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Managing anxiety during the Coronavirus pandemic

By Darren O'Toole | In Health | on March 28, 2020

It’s an unprecedented period within our lifetimes. Anxiety levels are undoubtedly higher for everyone. Concerns about the health of ourselves, our loved ones, our businesses, our futures. This isn’t a post which will alleviate fears, nor is it one which claims to have all of the answers. What this post will do, is seek to highlight some alternatives and strategies which may help to overcome certain sources of angst over this time.
The main source of anxiety is the lack of ownership that we have over this current predicament. So, one of the best things that we can do is try to take ownership over as much of this as we can. We are aware enough to know that we’re not going to control the virus, but we can control our reaction to it.

Issue 1: Cabin fever

Being stuck in our homes for an extended period of time can evoke a feeling of claustrophobia. Boredom. Monotony.

Solution: Don’t work from your living room if possible.

Keep that room a ‘treat’ room for post-work. Get as much light into your home. If you have a garden, get out there as much as possible – irrespective of the weather. Do a different activity each day, avoid repeating a pattern of TV watching every evening.

Issue 2: Lack of activity

Being restricted to staying indoors and with gyms and fitness facilities closing, there is less provision for working out.

Solution: Home workouts.

Seems simple to say, but guess what? They’re simple to do too. Remember, this isn’t like a holiday when your PT goes away for a fortnight. You may well be restricted for a number of weeks. Your lungs, heart, muscles, metabolism and mental health will take a severe hit. Follow our home workout plans, book in Skype or FaceTime sessions where it’ll be having a PT in your living room, or simply get moving in your own house. Set daily accomplishments -50 squats. Build it up until you reach 100. Keep active!

Issue 3: News is stressing me out

24-hour news channels need news. If no new news is forthcoming, they regurgitate the same stories over and over.

Solution: News rationing. Come off Twitter.

Twitter is a melting pot of opinion and sensationalism. Do people get ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ for sensible, nuanced viewpoints? No! So, don’t let sensationalism of this heighten your anxiety. Ignore it. When it comes to news, ignorance is bliss; however, with such a fast-moving story, ignorance is also being ignorant. So instead, limit yourself to 45 minutes each day. Watch the daily press conference and that will tell you where we are at and what the rules to follow are….probably!

Issue 4: Business/work concerns

Many businesses, like my own, are straining to maintain some sense of income. Jobs that seemed secure are now at risk.

Solution: Control the controllable factors.

If you are in a service-based business, keep in touch with everyone during this time. Don’t go missing. People need people now more than ever. Seek alternative ways to continue ‘business as normal’ for those who are able to. Be understanding of those that need to take a break and seek ways for them to continue to use your service without cost. Trust in the good work and good reputation that you’ve established and that it will come back positively to you when the time is right. Be proactive. Do all of the things that you said you’d wanted to do – but hadn’t the time to do. Get ahead of the game. Write blogs, film videos, learn a new skill. In 3 months, 6 months and a year’s time, these will all be valuable then too.

Issue 5: Feeling lost

A lack of a routine and purpose can understandably produce a feeling of being lost.

Solution: Set small tasks for achievement.

There is a lack of sense of achievement at this point. So that is the solution: Set small tasks for achievement. They could be work-related. But why not make them more fun? Complete a puzzle, target a set number of books to read, learn to play chess, learn to speak a language, hold a plank for a record time, bake something you’ve never baked before, whatever it may be, set yourself the task. Complete it. Set another. However long this may last, if you attack your time this way, you’ll get to the time when the dust settles, and say: ‘I got so much done!’.

Issue 6: Feeling isolated

Whether you live alone or with a family, being restricted to your face-to-face interactions is tough and will mean that you can’t see friends and loved ones at the regularity that you normally do.

Solution: Text or message instead of silence. Call instead of message.

Video call instead of call. Zoom as a group chat instead of one-to-one. Whatever you normally do, take it one or two steps further. Boost your socialising at home. If you’re having a tea, call someone so they have one too. If you’re watching a TV show, tell someone to give it a watch so you can chat about it. If you’re going to workout, do it as a group. Anything that adds a community feel to this isolation. It is possible. It may actually showcase that we crave human interaction more than we thought.

I’m not a therapist or a psychologist. I am only a personal trainer. However, I have common sense and do believe I understand humans enough to suggest that wherever you may fit on this anxiety list, you’ll be in control of how you feel about it. Be pragmatic, be proactive, be positive. For the human race, this is a bump in the road. We’ll learn about ourselves and we’ll, for the most part, come out of this as better human beings.

Stay healthy.

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