Anxiety and Coronavirus: Our Top 10 Tips

We’re living through an upheaval. Any anxieties that you may have had before, now have a some swanky new, underlying foundations which go by the name of the Coronavirus. It may seem intuitive to use old, trusty methods of coping with panic to mitigate the severity of your angst. However, addressing the C-bomb head on and adapting your existing approaches to specifically tackle Corona-related worries is where the magic happens! Of course, the challenge of making changes to the tried-and-tested may be anxiety-inducing in itself, so to ease us through these unprecedented times we offer our top ten tips. In times like these, it’s important that we develop mindset to enable us to lean into change. This is the kind of change we must welcome, and it can be just as seamless as upgrading our phone if we have the right tools. After all, we don’t get anxious at the thought of improving our iPhone’s software, do we?

Our Top 10 Tips to Upgrade Your Anxiety Management to iOS2020 in the midst of Covid-19, here we go!

Tip 1 – Talk to People … even on the phone!

We will have all heard of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s ground-breaking ‘talking cure,’ and I’m sure that we are all well versed in the idea that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’[1] However, in a society that is actively discouraging socialisation, a chat is no longer as simple as we once thought. Now, it is all the more important to reach out and make sure that we are still having the right kind of conversations, even if getting deep on Zoom might feel a little alien for a while. In true Freudian style, The Book of Life (from Alain de Botton’s company, The School of Life) suggests that we must ‘direct our minds back to the past – and revisit the damaging scenes with compassion and in kindly company.’[2] Therefore, rather than the dread of this unknown yet apparently certain terror, staying connected and finding the root of your worries will help you remember how you overcame problems in the past and make the future a little less scary.

Tip 2 – Support Others

In times of social distancing, loneliness can be disturbing and provoke anxious trains of thought. The Book of Life reflects on some age-old reassurances such as ‘everyone goes though things like this’ and ‘I think you’re going to be fine.’ Although these may seem the ‘most apparently banal of sentences’, sometimes our minds are nurtured by unspecific gestures of care.[3] Perhaps, we can enhance this verbal support by adapting clichés to address Covid-19 more precisely. For example, let’s trade ‘you have nothing to be ashamed of…’ with ‘I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m feeling unsettled too.’ After all, modelling personal honesty and sharing your own anxieties is a great way to create a dialogue that helps inform other people’s lived experience.

Tip 3 – Come Out on Top

Exercising control over your outlook and your actions can be crucial in mitigating panic. The metaphor of the pilot fearing deep fog despite his mathematical calculations for landing is worthy of note here; ‘a smooth landing is, despite the darkness and awful vibrations, definitely about to unfold.’[4] With this in mind in terms of Covid-19, practising gratitude, reframing negative thoughts and taking action will allow us to confront what we’re anxious about. For me, making a real change, rather than remaining passive in the face of angst, helps to manage my worries. Instead of worrying that Coronavirus may push young children into hunger, why not take a leaf out of Marcus Rashford’s book and martial your resources. You may not have a platform like him, but you do have a voice just like him. Write to parliament! Make a noise! Rather than feeling sorry for the elderly living alone, why not take some time to ring someone that needs it? Chat to them! Problem-solving undoubtedly counters the feeling of powerlessness that we might struggle with during a pandemic.

Tip 4 – As Uncle Scar once said, ‘Be Prepared!’

Sam Harris is an American philosopher and neuroscientist who notes the physiological similarities between excitement and panic.[5] Really, the only difference is the mental framing; we can sometimes become anxious because we are telling ourselves to do so. You’re nervous to go on the rollercoaster because you know that you’re meant to be. If we know when we are inevitably going to feel panicked and we know that we can frame our feelings in a particular way, we are well poised for preparation. We have a choice. It’s time to face the things we’ve been avoiding! Journaling can be a great way of tracking causes of anxiety. By undertaking an active investigation into your own behavior, noticing common themes and patterns will mean you can prepare yourself for potentially challenging situations. If every time you watch the news, you end up feeling Corona-ed out, maybe we can take an active approach in reducing the frequency of this feeling by limiting yourself to the news once a day!

Tip 5 – Look After That Bod

When working from home, embellishing your ordinary routine with opportunities to improve your own wellness can be a source of calm. Why not use the time allotted for your normal commute for meditation instead? Sam Harris discusses the benefits of paying close attention to the nature of your experience.[6] Rather than being reactive and instantly embracing what is pleasant or pushing away what is unpleasant, simply observing the moment that you occupy can be all the more important to bodily well-being.

Being present in the moment can be difficult when pre-occupied with feelings of isolation from our previous version of civilisation. Taking part in online real-time workouts can be a great way to remain affiliated with an outside world that may seem increasingly distant during Coronavirus. We must make efforts to reconnect with what we consider normal. Even investing time in yourself during your lunch hour can be a great way to maintain normality at the same time as looking after your body. After all, Richard’s blog post on ALIVE about the Gut-Brain axis provides even more evidence about the importance of fueling yourself well. Although it might be tempting to get your working day done and dusted by grabbing a quick feed, you’ve got a lunch hour – so use it!

Tip 6 – Fact-Check

It’s never healthy to dwell on the worst, especially during a pandemic! Psychologist Jordan Peterson discusses the issue of naivety in relation to our understanding of life.[7] There is no courage in being naive. Rather, we must be alert to our problems and be perfectly aware of our limitations. So, researching information about Coronavirus should not be discouraged. However, it’s all about balance here. During these times we can be bombarded with information and while it’s important to remain in the loop, there is no shame in accepting an overhaul. Restricting your personal access to excess information may be a great way to prevent this information overload. I find that activating ‘Screen Time’ limits on particular apps on my phone reminds me to take a break from drowning in troubling graphs, numbers, commentaries and opinions. If you want accuracy and truth, maybe visit the World Health Organisation rather than Twitter!

Tip 7 – Have a bit of Me-Time

Working from home during the pandemic may present complications with separating professional and home life. The professional context may insist ‘on cheerful blitheness as the default mode,’ however, eliminating stress is impossible without both conceding this cheerfulness and recognising its discomfort.[8] As Sam Harris notes, ‘flourishing is a matter of spending your time pleasantly.’[9] So, let’s take a bit of time for ourselves. Shift your focus from your matter-of-fact present to an impossibly glamorous Netflix series, start reading a brand new author that you’ve been meaning to try, or even take a trip to Middle Earth and tackle a film saga – we’ve got plenty of time for it now!

Tip 8 – No Expectations

Making the most out of lockdown sounds all well and good, but this societal pressure to thrive is, in fact, also rather damaging. The Book of Life poses the debate that ‘maybe what powers your terror is a feeling that you have to impress other people and won’t be forgiven if you don’t.’[10] Rather than basing your productivity on social media’s competitive ab challenges, here are some ideas to create your own version of thriving:

- Blast some music and mop that kitchen floor

- Release your inner creativity by painting some artwork for the kitchen with that newly squeaky, clean floor

- Indulge in some nostalgia and go through family photos, once Coronavirus has passed you’ll be at your uncle’s for a barbecue again in no time

- If the sun is out then so am I – how about planting some veg to minimise your supermarket trips? There’s nothing more life-affirming, literally, than dining on the fruits of your own labour.

Jordan Peterson notes how anxiety can work in your favour. Ask yourself this question: what would life be like if we didn’t face the problem of Coronavirus?[11] Although it may seem a bit back-handed, the pandemic certainly allows us to slow down and invest our time in more self-actualising ways – a concept we have covered at ALIVE in our blog that investigates Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs.’ In summary, do what you want to do. Don’t feel pressured to bake a banana bread just to flex on Instagram like everyone else, especially if the heart lies with Red Velvet!

Tip 9 – Make Productivity Fun

The Book of Life argues that ‘our panic attacks aren’t drawing us further from reality, they are an insistent tug back into it.’[12] Perhaps then, becoming really engaged with reality might make it seem like a more desirable place to be! Sam Harris makes the important point about individual retrospect and the pursuit of purpose, which is why ‘people worry about things like meaning.’[13] Instead of disillusionment and dissatisfaction, the world around us offers new challenges too. Learning new skills is a great way to boost your brain power and remain productive. How about getting to grips with a language on DuoLingo? Or enrolling in one of Harvard or Yale’s free online courses? Or even (a personal favourite of mine) teaching yourself how to do a Rubik’s Cube? These forms of concentration undermine negative imagination while simultaneously making you an absolute icon if you can do a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute.

Tip 10 – Sleep

The lights go off, you tuck yourself into bed, the cogs start turning and all of a sudden you seem like the person in the world who is most likely to contract the worst form of Coronavirus who won’t be able to see their family and friends for months. Breath work allows you to focus on your own body while prioritising thoughts that are not so detrimental to your sleeping pattern. Give the ‘STAR’ model a go: ‘Smile, take a breath and relax’. By smiling, our body enters a physiological state that naturally rejects negativity. Focusing specifically on the breath will distract from other detrimental thought processes and remind ourselves of the miraculous organism that is your body. If we’re strong enough physically to fuel ourselves with oxygen every single day, we are definitely strong enough to re-vamp our anxiety management and upgrade to a new Corona-specific model!

References:

[1] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b446/cfb00094a2e62f82e8c8e430581891ca4e47.pdf?_ga=2.247689159.1520744934.1592818255-1967012054.1547399642 [2] https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/how-to-stop-being-scared-all-the-time/ [3] https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/what-everybody-really-wants/ [4] https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/how-to-stop-being-scared-all-the-time/ [5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRm_H158qc0 [6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRm_H158qc0 [7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6MasOctLkY [8] https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-normality-of-anxiety-attacks/ [9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldRx7ZJBwqI [10] https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/a-way-through-panic-attacks/ [11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONPCujgQ9Do [12] https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/the-normality-of-anxiety-attacks/ [13] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldRx7ZJBwqI


Meet your writer: This post is written by Isobel Jackson, a keen soccer player and recent graduate in History from the University of Manchester in England. Having studied abroad at the University of Sydney during her undergraduate degree, Isobel has enjoyed combining these different, international approaches to her learning. This flexibility is all the more relevant to her interests in discovering new ideas about the positive empowerment of the human condition. After enjoying her time here in Australia so much, you can also find Isobel’s work on the ManchesterOnTheRoad Travel Blog.

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