12 things to remember to ease that damn pandemic anxiety
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I returned to Australia and left behind a life I was completely in love with in Ireland. Since then, my emotions, mood and energy have been up and down. Moments of joy and gratefulness quickly turn to moments of despair and lethargy. Dark thoughts seem to creep in unexpectedly. Why do I feel okay on Tuesday but absolutely miserable by Wednesday?
If I’m being completely honest, I am one of the lucky ones. I did not lose my job or income, I have not been separated from family or lost a loved one. Sometimes, this only adds a layer of guilt and shame for feeling down. Myself, like most people in the world right now, are experiencing a huge lifestyle change that none of us expected nor wanted.
We have all lost things due to coronavirus. Some have lost family or friends, some have lost jobs or have been stood down, we have lost the ability to travel and see family members that live in different states (or further than 5kms from our house). We have all lost social connections due to isolation. Those Zoom meetings don’t hit the same spot as a few pints at the pub, do they?
We have lost things to look forward to, whether that’s dinner with groups of friends or trips to Poland. We have lost coffee dates with our work wives in the office. We have lost watching our favourite sports teams (up the Baggers). We have lost the ability to hug family members. We have lost the use of gyms, a place that often eases anxiety and brings happiness. Lots of us didn’t realise how much these things surmounted to a fun, fulfilled life until recently. We certainly never realised we should feel grateful for being able to eat that $30 avocado on toast at our favourite cafe.
Now that we have been unable to do these things, it’s completely understandable to feel anxious or down. So what do we do when these feelings come up? Continue checking the fridge to see if more snacks appeared? Binge another season on Netflix? Online shop for more clothes to wear to the kitchen?
As I sit in my mother’s living room at 28 years of age, I can’t help but wonder when I’ll get to return to a life I loved and the same feelings of happiness, even though the free dinners aren’t so bad.
Update: This was written when I had just come back from Ireland in 2019. If you’re in Australia, over the past few months we have been plunged back into lockdowns and restrictions, with a Prime Minister that is quite frankly, fucking useless (and probably in Hawaii eating Tim Tams with Boris trying to force people with burnt down houses to shake his hand when we can’t leave the country).
If you’re in Aus, especially in Melbourne or Sydney, my heart breaks for you and for how I imagine you must be feeling. I’m in Newcastle in the fourth week of lockdown with sunny weather, incredible beaches and even I am feeling it. These are the things I remember and do that help me and will hopefully help you. If you have any others, please share!
Remember this is not permanent
This will not last forever. I know it feels like it will. I know it feels like the 4856 day of the year and you’re not sure you’ll bother getting out of your pyjama’s for a week. Please remember this, like most other things in life, is only temporary. Now that we have a vaccine, we will return to freedom eventually. It is inevitable. The UK and US having freedom and living normally show prime examples of this happening. Every time that pit in your stomach pops up, or you hear some twat saying we will never be normal again, remind yourself this is not permanent. Also, science bitch, we got a vaccine!
It’s okay to not be okay
We are in one of the largest pandemics in history, something the world has never experienced in this lifetime. You’re totally allowed to feel like a sad, anxious, sack of shit. Not saying you are a sack of shit, but you can feel like one sometimes. There is no point beating yourself up for feeling shit and adding guilt or shame on top of your already shitty feelings. Practice compassion towards yourself – talk to yourself the way you would a friend who was feeling down. Feel what you feel, then try to improve those feelings. Don’t add extra things on top of them.
You are not alone
Anxiety can often make you feel stupid or alone for feeling the way you do. The sort of messed up positive of Coronavirus is that we are all in this together. We have all felt similar feelings at some point through this pandemic. There’s some strange beauty in that. It’s important to remember this is not only happening to you and to reach out to friends and family when you feel rubbish. I bet they’ve felt the same.
Focus on the things you can control
I listened to this incredible podcast by The Imperfects and they discussed how we need to accept this is what is happening and only focus on the things we can control. We cannot control lockdowns, travel restrictions or Gladys’s average press conferences. We can control the structure of our day, the activities we do at home, the amount of time we exercise or the food we eat. If we focus on improving the things we can control, and let go of the rest, it will help. You need to change your outlook on things, as this is one of the only things you can control through this. Also, give the poddy a listen, it helped me on a low day.
Write lists of what you’re grateful for
Create a list of things you are grateful for, relevant to the pandemic and look at it every time you are feeling down. For example, mine would be: I moved ot Newy, I got to see my mum, I have a cute puppy, I took up studying, I get to eat bacon for breakfast all the time, I’ve been able to write more. Your list could look like “More time outside, saving money, learning to bake, got a pet hamster”. The main point is to take your mind off the pandemic and realise out of most bad situations, there can be a silver lining.
Go for coffee walks or cycles with friends
Do it every day if you can. I mean most of us are probably already doing it because it’s the only way to see friends right now, but it certainly helps. I scheudle in multipe coffee waks a week and always feel better afterwards. Order a burrito and walk with that if you don’t like coffee!
Speak to a professionalThere is no shame in this and I have harped on about it 100 times before and will continue to do so. It is their job to have an objective opinion to help you. As a society, we need to normalise this so people feel comfortable to seek help. If we all spoke about how we feel and had support, don’t you think we’d all feel better, quicker? In fact, I spoke to mine on Thursday and will speak to one again this week. See, totally normal. I’ve listed some resources at the bottom.
Write lists of what you want to achieve every morningIf you’re working from home and it’s quiet, you’ve lost your job or you are feeling like you’re doing nothing, write a list of three things you want to achieve each day. If you’re accomplishing sweet FA now and you begin accomplishing three things a day, I promise you’ll feel a bit better. Three things could look like:
1. Go for a walk
2. Cook some biscuits.
3. Clean out your closet whilst listening to ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’ by Eminem.
Remember people are only posting highlightsWhen I first moved into my mum’s and saw people living with friends having fun drinks on the weekend, I got major FOMO. I hated feeling like I was missing out or things could be better. But you have to remember, people aren’t posting photos of themselves lying awake at night wondering when this will end. They’re not out here posting sad photos on the couch they haven’t left in days. Everyone is only posting their highlights – the fun parts of being in isolation. Much like we all do in normal life.
Find a hobbyYou’ve so much spare time, so try something new and distract yourself. Look I know this isn’t going to solve everything and you’d prefer to be with your mates doing regular activities, but that isn’t an option. This might help and honestly what do you have to lose by trying a few things? Try yoga, reading, playing Crash Bandicoot on PS1 (me), gardening, painting, short courses, running, makeup tutorials, handstands, baking, building aquariums, practising how to boil the perfect egg…you get the gist.
Limit news intakeThe news loves to inflate things for clickbait. I used to watch it everyday but the pressers in Australia just got worse and worse, didn’t they? If it’s making you feel as aggreveated as I started to feel, perhaps you don’t need to watch it. Get your case numbers from Twitter if you want to know. If we’re coming out of lockdown anytime soon, you’ll hear about it.
ExerciseSometimes I hate telling people to exercise as a way to feel less anxious. When I have been at my lowest, it’s the last thing I want to do. I truly believe it helps though, so I make sure I haul my ass out of the house and do it. Since you’re speaking to friends more on the phone, walk outside whenever you do. It makes walking less boring, plus exercise and fresh air will help you. Two birds, one stone.
Please remember we are lucky. If you’re reading this blog I’m going to assume there are people out there that have it far, far worse than you. Look at Afghanistan. This doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel sorry for yourself, heaven forbid I absolutely have. But it does mean that you can try to think of this differently. If you have a job, a house and you’re healthy…you are one of the lucky ones.
If you’re struggling with regular anxiety, not only pandemic related anxiety I wrote another helpful blog on this here: How To Address Anxiety. If there are any other things you’ve found that have helped you through The Rona, please holla at me. Resources to seek help below.
Resources to Seek Professional Help:
Find yourself a good doctor and discuss a mental health plan. In Australia, you can get 10 psychology appointments for a discounted rate when you go through your GP and make a plan. If you’re somewhere else, have a Google of what options are available in your country.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Most employers have a service called an EAP where you can speak with a counsellor for free, without your employer even knowing. You can also provide these services to your immediate family or use your family’s. It should be in your EBA or somewhere on your companies HR website. I thought phone calls wouldn’t work well for me, but I loved them. Phone sessions are an especially good stepping stone if you are hesitant to speak to someone in person.
Online Counselling and Free Resources
- Lifeline – 24/7 Phone Counselling www.lifeline.org.au. Phone: 13 11 14
- eHeadspace – Online and telephone support for 12-24 youth and their family & friends www.eheadspace.org.au
- Beyond Blue – Organisation offering information and advice on mental health, specialising in depression and anxiety www.BeyondBlue.com.au
- Counselling Online – Online counselling withlive chats or phone calls especially for COVID19. Counselling Online.
Yours in love and virtual hugs,