What is so often forgotten at times of heightened anxiety such as these is that, despite so much of the focus being on the global pandemic and the tragic loss of life, all of life’s other problems still exist, with many problems unfortunately being amplified directly as a result of the pandemic. So many people who, despite daily struggles, succeed in managing to keep their heads above water and retain a semblance of control, all of a sudden have an entirely unexpected and potentially catastrophic new burden on their mental wellbeing. And to make matters worse, the nature of this pandemic is both acute AND chronic. Acute in that the impact so many of us have experienced has been fast, dramatic and serious. Chronic in that, although infection rates and deaths have reduced, there still seems to be no obvious silver bullet to rid humanity of this virus.
Unsurprisingly, many people feel impotent, given it is a global issue with us looking to governments and scientists to solve the problem. But, there are things that we ourselves, as individuals, can do. Some of those measures can make a real, practical difference. Other measures can simply serve to make us feel better, but hold no less value as wellbeing is as much mental as it is physical.
It is often the case that, during particularly traumatic times, we look after others more so than we look after ourselves. As the ancient Greek aphorism goes, know thyself.
Ask yourself if you are showing the common signs of anxiety:
- Have I any existing chronic medical conditions which have worsened for no obvious reason?
- Have my sleep patterns changed?
- Am I suffering maladies, such as stomach complaints or headaches, which didn’t exist before?
- Am I suffering from ‘brain fog’, or have less clarity in my thinking?
- Am I eating foods which are less healthy, snacking on unhealthy foods or eating more than I should?
- Am I relying on alcohol or other drugs to cope?
- Am I experiencing negative emotions, such as sadness or anger, with no obvious reason?
Sometimes it is well worth asking trusted others whether you are showing signs of distress, as we can all sometimes be more aware of the state of others’ wellbeing than we are of our own.
If you are showing these signs, then it’s time to care for yourself - but how?
Many of us might be self isolating or social distancing but, unlike in previous pandemics, most of us are gifted with technology that allows us to connect with each other to a degree unprecedented in history. But try to make the connections as real and as meaningful as possible. Connect with people you know will give you a positive experience, and avoid superficial social media contact which might well only leave you feeling worse.
2) Filter the News
We are more bombarded now with news than any society previously in history. And at times of global crisis the news can become addictive. Of course, keep abreast of developments but remember that many news outlets seek to maximise the number of people who engage with their content and, unfortunately, an effective way to do this is to make the world seem a more dramatic place than is necessarily the case. Ration your news intake and rely on sources who prioritise facts over emotionally draining sensationalism.
3) Seek and Offer Help
Many people don’t seek help when they need it as they often don’t want to burden others. Though it might seem counterintuitive, helping others often makes those who help feel stronger, more confident and is often a fulfilling and rewarding experience. By helping others, we help ourselves. The message here is simple - ask for help if you need it, and find opportunities to help others - for their own benefit and for yours.
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