As Covid-19 and the lockdown continue is hard not to feel anxious. If you have a baby, or young children it can be particularly difficult as you don’t want the anxiety you feel to spiral out of control.
Here are some tips for managing anxiety and keeping your spirits up at home.
Feed your optimism: Following the news minute-by-minute is not likely to do you any good. So, take positive control and limit your daily diet. You might choose to read rather than watch the news. There is less ‘emotional contagion’ from the written word than from a person’s voice, so less transmission of anxiety.
Count your blessings: There is a positive psychology exercise known as the ‘three good things’. At the end of each day, identify three good things that have happened during the day and write them down. This will help train your brain to look for the positives amongst the gloom. You can find lots of similar proven exercises in Vanessa Keys excellent book: 10 keys to happier living.
Call a friend: Social contact also is very important to our wellbeing. I am fortunate to be marooned with dear beloved. Even so, I am talking on the phone to at least one person who isn’t him every day. I suggest you talk to friends about their plans for the day, what they are hoping to achieve during lockdown etc. You’ll help each other see the silver lining for yourself and your loved ones.
Start projects that will take a while: Starting projects suggests an optimism about the future that becomes self-reinforcing. This is particularly important when you have little ones. Uncertainty can act to paralyse us. By pro-actively starting a project we can break out of that paralysis. Perhaps you have something you want to make for your child. The hardest part is getting started but once you start you can admire your handiwork at the end of the evening and feel you’re making progress and moving forward. What we want to do is replace anxiety with optimism. A great science-based resource with ideas about how to do this is ‘Positran’s Positive Action Cards’ to help you improve your wellbeing.
Get into flow: Just ‘not thinking about it’ is hard, we need to find something to take us out of ourselves. When we are completely absorbed in an activity we are in a state of ‘flow’. When we’re in this state, we are not focused on our feelings. It’s like getting a holiday from your worried self. At home I’m finding gardening, and cooking (‘creating from what we have got to hand’) offer me productive escape time.
Choose a specific time to worry: Some of us are born worriers. If you are someone who finds worrying reassuring, try to limit it so it doesn’t become overwhelming. A time-honoured technique is ‘allowing’ yourself a specific allotted time to worry as much as you like. Set aside a specific time, when you won’t be interrupted, and spend say, 15-30 minutes allowing yourself to name your worries. Record them in a journal if you like. This should reduce the likelihood of waking to worry at 3am.
Keep exercising and eating well: Make sure you and your family eat healthily. Lots of fruit and vegetables are good for immune system. Exercise is vital for both mental and physical health. Put your face mask, keep social distancing, and go for an hour somewhere green where kids can run around. Alternatively you could try the Joe Wicks ‘Seven days of sweat’ workout online. Perhaps you could share the experience with a friend who’s online at the same time.
Be your own coach: If you are feeling really stuck you may need a more structured approach to pull yourself out of the mire. Sometimes we just need to be asked a question that gives us a different take on the subject or causes us to make a new connection. You can achieve this with self-coaching. This will help move you into a more productive self-talk, that allows you find unexpected ways forward. To help you start you could try the ‘Good Question Card’ pack from ‘At My Best’ which offers an excellent selection of forty-eight coaching questions.
Appreciate what makes life worth living: Appreciative Living, based on Appreciative Inquiry, is all about seeing and seeking out the best of life. Despite everything, we can still appreciate the things that make life worth living, today. Developing an appreciative eye takes practice and isn’t always easy, but the benefit to our health, well-being, state of mind and ability to remain pro-active in the face of threat, in fact to our resilience, is beyond question. For more information on this Jackie Kelm, the guru of Appreciative Living has videos on YouTube.
The key in this challenging period, when you may be missing work and feeling isolated at home, is to look after your mental and physical health and those of your loved ones. I hope these ideas will help you.
Words by: Sarah Lewis. Sarah is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level. Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association. Sarah is an acknowledged Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology expert, a regular conference presenter and author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ (Wiley), Positive Psychology and Change (Wiley), ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’ (KoganPage) and Positive Psychology in Business (Pavilion). See more here: https://acukltd.com