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The current COVID-19 pandemic is causing many people to feel worried, anxious or have psychological issues. Here is some information and resources courtesy of the UK IBD Psychologists Network which you may find helpful.
The human mind is programmed to want certainty. During uncertain times it is normal to feel anxious when the reassurance we need is not available. There is no quick fix for these worries, however we have put together a few practical techniques, taken from evidence-based therapy for anxiety, which you can implement yourself.
Limit your exposure to information on COVID-19
Spending large amounts of time searching for updates and consuming lots of information can fuel rather than reduce our anxiety. This is because an anxious mind tends to focus on more worrying bits of information. Restricting your consumption of the news, for example to two 30 minute intervals each day, is a helpful approach to take. Set a timer then turn the TV off/put your phone down when this time is up. Have another distracting activity planned for afterwards.
Identifying activities which focus your mind on things other than future worries and using this to timetable in a defined period of 'worry free time' each day can be helpful. For example, for 30 minutes every morning after breakfast. Distracting activities are those which need your full mental focus. People often choose gardening, listening to a podcast, an online exercise class or cooking.
Connect to the present
An anxious mind is often off in the future, trying to predict and solve potential problems. Trying to connect to the present as often as you can will help you appreciate the small moments of contentment and happiness that might be found even at the most challenging of times. Life is uncertain and anxiety provoking, but it doesn't need to steal all of the joy to be found in simple everyday moments. You might simply want to try getting out of your 'thinking mind' and into your 'sensory mind' via setting aside five minutes to try to focus on some of your sensory experiences, e.g. listening to a favourite piece of music or eating a favourite food.
Use encouraging self talk
When we are anxious our mind is prone to making worrying predictions about the future and focusing on the 'what ifs'. while the immediate future may seem uncertain, spending our time and energy thinking through worst case scenarios can increase our feelings of anxiety and low mood. Try to spend some time writing down some encouraging statements that feel helpful to you, either on paper or on your smartphone. If it's hard to think of any ask yourself what a caring friend or family member might say to encourage you, or what you might say to support them. If you notice your mind focusing on worrying and negative information try bringing your attnetion back to these. Here are some statements which people attending our anxiety groups have found helpful in the past:
"This will pass."
"I can do difficult things."
"I can be anxious/sad and still deal with this."
"I am doing my best at a difficult time."
Some more things that may help you are...
Anxiety UK have released a series of ongoing webinars to help people manage their anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a running theme of self-compassion throughout their webinars and how to achieve this through self-care techniques:
Being told to spend this period of time on your own, away from other people and your usual routines and hobbies can be challenging and distressing. Research shows us that by incorporating certain elements into our days, we can help to lift our mood, even when our lives become restricted. Here is some information on balance and the types of activities to try to incorporate into your days while you are isolating...
Routine is important for our wellbeing as it helps to set our circadian rhythms for healthy sleep patterns and gives us a sense of comfort and security.
Try: Writing out a visual plan for your day, sticking to set times for meals and bedtime and committing to incorporating some movement into your day. This could be a walk in your local area or an online yoga video.
Having achievable goals is important in maintaining our motivation.
Try: Setting yourself a challenge each day. Finding goals and challenges can be hard when you are isolating. However, there are many new skills that you can develop in your home, on your own or using online tutorials such as cookery, dance routines, yoga, a new language and restoring old furniture are all skills suggested by our staff team!
Connecting with others can often feel difficult when our mood is low or we feel anxious. Social distancing or isolation also makes this practically difficult. However, research shows that even small amounts of social contact can help lift our mood.
Try: Timetabling in a specific time slot in the day to connect with friends or family via a phone or video call. If this feels difficult you could ask people to contact you at a particular time. If conversations about the news increase your anxiety, you could send people a message letting them know that you would prefer to focus on something else.
When life is challenging, finding pleasure can be difficult. However, pleasurable activities can help to activate our self-soothing system and regulate our emotions.
Try: Acknowledging your efforts to work towards maintaining a healthy routine at a difficult time with something that feels rewarding. Your options may be limited at the moment but people have suggested rewards such as a favourite food, a boxset, drinking your favourite drink while listening to some favourite music or reading a magazine or book.
Some resources that may help you are....
Headspace app. Headspace have a free section on the app called ‘Weathering the Storm’
There is loads of information across the internet about how to talk to or support children and young people who might have questions or worries about coronavirus. EdPsy have put them all in one place
Beat Eating Disorders (The Sanctuary Chat Room) ‐ online support group for social distancing:
The Sanctuary is available all day during helpline opening hours from 12pm to 8pm Monday to Friday & 4pm to 8pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
They also have published their own guidance on managing an eating disorder during the outbreak: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/coronavirus
What can we learn from CBT for health anxiety that might help us with feelings of anxiety during the pandemic?
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