I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling anxious at this time. Those of us who have mental health issues are struggling more in this un-nerving situation. My anxiety has increased quite a lot over the past two weeks, especially since the lockdown came into effect. It made the situation suddenly very real and frightening. It is the behaviour of people which bothers me most.
The panic buying was reminiscent of something from a disaster movie. There are videos of people wrestling on the supermarket floor over toilet rolls. Then it’s like ripples on a pond – once people see what’s happening they feel they have to grab what they can while they can and that makes others do the same and so on. Meanwhile, the members of our society who need help were left by the wayside. Those who can’t dash to the pasta and fight for the last packet; those with specialist dietary needs who can no longer get what they need because others just panicked and cleared the shelves.
I’ve come up with a few strategies to help me cope with all the uncertainty and anxiety that I’m feeling at the moment. Walking my dogs is hugely important. It provides exercise for me as well as my dogs and gives a change of scenery. It is easy to maintain the recommended social distance of 2m from anyone else.
I have always found music really important to help with my anxiety and this continues to be the case now. Reading my photography magazines is a great way to relax my mind and listening to podcasts also really helps.
Projects around the home are great ways to fill in the time, too. I’ve got plenty to do in the garden, especially this time of year with weeding, pruning and mowing the lawn. In the house there’s all those jobs that keep getting put off – washing the net curtains, sorting it the loft, cleaning the paintwork, washing the windows, sorting out cupboards and under the stairs.
I’ve learned that it’s easier for me to deal with by not watching the news all the time. I can catch brief headlines so that I am up to date, but I will not immerse myself in it as it will only serve to reinforce my anxiety and perpetuate the fear of this situation.
I know that my sleep is being badly affected. My wife has told me that I am talking a lot in my sleep, moving about a lot and snoring, which I often do when I am very tired or stressed. My anxiety is certainly being pulled through into my sleep, making it even more important that I learn to relax so that I can get a decent amount of restful sleep and stay healthy.
All these restrictions mean that we are all unable to follow our usual routines. For anxiety sufferers such as myself, a routine is crucial as it provides a measure of control and therefore security. That has now been removed so finding a sense of routine is really important.
I enjoy cycling so I will be trying to do that while I can. Again, I can easily maintain the 2m social distancing while getting some very beneficial exercise. If further restrictions are brought in then I can still maintain my bike, both occupying my time and giving me something to look forward to – getting back out on my bike.
Anxiety is also massively increased by isolation. At the moment I have my dog walks and cycling so I do get to see people while I am out. I don’t need to talk to them, just a wave is enough to have a degree of social interaction. It is a good idea to bear in mind those who are isolated as well as those whose mental health is suffering in this crisis. Just dropping them a text or e-mail or even calling them goes a long way. Stay safe; look after yourselves and each other.