If 2020 hasn’t made your anxiety levels rise, frankly, we’re stunned. This has been a year of fear and uncertainty; from the anxiety that we or our loved ones will catch coronavirus, to the lingering sense that the world outside our doors is a scary place, only exacerbated by lockdown being introduced, then lifted, then introduced again.
Now we’re at another stage of Covid-19 fear: second wave anxiety, brought on by a second nationwide lockdown, and the slide back into the restrictions that marked our spring and summer months, all with the added fear of what winter will bring. What is second wave anxiety and how to deal with it?
When you’re feeling anxious about the state of the world, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed, and then fall into a paralysing trap of feeling like there’s simply too much to deal with, too much to do, doing nothing, and then feeling rubbish about it. Giving yourself some achievable goals each day doesn’t only add some structure to a time that feels messy and out of control, but also makes sure you have a sense of purpose and accomplishment – both key in tackling anxiety.
Focus on hobbies This can tie into those goals we just mentioned, again giving you a sense of achievement, whether that’s for baking something delicious, finishing of an embroidery kit, or finishing a book. But on the flipside, it can be really relaxing to do something that isn’t tied to productivity, and that you can enjoy just for the sake of it. Choose something you can really immerse yourself in and that will allow you to forget about the outside world and your worries about the future, even if just for a moment.
Try mindfulness Okay, so there might not be a bunch of guided meditation sessions specifically tailored for dealing with the threat of a second wave of coronavirus. But there are plenty of mindfulness apps and meditation guides designed to help with anxiety more generally, and that will help in this situation.
An exercise you can do almost anywhere is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Begin by noticing and listing five things you see (perhaps all are the same color), then four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and lastly one thing you can taste. ‘Grounding yourself in the present moment will help keep your focus away from the stress inducing “what ifs” of the future.’
Reframe your thinking
A good technique is to reality-check your negative thoughts and get into the practice of reframing them in a more positive light. It feels weird and uncomfortable at first, but it does get easier, promise.
So let’s say you’re worrying about the second lockdown and feeling lonely. How could you reframe that thought? First, it might be worth thinking back about the first lockdown and how that was for you. Were there any parts that you enjoyed? Did you learn any lessons about yourself from that experience? Perhaps in your first lockdown, you realised the power of connecting with loved ones with more regular phone calls, or finally took the time to try baking bread. Or maybe you learned that you need to finish on time or make space in your routine for exercise: these are things you can then look forward to now in the second lockdown.
Some examples of reframing
If you think: ‘Being stuck at home is going to be terrible, I’m dreading another lockdown’ Try: ‘Being at home has given me more time to spend with my family and allowed me to take better care of myself’ If you think: ‘This pandemic will never end. Life will never be the same’ Try: ‘This pandemic won’t last forever, and we will emerge from this experience more creative, innovative, and resilient.’ If you think: ‘I can’t do this, it’s too much, it’s too difficult’
Try: ‘I’ve overcome similar challenges before, and I’ll get through this too, I just need to approach it from a fresh angle’ If you think: ‘Everything is scary and I don’t know what’s going to happen’ Try: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but that’s an opportunity to learn more things about myself. I know that whatever happens, I’m equipped to handle it.
You really need to have a solid routine. In a time when everything feels uncertain and out of control, it’s helpful to get back to the basics and give yourself some structure in your day-to-day. Have a bedtime and a regular wake-up time. Give yourself a to-do list, even if it’s for small things like making the bed. Divide your day into blocks of time and assign things – including time for just relaxing – throughout so you know what your day looks like from the moment you wake up and you don’t end up feeling like you’ve wasted your waking hours.
Learn to say ‘no’
It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking far too much on because we think we have to, or that it would be rude to just say ‘actually, I can’t do that right now’. If you’re experiencing second wave anxiety, there might be things you’re just not comfortable doing, whether that’s meeting up with friends or getting public transport to go into the office. Saying ‘yes’ to things you don’t want to do is only going to make your anxiety worse. You’ll worry in the lead up to whatever the thing is, feel rubbish while you’re doing it, and then be exhausted from the mental load of all that worrying once it’s done.
‘Learning to say “no” is truly a skill especially if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle, as juggling multiple responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed. ‘Being selective about what you take on – and saying no to things that will unnecessarily add to your load can reduce your stress levels. ‘This can be especially hard when the person you are saying “no” to is a family member or friend – but setting these healthy boundaries not only is beneficial to your wellbeing, but the relationship as well.’
Focus on previous achievements and successes. Reflect on times when you’ve overcome difficult challenges. Highlight these accomplishments and use them as inspiration to confront current and future obstacles.’ Coming out of lockdown, you might have compared your months to everyone else’s and come up feeling short. How did they write a bloody novel while all I did was watch the entirety of Netflix?
Ditch the comparison and reframe that line of thinking. Rather than worrying about what you didn’t do, focus on celebrating the things you did. You made it through the first lockdown, which is an accomplishment in itself. You looked after yourself and survived a really difficult time. You’ve overcome periods of high stress and anxiety before, and you can absolutely do it again. Repeat that like a mantra.
Express gratitude Feeling thankful for things – and expressing that gratitude – is tied to better mental wellbeing. ‘When we express gratitude and appreciation for the people, places, and things around us – our stress levels decrease and it helps train our brains to look for the positive.
You knew it was coming, and you know it’s important. You don’t need to commit to a half marathon or even a massive gym session. Doing anything physical with get those endorphins going and help use up all that anxious energy. Go for a walk, learn a TikTok dance, or schedule in a bike ride for the weekend.
Do something you look forward to every day This ties back in with having a routine, but make sure that every single day you have something planned that you’ll enjoy. That will mean that no matter what happens with coronavirus, you always have a bright spot in your day and something positive to think about.
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