Category Archives: Anxiety

Anxiety as lockdown lifts in the UK

 The date is marked on our calendars, and social media channels are full of talk about ‘freedom’, about getting back to social lives, meeting friends in pubs and bars, hitting the shops and getting together with friends and family after many months of isolation.

Understandably a lot of people are very excited, and counting the days down until they can see people again and pick up the pieces of a life we had to drop so suddenly and unexpectedly when the pandemic first began to impact our lives.

But the past 12 months have seen a huge increase in reports of anxiety, depression, mental health difficulties and health problems unrelated to the virus. The pressure of worry about loved ones, about the outside world being rife with dangers, about an invisible enemy we needed to be on constant alert for, and the isolation of being forced to stay home alone will have a knock-on impact on people’s wellbeing for years to come.

It’s no surprise that a great many people are also reporting that leaving lockdown is making them more anxious than being locked down ever did. Stepping back into the world, entering crowded public spaces and being physically close to strangers in those spaces once again feels dangerous, and carries the weight of all the many warnings we’ve had to heed.

The worry that we are putting our health at risk, or that of the people we come into contact with, is one which will take longer to shake off than it took to pick up.

Living through a pandemic means that we have all been functioning in ‘survival mode’ – and our bodies have been running on a higher than usual level of adrenaline and cortisol – the ‘stress’ hormone. This is vital in emergency situations, giving us the clarity and quick responses that could save us from danger, and is a remnant of the prehistoric world we originated from. However, as a lasting and long-term situation this causes damage to our physical health, as well as keeping our brain functioning on a limited, reactive plane. That reactive state means that we aren’t able to be creative, relaxed free or engaged with the world around us in the way we ordinarily would. We are alert at all times, leaving us exhausted and irritable. We are shorter tempered, less patient, less able to enjoy the things that used to bring us peace and joy.

As you are preparing for the time you’ll leave lockdown, and make plans to see loved ones and meet in public places again, don’t feel pressured to jump right in (or out!) and to move fully from the life you’ve adjusted to, to the way things were before. Listen to your body and the instinctive reactions you have to each situation, and though I would never want you to ‘live in fear’ you can trust that you can take things slowly, adjust over time, and introduce new routines one at a time. Meeting some friends doesn’t have to mean a huge gathering, it can be coffee and a walk with one or two, somewhere secluded. Re-entering public spaces can be done carefully. Even the return to work can be managed gradually – and the proven success of remote working is likely to remain an option, at least part time, for most industries.

Frankly, nothing ever will be ‘the same it was before’ because the world has been changed permanently by the impact this pandemic has had on us.

Many of these changes are positive – the flexibility of remote working, the reduced pressure for face-to-face meetings which include travel, expense and high-stress timescales being switched for video conferencing, more autonomy in our working schedules and workloads.

I have also seen a massive public outpouring of kindness, community spirit and small gestures of love between strangers throughout the pandemic. These small moments – artwork in windows, applause on doorsteps, colourful painted stones in public parks – bring light to so many lives, and smiles to so very many faces. It has warmed my heart to see these little, thoughtful events over the past year, and I know that it has helped others too.

Kindness is a hugely important factor in any life – and it’s something I will remind you to treat yourself with as you ready yourself to leave lockdown.

Patience, kindness and love. Listen to your inner voice. Let your instinct for preservation guide and protect you, and remember the lessons we have all learned; take care of family and neighbours, protect your own needs, focus on the positives.

If you need support for any anxiety or negative thoughts that you’ve been battling in recent weeks and months, please don’t suffer or struggle alone. I can help. Contact me today to set up an initial consultation, and let’s discuss how I can help to make those burdens lighter, and open you up to the full potential of your best life.

You can contact me through my Facebook page, through this website, email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can call, message or WhatsApp me on my mobile on 07849 037095

 

Anxious about the new term, and life outside of lockdown

This has been a very peculiar year, hasn’t it?

Families across the world have been impacted, and have had to deal with all kinds of changes, challenges and routines which are so far from what we are used to – and I know that most of us are still processing all of those changes. Now it’s time to start processing some more, as children across the UK return to school, students back to colleges and universities, and those who have been working from home for the last six months make plans to return to offices.

Don’t think that you’re alone in being anxious about these changes, and about the safety and well-being of your families and loved ones as they go back out into the world and mix with their peers again.

Whilst there are many practical steps being taken in all of these environments to protect people (increased cleaning, social distancing, one way systems, hand sanitising stations) and we can reassure ourselves with these practical acts – which we know are going to do a lot to protect many people from any risk of infection or harm – I know that anxiety doesn’t always care about practicalities or facts.

Those little voices that whisper at the back of our mind about the dangers, the risks, the fears we are carrying, don’t go quiet simply because we have facts to shout back at them!

So what can we do to challenge those anxieties, and to support our own mental well-being and that of our loved ones and families as life moves into the next phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, and how we function through it?

Reminding ourselves of those practical steps is a good first step. For example; “I am worried about my child being in a class with other children” can be challenged with “but they will be in one seat at a sterilised, safe desk, distanced from others; the will have their own hand sanitiser and know how to properly wash their hands.”

“I am worried about travelling to work on public transport” can be met with “but I have my own mask, I can maintain a physical distance between myself and others and, where that is difficult, our masks will reduce the risk. I have sanitiser in my pocket and contactless payment for my journey.”

When anxiety builds and you begin to feel panic or overwhelm, try to find coping techniques to get you through that moment:

  • Breathing exercises can calm your heart rate
  • Grounding techniques can stop your mind spiralling into negative thoughts
  • Remove yourself from any crowded or busy public space for a few minutes
  • Wear headphones to reduce external sensory input
  • Wear a mask in public areas
  • Carry your own wipes and alcohol gel so that you can protect yourself from germs
  • Remind yourself that you have remained safe so far, and will remain safe because you have taken the right steps

Many people are finding that they coped well during lockdown, because they had the focus of their family and were busy throughout. Now that life is returning to some semblance of ‘normal’ and we are under less pressure, the need to ‘cope’ well is reduced – and we are actually struggling more without that constant need.

This is entirely normal, and very common; crisis brings crisis management techniques, and only once the crisis has passed do we feel the fear and overwhelm of the situation we just lived through.

This is a great time to reach out to your support networks; family and friends, occupational health, your GP and professional counselling, which can help you to process that trauma in a healthy way and move through the stages of what is, essentially, grief and fear.

Small acts of self care can help you to re-centre and reduce anxiety, and give you some inner reserves to get through the next weeks. Never underestimate the power of small kindnesses – for yourself or for those you love.

I can help you with the anxieties of moving back into the world, and I can help you to find coping methods for those moments of overwhelm. I can also  give you tools to support those you love with their own worries, without harming yourself by taking on the weight of other people’s emotional well-being and need.

Contact me through this website, on the phone on 07849 037095 (as a call, a text or via WhatsApp) or by email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com – you don’t need to struggle alone with your worries; I can help.