It’s no surprise that many of us are finding that the uncertainty and threat of the current situation is escalating our anxiety levels and that it feels bad for our mental health.
For people already living with high levels of general anxiety or, specifically, have health anxiety it is increasingly difficult to keep a balance between staying informed, keeping a balanced perspective and keeping stress and panic at a bearable level.
We all have different ways of coping with threat. Some of us hoard and stockpile to feel secure; some of us minimise and deny the situation to feel secure. It’s easy to scorn someone else’s strategy but let’s all try to accept and respect everyone else’s right to cope in their own way.
In the past we could unplug from the news by simply avoiding the morning papers, now, headlines detailing devastating events and concerning global developments are popping up on our phone’s notifications several times a day. It feels like there is no getting away from it, no escape.
We’re all thinking through the impact - losing a loved one, threat to our own health, schools and nurseries closing so what to do for childcare, work and business implications, financial impact, can we still go on holiday, can we still see friends and… how am I going to cope if I have to self-isolate? It’s all very scary. It all feels very confusing.
Catastrophising and persistant, worrying thoughts can become completely overwhelming. Our stress goes up, our sleep gets impacted and our mental health begins to suffer.
It’s time to have a look at how we can take care of ourselves:
8 self-isolating self-care tips:
1 - don’t feed the fear
If frequent news updates are spiking your anxiety levels take the decision to limit your intake - only listen to the news twice a day for instance. Or turn off your news alert on your notifications. And don’t spend too much time with people who are also in a very negative thought spiral.
2 - write out your worries
Having to spend so much time on your own can be extremely challenging for some people, particularly extroverts. It can feel very uncomfortable, boring, even frightening. Many of us use a busy lifestyle to avoid thinking too much about life and emotions so to suddenly have a lot of alone downtime can mean that difficult feelings surface and can be overwhelming alongside all the other stresses at the moment.
One really effective way to get these thoughts out of your head by writing them down. Grab a pen and paper - or start a Note on your phone - and write it out.
Find out all the facts and real risks and write it down to help you remember. Then everyday write out your fears. It helps to get them out of your head and seeing them in black and white can really help you to keep perspective
Get to know what is worrying you but writing out what you are triggered by - can you remember the first time that this was an issue in your life? I wonder if you can think of a different way of looking at it now?
3 - distract yourself
This is a fantastic coping technique and can really help you switch your thoughts off, so give yourself permission to take your mind off events and have some mental time out. Watch a favourite film, binge on a box set, read a book, play a computer game. Taking your mind off your worries gives your body a break from fight and flight which is great for your brain and your immune system!
4 - get moving
If you normally go to the gym, or a class or go for a run and you find that physical activity really helps you cope with your anxiety you may be worrying about not exercising.
It’s time to see this as an opportunity to exercise in a different way - dance at home, download a new app with classes or workouts, use YouTube to learn new techniques. Yoga is a wonderful way to naturally boost your GABA neurotransmitter to help you feel calm and relaxed and it’s easy to find some brilliant classes online.
Don’t forget you can still go outside: If you usually walk or run - go for a run outside, just keep your distance. Get some fresh air and sunshine. And take some deep breaths. It is so fundamental to mental wellbeing.
5 - breathe
Spend some time everyday practising a breathing technique or guided meditation. Square breathing is a powerful way to calm your mind + body moving it out of fight, flight or freeze and into rest + digest:
Breathe in for 4
Hold for 4
Breathe out for 4
Hold for 4
Being calm helps your immune system to focus on working hard.
There are lots of videos on YouTube to help and guide you through. Regular relaxation calms your mind and body putting you into rest and digest which helps you sleep and boosts your immune system and is a the most valuable self-care tool for your mental health.
6 - nutrition
Spend some time cooking some good mood food from scratch.
Have a look through your cook books or look at your favourite chef’s website and try something new from store cupboard ingredients. Frozen fruit and veg are highly nutritious, as are tinned or dried pulses so nutritious soups and smoothies can give your brain the nutrients you need to help you keep calm.
The best way to boost your immunity and keep your brain healthy is to boost your nutrition. Eat well, drink plenty of water or green tea and take high quality supplements with lots of vitamin c, zinc, selenium, magnesium, theanine and glutamine to keep you calm and keep you well.
Supplements can be especially helpful to fill in any gaps in your diet - just like an amazing insurance policy for your health. So remember to make a multivitamin part of your daily ritual to support your mood, your mind and your body.
7 - talk to people
Don’t bottle up your feelings - talk on the phone! I know that ringing people has become a rarity nowadays but it’s a really good substitute for IRL contact. Notice when you are feeling lonely, withdrawn or isolated and pick up the phone. Confiding your feelings to someone can be a big relief reducing stress and promoting feelings of connection so set up regular FaceTimes with good friends that you can open up to and check in regularly. Even a quick 5 minute chat can boost your oxytocin levels. Are there some people that you regret falling-out of contact with? This is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with them - we all love a message from an old friend.
“Just wanted to see how you are…”
“Thinking of you”
Older citizens are already the loneliest in society so one brilliant way to help is to call them regularly and talk them through setting up online shopping, paypal, FaceTime and Facebook to help them feel less isolated.
8 - daily routine
Decide on a timetable that gives your day structure. Try get up at regular time and to include some time outside early in the day, some exercise, have meal times and take your vitamins. This will help you to feel that you have some structure and is also an incredible opportunity to choose how you would like to spend your day and to boost your wellbeing. Have a think about how you can get the best out of the day in your situation and take some small actions to improve your health. Tiny daily habits make big changes in your life and The One Degree theory is something I wrote about in my last newsletter if you would like to read more.
It will also help you to sleep. Getting as much sleep as you can is the best thing for your brain and your immune system. If you are worrying listening to an audiobook, a podcast or a guided meditation is a great way to help switch off your brain and help you to relax.
Boost your serotonin with B vitamins, 5HTP and tryptophan supplements if you find yourself waking in the night worrying and not being able to get back to sleep all found in Happy Me.
If you are struggling to get off to sleep in the first place try having a bath to float away the stress and boost your GABA levels with extra magnesium, theanine and glutamine supplements found in Calm Me.
I have written about more sleep tips here.
Take care of yourself.
This too shall pass.