The sun is shining, the days are longer, and lockdown is being lifted – I should be really happy right? Why am I anxious?
We have been dealing with this very strange situation for over a year now. Whether we have been in full lockdown, half lockdown, shielding or in Tier 1/2/5/10 (it was hard to keep up at one point!) this year has been a huge change to our lives.
Maybe you adapted well to it or maybe you didn’t find it easy to adapt to, either way another big change is coming – normality. For some this may be great news and for others this can bring up more reasons to be anxious. Some are anxious about the virus and still concerned about catching/spreading it, the lifting of restrictions may exacerbate this worry.
Many of us have settled into working from home and may be nervous about going back to the office; those that have been on furlough may be scared about picking up their responsibilities again. There is also the social side of things – as we’ve not been able to see much of our friends and family so as restrictions lift, we may be flooded with invitations. This can be very overwhelming, remember it’s ok to say no.
How we respond to change does have an impact on our mental health so it’s important you take steps to ensure you are looking after your mental health.
Start off with the basics. Take some time to check in with yourself, assess how you are feeling with no self-judgement and accept what those feelings are. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but it’s true… it’s ok not to be ok.
Ensure you are eating well; there is evidence to support the fact that gut microbes have a major impact on our brain and our behaviour, especially in stress related disorders such as anxiety. Have a read of our Nutrition and Anxiety booklet for more information on this here: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/products/anxiety-condition/anxiety/nutrition-and-anxiety-a-self-help-guide/
For more information on this topic you could join our Webinar “Nutrition and Anxiety – eating well to help manage your mental well-being” with guest speaker Haleh Moravej, a Senior Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences at Manchester Metropolitan University. The webinar is a suggested donation of £5 and takes place on Thursday 15th April at 6.00pm. Book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nutrition-and-anxiety-eating-well-to-help-manage-your-mental-well-being-tickets-142875936773?aff=ebdsoporgprofile
Regular exercise can be hugely effective in managing anxiety. This can feel like a challenge but it’s a great way to relieve stress even if it’s just a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air. Take a look at our video on the practical ways of dealing with anxiety here: https://youtu.be/ttHu_N-zAnQ.
Build yourself up to it.
If completely returning to normal is feeling too overwhelming for you, then just try small steps. You could just meet one friend for a short time, see how you feel. Then next time spend a bit longer. Then if that feels ok, next time you could meet 2 friends and see how you feel. This way you can gentle build up the amount of time you spend with others. Importantly you can tell your friends and family how you are feeling. They care for you so will just want you to be happy even if that means waiting a bit longer to meet up.
If this all still feels a bit too much you may want a bit of extra support. Talking therapies are some of the most effective tools for treating anxiety, they can help you to learn how to manage and overcome your anxiety. Compassion focused therapy (CFT), developed by Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, is a psychological therapy approach that was originally developed to help people with high shame and self-criticism. So, if you’re dealing with worries about how you will be when socialising again or maybe even though it’s safe to do so, you still feel guilty about meeting others; our CFT service might be best for you. This form of therapy is all about being kind to yourself which in turn reduces anxiety levels. CFT centres on the three systems of emotion regulation that has evolved in humans over time; the threat (protection) system, the drive (resource seeking) system and the soothing system. By emphasising the link between our thought patterns and the three emotion regulation systems, whilst also drawing on compassionate mind training and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, your therapist will help you manage each system more effectively and in doing so, help you respond more appropriately to situations or challenges you might be facing. To find out more about therapy services click here: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help/access-therapy/.
Phrases to use to help you set boundaries…
“I’m sorry I don’t feel totally comfortable yet, could we rearrange for when I’m feeling a bit better?”
“Although I would love to see you, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of meeting up with everyone. Would it be ok if we arrange something for just me and you at another time?”
“This has been quite a difficult time and I am nervous about coming back to the office. Is there some flexibility in me being able to work from home?”
“I feel ready to come back to work but a bit apprehensive about my role, can you provide some support or maybe extra training to help me settle in again?
What I’m doing – Niamh, Anxiety UK staff member.
I am usually a very sociable person but am aware that things have changed and I want to be sure not to burn out. I have started running now that the days are longer which gives me 20 minutes to myself not thinking or worrying about anything. I must stress that I am not a runner and I don’t get very far but it’s something that does make me feel better. I was recently gifted some Mood Cards which is a little deck of cards full of exercises that help boost your mood (pictured and available on the Anxiety UK website shop). So, if I’m feeling overwhelmed and can’t really think straight I can have a look through the cards for a little pick me up task. I like to have things to look forward to so have arranged days to meet up with friends and family when it is ok to do so. However, I am spreading these out and being sure that I don’t take on too much too soon. It’s important for me to have time just to myself and take things easy.