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Keep your cool when social distancing

The outbreak of COVID-19 has become a physical and economic threat to many countries around the world recently, including Australia. To make matters worse, the term ‘social distancing’ doesn’t exactly inspire calm. Though being cooped up indoors can be stressful for all of us, the sense of dread around the current pandemic can be even worse for those suffering with anxiety. And for those who don’t regularly deal with anxiety, the added stress of the situation can bring about feelings we haven’t experienced before now. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to help to manage stress and anxiety whilst social distancing.

We recently published a blog on supporting you through the COVID-19 crisis, in which we list the ways we’re helping you to feel cared for and connected during this time. One of the most important things we’re doing for our clients is to continue hosting regular counselling and psychology sessions online via Skype. At times like these, when levels of stress and anxiety are particularly high, it’s incredibly important to maintain your current mental health plan and ask for extra support if you need it.

Being stuck inside for extended periods can do more than just make you feel anxious; it might also interfere with your tried and tested coping strategies for managing stress and anxiety. If you’d usually head to the gym or go for a swim when you’re feeling anxious, for example, those things aren’t possible right now. That’s why it’s important to come up with some new strategies that suit your current lifestyle and the possibilities during social distancing measures. Instead of your regular run, gym session or swim, you might take a walk to the shops to pick up a few things instead. Walking can be incredibly soothing when experiencing anxiety, especially if you take the time to think about your breathing and use some positive affirmations during your walk. You might also like to incorporate some home workouts, virtual yoga, meditation, or start a gratitude journal. Better yet, consult with your mental health professional to come up with some effective new strategies. Most importantly, don’t suffer alone and avoid reaching out for help! You are not alone.

Reading the news right before bed is tempting as the COVID-19 pandemic situation is continually shifting, and the round-the-clock news coverage aims to update you regularly on the changing conditions. However, this can add to your sense of dread and anxiety. Be sure to limit your news intake to only the highlights each day and avoid reading about them right before going to sleep, or immediately after waking up. Rather than starting or ending your days with stressful coverage about the pandemic, focus on calming activities like reading your favourite book at night, or chatting with a friend or family member in the mornings when you could use a positive boost.

Although it can be tempting to talk about the pandemic with your loved ones, it can also cement your feelings of anxiety around the situation. If you need a break from thinking about it, suggest to a trusted friend or family member that you avoid talking about it regularly. You might even like to turn it into a game called ‘20 Questions Not About Corona’, in which you each get to ask each other 20 questions before you’re allowed to talk about the coronavirus again. This can help you to get creative, get to know your loved ones better, and focus on something other than the COVID-19 situation.

Despite making efforts to limit your emotional focus on the coronavirus, it’s still essential to be open and honest about how you’re feeling. Limiting your talk about COVID-19 doesn’t mean avoiding your feelings or bottling things up. Reach out to loved ones when you’re having difficulty or feeling overwhelmed and talk things out with someone you trust. Furthermore, you might like to start journaling your feelings alongside your gratitude journal. This allows you to express how you’re feeling each day, without judgement, before moving your focus to the positive things you’re experiencing, such as what you’re grateful for, or what you’re looking forward to each day. Reach out to your counsellor or psychologist if you need some extra support.

Create some structure for your day by setting blocks of time throughout your day to achieve certain goals. Make sure you have a  good balance between productive time – work, exercise, self-care routines, or house projects, and also down-time making the most of this opportunity to relax – start a creative project, read a book, or watch a good movie!  If you wake up without a plan you will tend to waste the day and feel unproductive, and this is not good for your mental state, as it will only make you feel more anxious.

This can be a trying time for all of us, most especially those dealing with anxiety. Rest assured that support is always here when you need it. These simple tips can help you to reduce the levels of stress and anxiety you’re feeling as a result of social distancing. Reach out to us at Integrated Health Specialists if you need some extra support. We’re experts in helping our clients to manage and reduce anxiety and have developed life-changing programs to help you break the hold that anxiety has over your life. We’re always here for you.

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen