This year has been tough for many people across the world so know that you’re not in this alone. Many have gone through traumatic experiences with people losing their jobs, businesses, family members and friends. It’s normal to feel scared, stressed and helpless in this period of uncertainty. As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, there has been a spike in stress and anxiety.
Here are 5 ways to help cope with anxiety, especially during this challenging time:
- Identify your triggers
Usually, anxiety has triggers either caused by an event or a thought that aggravates an anxious response. Some triggers can be overthinking, caffeine, financial or personal instability or sometimes hearing the phone ring! One of the keys is to identify what makes you anxious, that way, you can try as much as possible to either avoid them wherever possible or train your brain to manage them.
If you’re able to identify and understand your triggers, you can then learn specific coping strategies to handle the triggers when they happen. You can begin a journal and record when you begin to feel anxious and what you think might have led to it. Be patient and honest with yourself when trying to figure out your triggers.
2. Take time for yourself
Try to take breaks from whatever you’re doing during the day especially if you’re still working from home. Have a daily routine of taking some time away for yourself, whether it’s taking breaks from your school or professional work when possible, going out for some fresh air, taking long walks, listening to some feel good music and trying to think positive while doing this. Try not to think of anything else during this time – breathe and relax. It’s perfectly fine to put yourself first and take time away for yourself. Its OK if you don’t get round to doing this every single day but at least make it a point to take some time out to check in with yourself, especially when you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious– even if it’s just 5 minutes, it definitely helps.
3. Take some time off social media
Surely, this seems to be the perfect time to spend more time and catch up on what’s been going on in the social media world because now more than ever, people have more time on their hands, right? With lockdown restrictions, social distancing and isolation, social media can be a tool for keeping in touch with family and friends and the wider society. However, it’s important to pay attention to how it makes you feel. If you find that spending time on social media intensifies your anxiety, try and limit your engagement. If you can’t disconnect completely, try and limit the times you spend online. This will gradually get you into the habit of managing the time you spend on social media and you will begin to see the benefits. It’s worth giving it a go!
A University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction in levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness and sleep problems (Penn Today, University of Pennsylvania, 2018).
4. Try the ‘Worry Window’
A ‘worry window’ is setting aside a time to think about the things you’re worried about. You can start by setting aside 15-20 minutes in the morning or afternoon. During this time, list all the things that you’re worried or anxious about on a piece of paper or a notepad. Some find it helpful to set a timer to stick to time. Try and verbally remind yourself of why you’re doing this exercise. For example, ‘’ I’m setting this 15 minutes aside as my worry time and I’ll try my best not to worry about them outside of this time, at least for the day.’’
This can be difficult at the beginning but don’t give up. Once you start incorporating this into your day, you’ll start to realise your ability to manage your worries and take control of your day. Writing your worries down can be therapeutic and you may find that as you go over them, they may not seem as big as you perceived in your mind. Whenever you start to feel anxious during the day, you can remind yourself that it’s not time to worry about that. This can help restrain your worry to a specific time period and block anxious thoughts from taking over your whole day. Never do this exercise before going to bed as you may find it difficult to sleep afterwards.
5. Accept that you can’t change everything
Sometimes, we can get anxious about things out of our control. That’s absolutely normal as it can sometimes be difficult to ignore them. It’s shocking how much time we lose in a day thinking about the things we can’t control. The interesting thing is, it stops us from working on the things we can actually control. Accepting that life can indeed be uncertain and can sometimes throw us curveballs is a start. It might be easier said than done, but try and focus on the positive things happening in your life now and practice gratitude for the little things you may take for granted. Think hard, I promise you’ll find something to be grateful for. According to neurologists, by consciously practicing gratitude, we can train the human brain to attend selectively to positive emotions and thoughts, therefore reducing anxiety. It also activates dopamine, the hormone responsible for making us feel good.
Above all, remember to be kind to yourself. Feeling anxious is nothing to be ashamed of so smile and take in a deep breath because you are worthy of peace.
“He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” – Shannon L. Alder
What in this article resonated with you? Leave a comment below.
Disclaimer: The tips in this article are not to be taken as prescriptions. For individual help with anxiety, please contact a professional.