As coronavirus lockdown continues in the UK the reality of the situation is beginning to bite into our mental well-being. There is no clear plan yet for when or how lockdown will be lifted and many are feeling reluctant to resume the movement and mingling of pre-virus life anyway. In my work as a counsellor and mindfulness teacher I am hearing from clients, friends and family that difficult emotions are running high. I notice it in myself too. It helps to acknowledge that people everywhere are feeling a similar sense of loneliness, loss, anger, sadness, fear, helplessness and anxiety among other feelings. You are not alone in whatever it is you are feeling and can therefore tap into a sense of common humanity which can help to normalise your jangled mood. You may not be sleeping well, you may be having bad dreams, awaking to an anxious feeling in your stomach or chest. Your body may be tense with all the emotion you are carrying. This is inevitable but suffering with it is within your control to reduce and soothe.
1. Limit news exposure to once a day
Fear and anxiety are often fuelled by repeated checking on news about the situation, too much reading of articles about the effects of Covid-19 or speculation about what happens next will generally drive up anxiety. Do limit your drift into social media or any other avenues of aimless worry.
2. Maintain routines
Try to keep to a daily routine of waking and getting up, exercising, working, eating regularly, playing and relaxing and going to bed at the same time each day. This creates a sense of predictability which the emotional mind craves right now.
3. Do not set yourself unreasonable targets or demands
If you have more time on your hands like a lot of people you may have begun to imagine all the self-improving activities you could embark upon. Perhaps you have mentally made a list: learn Italian, learn the guitar, become super fit, do yoga every day and so on. My suggestion is back-off yourself! In uncertain and worrying times this is too much. There may be a fantasy in this of becoming a better or different person. I’m here to say: “you are good enough just as you are” and now is the time to take care of yourself not pressure yourself.
4. Revive old hobbies and joys
What may be helpful is to replace the activities that required going out and seeing other people with things you used to enjoy doing. Often as life gets busier we stop doing things we used to love to lose ourselves in.
5. Let the good times sink in
When something good happens in the day try to pause and let it sink in. The instinct is to skate past the good when we are in a state of high alert. The primitive, survivor brain is in “let’s look out for threat mode” and will often ignore good stuff. How about writing down at the end of the day any pleasure or success, no matter how small? This will help you stay in touch with good things that are still happening to you.
6. Recognise and allow your feelings
They are not signs of weakness or something you cannot handle or will get stuck in. Feelings are normal and shared by others too. If you can, have a chat with someone you trust about how you are feeling. If you can’t write it down in a journal or personal blog.
7. Stay active
Action is the enemy of anxiety. Do what you can to minimise your risk and move your body to work off the extra adrenalin in your system.
8. Sleep well
You may find yourself feeling more tired of late. Home working is often more efficient than being in a distracting office environment and so it is likely you are working more intensively. On top of this stress also means more fatigue. Equally being bored or under-stimulated by having little to do is also exhausting. So, don’t worry about feeling tired just rest and sleep more. Take care of your body and mind with sleep and relaxation.
9. You have time on your side
If you are young you may be feeling that life is on hold just when you expected to be having fun, learning, building a career, travelling, finding a relationship or just enjoying your youth. I’m in my 50s now and I promise you there will be time ahead of you. You are missing stuff but not missing out, at least not any more than anyone else. You will not get left behind. This is a difficult life experience but one which you will add to your inner resources in time.
I have recorded for you a short mindfulness practice which helps to focus the worried mind away from the uncertainty of the future and into the parts of the body which are very likely feeling pretty much OK right now. It is based on a practice by Dr Rick Hanson called – feeling as safe as you reasonably can.
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