Has coronavirus sent you into a tailspin? Have your anxiety levels increased exponentially since lockdown? Have you felt full of confusion & uncertainty? Worried? Lonely? Depressed?

The lack of clarity and uncertainty that the current situation engenders can lead us to feel even more vulnerable than usual; perhaps sparking a deep sense of dread within. These seemingly out-of-control feelings can propel our anxiety levels into overdrive, pushing our stress levels through the roof. If not addressed this can put us into a constant anxious mindset, which then effects our sleep, our physical and mental health and our general state of well-being. Ultimately impacting our immune system – the very thing we rely on to keep us healthy. We can also affect those we live with, or are in regular contact with.

The good news is that this is a normal response to unprecedented circumstances so the real question is;

How can we manage our response to coronavirus anxiety?

After all a lot of life is out of our control, even in more usual times, but what is in our control is how we react to those outside events. I have come up with 5 main points, which I hope can help you to find your way through.

1. Mindfulness

This has been a buzzword in recent years, but what does it actually mean? Originally this concept came from certain spiritual paths (for example Buddhism) but the good news is that you don’t have to convert to be able to implement it into your life. Mindfulness basically means being in the present moment as much as possible.

You may think – but I’m always in the present moment; and I might challenge you by saying that your body is – but where is your mind? We are so often thinking of the past, or making up possible stories about what might happen in the future, that it can be difficult to be here now.
So how do we fully engage with the now? The answer really is focus and discipline, which is why Buddhist monks meditate – so they can bring their mind under control and not have it running wild and controlling them. You may want to try meditating every day for a week and see what happens for you. And if you do, remember, practice makes perfect, which is why it’s a ‘practice’ and not a race.

Not everyone can or wants to meditate, but don’t worry; keep reading and there are some other methods which may better help you to allay your anxiety and bring you more into the present.

2. Getting regular exercise

Yes it’s not rocket science and it’s a bit of a cliché, but regular aerobic exercise is probably the number 1 (or 2!) thing that you can do for yourself to:

  • Positively aid your health & immune system
  • Bring you into the present and into your body
  • Boost your mood

The good news is that you don’t even have to leave the house given all the free exercise routines available on You Tube like Fabulous 50s or Joe Wicks. Failing that, I’ve always found that whacking up the sounds and bopping round the kitchen to a few of my favourite songs has never failed to help me feel better; I’ve gone from tears to laughter in minutes several times using this method!

Of course there is always the great outdoors, which many people have rediscovered as a result of the events of the last few months. So a walk is always available; or really push the boat out and try Couch to 5K (a NHS running app). If you exercise 3 times a week for 30-40 minutes, I guarantee you will improve your mental health, as well as your physical. Remember the mind-body connection is a proven scientific fact.

3. Eating Well

Another cliché you might think – but clichés are only clichés because there’s truth to them – right? The government guidance states 5 portions of fruit and veg per day are needed to maintain optimum health. Personally I aim for about 7-10 per day, but I include beans, nuts and lentils in this. Yes foods are the building blocks for your body and mind & you kind of are what you eat! I usually take a multi-vitamin as well as the soil is often depleted of the nutrients we need.

A wonderful thing that has happened during this period; many of us have begun, or stepped up, our own food production. Whether this is a few herbs on the windowsill or an allotment full of a variety of veg, it doesn’t matter. It certainly became clear to me early on in March that relying on my food coming from an outside source left me vulnerable should all the imports etc. This galvanised me to plant a few pots of tomatoes, carrots, chillies etc. Next year I am planning more, learning from the trial and error of my own particular garden (– snails love broccoli and courgettes I learnt via the undeniable evidence of stripped plants)!

Sustainable food is best & there are a whole range of local growers in every area, including online deliveries. I find organic veg expensive so I usually mix it up a bit. Getting some stuff from the supermarket and some stuff at my local weekend market. I also found through chatting to the stall holders, that a lot of growers, although not certified organic, don’t spray their food with anything. It’s not only cheaper than the supermarket but the taste is so much better. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever have a sweet treat either, but like so many things, balance is where it’s at.

4. Connecting with others/community

Now more than ever we are turning to those around us to provide some good old-fashioned company and support. Look at all the local Facebook groups for example that sprang up to help those who were shielding; that was definitely a part of this time that has moved me the most. And this is how it should be; we are not islands – as human beings we are interdependent of each other and are all connected.

And we need each other – loneliness is the biggest growing scourge of modern times. It’s difficult to reach out and say to someone else that we feel lonely. It often we feel that there is something wrong with us because we feel like this. As it plays on our own insecurities. But you are not alone, however much you may feel like you are. There is always someone there. Whether that’s through helplines, or an old friend you haven’t heard from for a while, or groups to get involved with, either online or in person.

Often it’s taking that first step that’s the worst; the thought of it is worse than the actuality. We might not gel with everyone. So trying a couple of things before we find the right one might be a possibility. Regardless, we all need others, however we find them; from a good neighbour to a church or dance group, or family & friends; and we all need to feel like we belong.

5. Enjoyable Activities

Okay yes they are otherwise known as ‘hobbies’! Basically doing stuff you enjoy and that nourishes you. Your particular way of enjoying yourself may have been covered, in one of the other points I’ve made. But there are plenty of other activities that don’t come under those categories.

I like painting. I love the colours. It concentrates my mind and brings me sharply into focus in the here and now. ‘Mindfulness’ is a happy by-product; and don’t expect me to produce amazing masterpieces either. I’m actually not that great at art generally but the process helps me to relax and makes me feel good; plus sometimes I get ideas or insights come to me while I’m painting (probably because I am relaxed and not thinking about them directly).

Even if you feel like you haven’t got time for a hobby; anything that nourishes us and helps us feel good makes life feel better in the moment and should be cultivated. For example when my children were younger, my ‘hobbies’ consisted of stepping outside for 10 minutes with a cup of tea and having hot baths!

So there you have it; 5 ways to counteract any coronavirus anxiety try them and let me know how you get on!

P.s. One thing that has really helped me over the last months is something I heard Eckhart Tolle say to Oprah in an interview. It’s served to cut through a lot of resistance that I’ve found myself facing, and it is:

Live each moment as if you have consciously chosen it.

Eckhart Tolle