Coping mechanisms to help with coronavirus anxiety, by a registered psychologist

Since last night, the coronavirus pandemic has put the UK into a state of lockdown.

With movement limited to food shops, work, medical care and exercise it's an outbreak unlike any most of us have ever seen before.

The idea of self-isolation can be scary for some, and the killer virus is worrying to us all.

So, with all of these changes and fears it's imperative that we take care of our mental wellbeing at this time.

With health-related stress around COVID-19 on the rise, Dr. Matteo Ria, a consultant psychologist from Pall Mall Medical has recommended the best coping mechanisms for those at home.

Dr. Ria said: “With the current news agenda, it is a time of significant worry and stress for everyone, especially those with underlying health issues.

“However, as a nation we must try not to panic and remain calm, as added pressures can provoke a number of health-related illnesses, such as paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks and heightened low moods.”

He continued: “The Government has recommended we avoid all social gatherings and stepping beyond our front door unless completely necessary, so now more than ever, it is important for us to adopt stress coping mechanisms whilst in the confinements of the home.

“Whilst in self-isolation or working from home, Dr Ria has recommended mechanisms to help cope with health anxiety and stress.”

Mindfulness

Dr. Ria noted: “Mindfulness activities comprise a whole range of mental health and wellbeing benefits and are easy to practice whilst you’re at home.

“Try meditation, particularly mindful meditation, which is a great way to focus on the present moment, breath by breath.

“This may help you to put the current situation of COVID-19 into perspective, which is key to maintaining a healthy and positive mindset."

He added: “The secret is around acceptance and learning to adapt and integrate, we are all experiencing feelings of increasing stress and we must all work together.”

Recommended resources for mindfulness:

  • Headspace app
  • Calm app
  • Cosmic Yoga YouTube videos (for kids)

Decluttering

“Decluttering is a great distraction and an easy way to keep your mind busy whilst at home,” said Dr. Ria.

“What about those kitchen cupboards you’ve been planning to tidy for years, or the guest bedroom where all your unwanted homeware ends up?

“Now is the time to tackle the clutter head on, as it will enable you to destress, which has proven benefits on positive mental wellbeing.

“For those working from home, decluttering is a great way to create a fresh workstation which can lead to a clearer mind, better reasoning and concentration, all of which are linked positively with mental health and sleep hygiene.”

Recommended resources for mindfulness:

  • Marie Kondo YouTube tutorials
  • Tody app

Shop online

While slots for food deliveries may be scarce, if you are able to get one it could be a good resource to help with anxiety.

Dr. Ria said: “In a time of crisis, it’s natural instinct to stockpile in fear our favourite household items will become unavailable, but the domino effect of over purchasing in the supermarket will continue to cause panic and alarm, as people will see the availability of items dwindling on the shelves.

“Moving forward, I recommend ordering your weekly shop online in the comfort of your own home.

“This will also reduce the physical contact you have with anyone else and the spread of COVID-19, as the shopping can be delivered to your door with no direct contact.”

“Many of the major high street retailers have limited delivery slots this week and next, but book in advance for your delivery the following week, as we don’t know when this will end."

Use technology for the right reasons

The doctor, from Pall Mall Medical, said: “Many of us will have an hourly news bulletin set up on our phones or smart devices; remove this function and instead allow yourself 20 minutes in the evening to catch up with the latest news.

“Whilst it is important to stay informed, its critical not to binge on the news, as this will heighten your stressors and you will be on high alert every time your phone screen lights up.”

He continued: “Instead use your phone or smart device to watch a Netflix series or even read a book on your lunch break at home.

“Technology is also a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, use this to your advantage and video call each other.

“It is important whilst you are at home, not to isolate yourself from society, as feelings of loneliness certainly add to the low moods associated with anxiety.”

Recommended apps for communicating

  • Zoom
  • Houseparty

The science behind health-related anxiety

Dr Ria, claimed: “I recommend adopting the above methods whilst at home to help your brain relax, as health related stress can have serious effects on the body including paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, heightened low moods and trouble sleeping.

“When you are stressed, your mind is overactive, and your brain is stimulated. Eventually this can create a vicious cycle, whereby a person's worries and concerns about being stressed, will in turn make them more stressed, until they make themselves ill with stress.”

Finally, he said: “Health-related stress is no different, as when a person has anxious feelings about being unwell, their brain can go into overdrive, often overthinking every possibility, until the stressors actually cause a person to feel unwell.

“At this difficult and stressful time, doing things you enjoy will keep your mind at ease, so bake a cake, learn to cook a new dish, clean out a cupboard or play a board game with your family, as the more your mind is occupied, the less room there is for you to stress.”

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