- Recognise that any change, positive or negative, may be perceived as a threat and can trigger unhelpful anxious thoughts. Remember they are just thoughts though, and they will not physically harm you. Right now, remind yourself that you are ok. Find some calm time and think back over all the times you have been resilient and coped in the past. You may wish to keep a diary on your phone of each small win. If you feel those old anxious thoughts come back, refer to your diary of achievements and remind yourself that "You've got this covered!"
- Acknowledge your anxiety when you feel it. What we resist persists, so try listening to your anxiety as it is there to keep you safe. If we push away the problem, we may push away the solution too, however, once we accept anxiety for what it is, an evolutionary response to protect us from danger, we can move forward and learn the strategies needed to overrule it. Our anxiety can even become a friend - mine is called Bruce!!
- Understand that you are not alone. It is easy to think you are the only person struggling with anxious thoughts right now because you can not see everyone else's thoughts, but anxiety is very common and a totally normal reaction when we are afraid. Everyone is trying to recreate a new normal, and this will take time so try to adjust gradually. If you are worried about returning to the classroom or the office, you may want to speak to the school or your boss to see how they can help support you. Try and find out what precautions have been put in place since you were last there, as this will help you to feel more prepared. If you are worried about continuing with your holiday plans, speak to the airlines or resort, so you know what is expected from you. Think about what else you can do in advance to keep you safe.
- Know that anxiety can lie to us, and have us think thoughts that are not actually true. You may be thinking "If I travel on public transport, then I will become ill", but this is the worst-case scenario. Look for evidence to back up your thoughts, and know what you can do to minimise the impact. We often catastrophise and think in extremes when we are anxious. We call this black and white thinking, but it is important to remind yourself there are many shades of grey too. Think about how you can reframe your thoughts into more helpful ones such as "If I travel on public transport, I will ensure I have protection and try to avoid rush hour."
- Try talking to family or friends who are kind and understanding about how you are feeling. Sharing our thoughts and feelings really does help. If you have no one to talk to, then you might want to write a letter to yourself about how you feel and why. Be honest with yourself. In a few days, look back at your letter and think about how you would help a good friend going through something similar. It is far easier to find solutions to your own problems if you think about helping friends with their problems instead, and I imagine you would never talk to a friend in the same way you talk to yourself!
- Anxiety can cause you to focus on everything you can't control, and then you forget to focus on all the areas where you have control. You may want to remind yourself of everything you have got control over as this will help you to feel more empowered. Then notice if there is anything that you perceive to be outside of your control, but you could perhaps influence? Lastly, if there is nothing you can do about the situation, focus on your attitude to it instead. Ask yourself, what are you most afraid will happen? Usually, the worst-case scenario isn't as tragic as you might envision. A recent study (LaFreniere & Newman, 2019) analysed participant's worries and found that on average, 91.39% of worries do not come true, and for some participants, none of their worries were ever realised!!
- If possible, try to limit the time spent reading the news, and only rely on reliable sources. Anxiety can cause us to become hypervigilant, and we all have a negativity bias. We tend to focus more on negative events or information, instead of positive events, and the news channels play into this. You have probably noticed how you are far more likely to ruminate on a comment if you perceive it to be critical than if someone pays you a compliment? This bias previously provided an evolutionary benefit because we were more able to notice potential threats to our safety, but now that we don't need to be on the lookout for hungry tigers, it doesn't serve us as well. Question if you have learnt anything new or helpful when you check your newsfeed yet again, and if not, you may want to limit your fix to only once a day.
- If you struggle with social anxiety and are dreading meeting up with people again or being around others, take your time, adjust slowly and go at your own pace. Avoiding scary situations altogether will strengthen the anxiety by denying you the opportunity to prove to yourself that you can do it. I appreciate it is hard, but try to take tiny steps each day to ease yourself back into social interaction gently.
- If wearing a facemask leaves you feeling anxious and uncomfortable, try and acknowledge what the underlying fear is. Some people may struggle with breathing or communicating; others feel claustrophobic and are worried they will have a panic attack. The masks are also a constant reminder of the virus and the conflicting advice we are given. If you are feeling anxious, then focus on slowing down your breathing and repeating positive affirmations such as "I may feel anxious (breath in), but I am ok (breath out)". Choose an affirmation that works best for you.
- Are you able to divert your focus toward something positive, and think about everything you have learnt from this experience that you may want to continue afterwards? Could you have something special planned for the future that you can look forward to, something that will give you a sense of hope and excitement?
If anxiety is something you or your loved ones struggle with regularly, or if you are worrying so much that it is impacting on other areas of your life, then please get in touch to discuss how coaching can help you.
Together, we will get to root cause of your anxiety, and then I will teach you the tools and techniques to overcome it. You can reach me via my website at www.betteryourlife.co.uk or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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