COVID-19 - Managing the understandable Anxiety and Uncertainty
Coronavirus Emotional Self-care in a nutshell:
- Acknowledge the stress, know that any anxiety and fear is normal
- Don’t spend too much time fixated on negative news stories and social media posts.
- Anxiety and fear often make us want to hide away but we become stronger when we connect with other people and maintain a sense of community. Connect, reach out, find ways to stay in contact with other people.
- If you’re at home (with or without family), maintain or establish daily routines. It can be tempting to sit in front of the television all day and fixate on all of the awful things happening across the world but this will not help.
- Find ways to exercise (online videos/classes) and eat healthily. Think of activities that you enjoy. Be creative.
- Get some fresh air and time outside if possible. Look at the sky, listen to the birds, connect with nature.
- Talk to other people as much as possible. Share your fears and anxieties. Combat feelings of loneliness by talking to other people – in person, on the telephone, online.
- If you feel overwhelmed with anxiety then find ways to calm down – a bath, breathing exercises, meditation, some relaxing music. Utilise the strategies and strengths you have already.
- Be KIND to yourself. It is understandable you feel anxious, lonely, depressed. This is a really uncertain and difficult time.
- Remember that this period is finite, it will pass and “normal” life will resume again.
https://www.copingwithcoronavirus.co.uk/index.html - A selection of self-help guides based on well-evidenced psychological models and specific to the Coronavirus pandemic, so take into account impact of lockdown and self-isolation.
A Useful Resource
compiled by CWP Wirral Adult Psychology Service in Collaboration with Lived Experience volunteers covers:
- How we might be effected emotionally by coronavirus
- How we can try to manage our worry
- Grounding exercise
- Managing Coronavirus anxiety
- Coping with Stress during the out break
- Daily Planner
- Understanding Anxiety
There is also a version for Wirral residents with specific local information
Coronavirus – Emotional Reactions - What’s a “Normal” Response?
The below information came from a document produced by Georgiana Clifford at the London trauma Centre. https://londontraumaspecialists.com/about/
A world-wide pandemic of this scale & magnitude is not something most of us will have experienced or encountered in the past. Faced with this degree of change & uncertainty, it’s normal to feel anxious, shocked& confused.
It wasn’t very long ago that our lives were going on as normal, with bars and restaurants open, our children going to school every day. Even when we became aware that coronavirus had affected other countries, it is normal that we assumed it would not affect us in this way.
Why do I feel so anxious?
Faced with this degree of change and uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxious, shocked and confused. Most of us have no idea how long this will go on and what the future will hold. And when we feel anxious already, it’s so easy to catastrophise; to imagine the worst-case scenarios.
The news is full of incredibly distressing images & accounts of people unwell & dying, people losing their loved ones, images of empty streets & people in masks. Some of it feels otherworldly, unreal and frightening, it can be traumatic and can result in a ‘Fight, flight, freeze’ response resulting in feelings of extreme anxiety & panic.
Why do I feel so sad?
Everything has changed so suddenly & so dramatically that we are experiencing a huge sense of loss. For some of us, loss of our jobs, our businesses, our leisure activities, contact with our friends & family, our freedom to travel, to go out and do as we please, loss of our daily routines & our children’s last weeks & months at school.
Loss of this magnitude and all at once takes a long time to adjust to. In the meantime, it’s normal to experience a number of different emotions, which can change rapidly throughout the day. Even if we haven’t been directly affected by the virus, haven’t lost loved ones, it is normal to be experiencing a grief response. Though our reaction is unlikely to be linear and predictable, our mood and emotions will go up and down depending on what we experience, and how we react to our experiences.
Why do I feel so angry?
Anger is a common response to threat & loss. Sometimes, often without realising it, it’s easier for us to be angry than to feel sad & vulnerable. We can lash out at those around us & defend against our feelings of anxiety & vulnerability. We often get angry when we feel we cannot control the things occurring around us. Anger can push people away & make relationships more difficult, commonly resulting in feelings of loneliness & isolation.
What Might Help?
- Identifying how you are feeling & talking about it as much as possible or, if that’s too difficult, writing it down.
- Knowing that how you are feeling now will pass. That even if the changes & the loss you are experiencing continue longer term, you will find new strategies to manage & adapt, you will develop new ways of feeling.
- Remembering that we can find strength & comfort in the kindness of others and, in times like this, it is common for people to reach out & help one another.
- Being kind to yourself & making sure that you stay mindful of what you have achieved each day in the simplest of ways.
- Remembering that we humans are incredibly resilient & even when faced with the greatest atrocities, we find ways to cope & develop a “new normal.”
Building your wellbeing and helping you cope
If you or someone you know is struggling with this very challenging situation we are all in, please keep reading for ways to feel a bit calmer and ideas to help you cope.
Improve your sleep
Feelings of uncertainty and changes to daily life may mean you have more difficulty sleeping.
There is a lot you can do to improve your sleep. Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even at the weekend if you can, and try to get some natural sunlight (by opening your curtains and windows) where possible. This helps to regulate your body clock which can help you sleep better.
Alternatively you could aim to stop worrying about sleep or trying so hard to sleep!
The sleep school offer an ACT approach to Insomnia or struggles with sleep. https://thesleepschool.org/
Acceptance, Compassion & Mindfulness
Acceptance, Compassion & Mindfulness are all useful ways of responding to difficult situations, thoughts and feelings that we perhaps can’t change. They offer ways of coping or responding which enable us to do what is effective, fits with our values and is kind to ourselves and others. For that reason the resources and ideas suggested below link mostly to ACT (acceptance & commitment Therapy) & Mindfulness (paying attention in the here & now without judgment). That is not to say other things won’t be useful but this is one shortlist!
Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide is a stress management guide for coping with adversity.
The guide aims to equip people with practical skills to help cope with stress. The below link takes you to a website where you can down load the-book and also several audio exercises. Based on Acceptance & Commitment therapy
Living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty
The ACT Approach to Handling Anxiety Like a Human Being
This article gives a good overview of ACT and has some additional links too.
ACT Companion: The Happiness Trap App
available free of charge until the end of June. Just download the app from the Apple app store or Google Play store and then enter the code TOGETHER on the subscription page to unlock all the app content for three months. The code is valid until the end of June.
NB: Unfortunately the app is not compatible with the latest version of Android, so may not be supported on some newer Android devices.
A Good ACT resource: FACE COVID © Russ Harris, 2020
Based on ACT and developed by Russ Harris FACE COVID is an acronym to guide you in looking after yourself when faced with coronavirus. Here is a quick summary but more detail can be found in the links below.
F = Focus on what’s in your control
A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings
C = Come back into your body by breathing, stretching or pushing your feet in to the floor
E = Engage in what you’re doing e.g. notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can taste and 1 thing you can touch.
C = Committed action – take actions that are effective and take you towards what’s important to you.
O = Opening up - make room for difficult feelings & be kind to yourself
V = Values Be guided by what’s important to you
I = Identify resources and people for help, support, assistance and advice.
D = Disinfect & physically distance – wash your hands!
& a Video version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmvNCdpHUYM
FACE COVID For Children
On this website there is a version adapted for children
Mindfulness & Audio
The Free Mindfulness Project
The outbreak of coronavirus and subsequent classification as a pandemic has led to significant changes for many of us across the world. We are reducing our social contacts with others, but also having to adapt to challenging circumstances in terms of our work, home life or financial situation.
Many mindfulness organisations and individual teachers are exploring ways to provide free access to mindfulness. The Free Mindfulness Project aims to map these free mindfulness-related resources and to list them here for easy access. http://www.freemindfulness.org/covid19
The Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Is offering weekly online mindfulness sessions, open to those who feel they would benefit. These sessions are completely free and open to the general public, meaning you do not need prior mindfulness experience or practice to take part. Each session will also be available as a free podcast shortly after for anyone who missed the live session or wishes to practice again.
Free Audio recordings for mindfulness and grounding
Guided Meditations and Exercises with a Compassion Focus
Positive Psychology Crisis Kit
This Crisis Kit was developed to help practitioners help their clients through tough times like these.
It contains five of tools from Positive Psychology Toolkit that can be used to help clients:
■ use their mental resources well
■ connect to a place of inner peace
■ become aware of factors within and beyond personal control
■ practice acceptance-based coping
■ remain calm and composed in the face of stress
These tools are all based on scientific research and you will find the references included. They’re also developed to be highly practical and can be applied in many different therapeutic settings.
The exercises are:
- Eye of the Hurricane Meditation
- Dealing With Uncontrollable Circumstances
- The Unwanted Guest
- Window of Tolerance
- My Resilience Plan (The Four S’s)
Although designed for practitioners to use with clients many clients will be able to work through them independently.
Resources for Children & Young People: Talking about Covid-19 & Reducing Worry
Talk to Children & Young People about Covid-19
Tips for parents and carers include:
- Stress and anxiety in such an unusual and unpredictable situation is normal.
- Be mindful of the delicate balance between reducing any anxiety & getting them to follow the guidance to prevent infection (let’s face it happy birthday is boring the 99th time, especially when you have a game to get back to!).
- Children can sometimes believe that they are responsible for events that are beyond their control – reassure them that it is the adults’ job to keep them safe.
- Friendships are key to maintaining resilience for children, so help them to maintain these relationships through phone calls, online communication, and writing letters.
- Having a routine and structure helps children to feel secure in uncertain times.
- Restrict access to rolling news coverage.
- Play is fundamental to the wellbeing and development of children of all ages, and a great way to reduce stress in adults.
The following has been copied this from a BPS post by Dr Roman Raczka, DCP England Lead:
There is some specific info for children and young people, children perceive risk differently and do not know how worried to be; many of them are very worried and have been since the start of the outbreak, and are also very worried about their grandparents and any family or friends with underlying health conditions. Parents are going to have a key role in helping their children understand what is going on, providing information and reassurance, limiting media overload for their children, and being aware of how their own reactions might impact on their children.
The following links may be useful:
Thinking about 0-3 year olds: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/3210-tips-for-families-coronavirus
BBC newshound video from Dr Chris and Dr Xand from Operation Ouch
https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/51861089 (this is fabulous and very accessible - Operation Ouch is by far the best programme on telly, in my opinion!)
Unicef guidance for parents: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-talk-your-child-about-coronavirus-covid-19
Social story idea for children https://theautismeducator.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/The-Corona-Virus-Free-Printable-.pdf and a comic for children about corona virus https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus
Emerging Minds Australia about talking to children about worrying events https://vimeo.com/394049129
BPS Has also released this Guidance on talking to children
For Gruffalo Fans: Free information book explaining the coronavirus to children
Gruffalo illustrator, Axel Scheffler, has illustrated a digital book for primary school age children, free for anyone to read on screen or print out, about the coronavirus and the measures taken to control it. The book has had expert advice & input from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, two head teachers and a child psychologist. https://nosycrow.com/blog/released-today-free-information-book-explaining-coronavirus-children-illustrated-gruffalo-illustrator-axel-scheffler/
The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds:
- What is the coronavirus & How do you catch it?
- What happens if you catch the coronavirus?
- Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus?
- Is there a cure for the coronavirus?
- Why are some places we normally go to closed?
- What can I do to help?
- What’s going to happen next?
If you are struggling with how to talk to you children about this ‘new normal’ you may find these helpful:
Tips to share with children to help them cope with the new normal...
...and getting through lockdown together with teenagers
Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus- This came from US National Public Radio. It was recorded end of February so be aware latest guidance may change.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With COVID-19
Cheshire & Wirral Starting Well- Wellbeing Information
The Cheshire & Wirral Starting Well website Provides a range of information on health and wellbeing, guiding you to extra support if you need it.
Resources for Children with Special Educational Needs
We are living in very uncertain times, but we have put some COVID-19 SEND specific downloads on this page that we hope are helpful.
If you are supporting a person or child with an Autistic spectrum condition or have ASC yourself you may find these resources from the National Autistic Society helpful:
Autism NI also have a range of resources for supporting For Children & adults
Coping with Family Conflict or Violence
Women’s Aid has issued safety advice for women isolating in abusive households during the coronavirus lockdown. They know that COVID-19 will have serious impacts on the lives of women and children and that people are feeling unsafe with the prospect of being isolated in the house with their perpetrator. Women’s Aid want to reassure survivors and local specialist services that they are here for you and will be doing everything they can to support you during this challenging time.
If you are in this situation Familiarise yourself with The Silent Solution system. This is a system for victims of domestic abuse who might be afraid of further danger and escalation of harm if they are overheard when calling 999 in an emergency.
When somebody calls 999, an operator will ask which emergency service is required. If the caller is unable to audibly signal to the operator, the call will be forwarded to an operating system.
If 55 is pressed by the caller, the system will detect this. The operator will then transfer the call to the relevant police force as an emergency. Click here to find out more.
National helplines, email, text and live chat support services, and local specialist services, are currently open for business as usual, although their delivery is likely to have to adapt over the coming weeks.
Anyone who requires help or support can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline which is open 24/7 365 days per year on 0808 2000 247 or via their website www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk
Free Confidential Housing Information and Support
The charity Shelter also provides free confidential housing information, support and legal advice on all housing and homelessness issues.