To say we live in peculiar times is an understatement. If you’re struggling with anxiety about easing out of lockdown or tempers are flaring, then you may welcome some advice from VIVA’s resident health expert, Nadia O’Boye, on how to cope.
Here she answers two of the most frequent questions from VIVA readers.
How do I manage my anxiety coming out of lockdown?
We have just got used to living life in lockdown and we have adjusted the way we live. Now that lockdown is easing, we are having to go through another change which can generate anxiety.
For some people, lockdown has lessened their anxiety, this applies to people that may have social anxiety for instance. For others, it’s the worry about the virus spreading again and for some its merely the fact they now have to process another change.
Humans are so adaptable. Just as we adapted to living in lockdown, we will also adapt to coming out of lockdown too. Remember how much you have coped with going into lockdown in the first place and the anxiety you initially first felt about that, this will give you the strength to realise that you can cope with coming out of lockdown too.
We are not necessarily going back to our lives before, so if you are worried about travelling to work or being in large social groups, remember that this still may not be happening for a while. COVID may mean you work from home more and it is going to mean large social gatherings won’t be allowed for a while so don’t let your anxiety jump forward to start thinking about things that aren’t even happening yet.
For some of us, lockdown has brought some positives. We may have slowed down a little and are spending more time with family or living in the moment a bit more. As lockdown eases, you don’t have to give these things up. If going back to how things were before brings you anxiety, you are in control of what aspects of your life you go back to, you don’t have to go back to completely the way you lived before if you have found another way that makes you happier.
Do things gradually, don’t try and throw yourself into anything before you are ready. Be patient with yourself and keep reminding your brain that these are normal things to do.
Get to the root of the anxiety. What are you actually worried about? What do you think will happen? Understanding why you feel anxious will help you choose the best way of coping with it. Keep monitoring your internal dialogue and challenge your thoughts by asking if they are helpful or accurate? Reframe these thoughts to be more helpful and realistic.
A lot of the time we feel anxious due to information overload. Our brain can only process so many messages and when we get too many, they start to spill into our subconscious and cause issues like anxiety. You can use techniques such as anchoring and Emotional Freedom Technique to send messages to your subconscious to take you out of your anxious state.
Emotional Freedom technique involves tapping on pressure points in your body to let your brain know that you are in control and it helps to release you from the state you find yourself in.
Anchoring can help to bring you back to a neutral state when you are in a situation where you feel particularly anxious such as a social gathering. You need to imagine yourself in a situation where you are completely not anxious, visualise being in that situation and really feel what that feels like. Once you are in that state, press the skin between your thumb and index finger with your opposite thumb until it is almost sore. Every time you feel in an anxious state, perform the action of pressing the skin between your thumb and index finger. This helps to calm your state to one where you feel more comfortable and able to manage.
How do I stop tempers flaring in lockdown?
Don’t ignore issues. If something has happened that you have feelings about, it’s important to air them in a healthy way rather than trying to bury them. Ignoring any issues might mean that resentment builds and it will end in an explosive argument. Face the issue and talk about it before either party gets too stressed about it.
Negotiate a time to talk. Before you go right on in there and start airing all your issues and venting, ask the other person for permission to air what you are feeling to them. Giving people the heads up to what is coming can allow them to prepare and not be so defensive. If they don’t want to communicate at a particular time, be patient and wait for when is good for them. You won’t get a good reaction if you force the conversation.
Be careful with the language you use. If you want to discuss something that is bothering you avoid using language that places blame and casts judgement. This is how people get defensive and they will not respond how you want them to. Use facts and your own opinion of how it made you feel and try not to stray from this.
Know when to walk away respectfully. If things are starting to get on your nerves, acknowledge that you need some space. Don’t storm off and just disappear without saying anything, communicate that you are just going to have time to yourself so everyone understands your intentions. Sometimes if you start distancing yourself and appearing moody and quiet, people may get angry or upset with you but if you explain beforehand that you are taking some time out to ensure relations stay healthy, they will be more accepting and, may even encourage you to take a step back.
Check in and offer help. Lockdown is such a unique situation and everyone is going to respond slightly differently. Ask if the people you live with are ok and ask what you can do to help them feel the best they can. Establishing this support will mean they are much more likely to want to help you feel good too. They will be much more accepting if you have an issue you want to discuss and resolve and the outcome of any discussions will be much better.
Have fun. Although a lot of what we can do has been restricted, we can still have fun. Try to bring a bit of normality to home. Attend an online concert or do an online cocktail making class on Zoom. Having fun with each other makes us less focused on all the annoying things that person might do and more focused on the good bits that we love about them. It can make you realise that any issues are insignificant and cut away any tension we might be feeling.
If you have a life problem you think Nadia can help with, from relationships to decision-making, then contact firstname.lastname@example.org