really don’t like. All this can leave us feeling vulnerable.
We live in a society that likes to plan and know what’s coming, we look to people who can give us assurances and predictions, but this time, we are not so sure whether anyone can give us the certainty we crave. Because on top of all this, there is the Covid-19 news, the Covid-19 opinions, the conspirators, the truths, the lies, making it hard to discern and to know what to think.
Each day might feel like Groundhog Day, and some of us may even find ourselves wishing away time. It’s enough to make our hearts sink, to make us feel anxious, stressed, angry, sad and to make us feel guilty for being sad, to become agoraphobes and more. We thought we could keep calm and carry on and many still are, but Covid-19 stamina is wearing thin for some. Some of us have been too stressed for too long.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has termed this Covid-19 stress “pandemic fatigue”.
It can be hard to know if we are going through too much stress, because it doesn’t just appear like a headache, it creeps up on you, but there are key signs to look out for, like:
▪ Physical symptoms – like tense muscles, feeling tearful, sweaty, faster heartbeat, headaches, unexplained abdominal pain, digestion issues, sleeplessness, panic attacks.
▪ Seeking avoidance or distraction – too much stress makes you want to run away, to escape the uncomfortable feelings, or to seek constant distraction for example through overeating, binge watching TV, or drinking too much.
▪ Getting angry or irritable often and easily.
▪ Feeling a lack of control – we can feel overwhelmed and think that we cannot manage or control our situation.
How can we keep on going if we are struggling through these physical symptoms, thoughts and feelings? Here are 12 effective tips to reduce Covid-19 anxiety and stress:
1. Wash your face with cold water – Cold water on your skin reduces the stress reaction.
2. Breathe deeply – Take a few deep, long breathes in and out. Count to ‘four’ as you breathe in through your nose, and ‘six’ as you breathe out through your mouth. Repeat for about a minute.
3. Have a healthy routine – Eat healthy, get moving, even if it’s cleaning, gardening, or walking, and get a good night’s sleep.
4. Face your thoughts and feelings – Keep a daily diary, write down what you feel and think. Don’t re-read what you have written.
5. Focus on what you can control and what you can influence and set small goals – Write a list of things not in your control, a list of things in your control and things you can influence. For example, we can’t control all events in life, but we can control how we react.
6. Do one thing every day that makes you smile – This could be something small like looking at a flower.
7. Declutter the news you follow – Choose one trusted source of information to keep up with news and don’t read or listen to any more.
8. Accept the situation and be kind to yourself – Just as you would accept a storm and take care to stay safe until it passes, accept this pandemic and stay safe until it passes.
9. Be prepared for change and adapt – “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change” (Charles Darwin). Maybe, learn something new or get creative.
10. Reach out for help and to help others – We are social animals and need one another. Ask for help and give it safely as and when you can. Talk through your concerns, thoughts, and feelings with others.
11. Stop trying to be a fortune-teller – Don’t make any predictions about the pandemic. Instead tell yourself this will change.
12. Hum or sing in the shower or while walking – Humming and singing reduce stress.
Cut this article out, keep it on your fridge, take step by step and remember this pandemic will pass.
By Farah Naz
Farah Naz is a psychotherapist of more than 30 years and has worked with thousands of people globally for a range of issues. She is also a trainer and has trained doctors, teachers and health workers on stress management. Currently, she has an online international practice and lives in the Algarve.