The Circle Line

How to Deal with Anxiety

Feeling anxious in these strange times?

We are often fearful; it’s a very common emotion. Whether it’s creeping unease, daily anxiety or deep terror – fear is elemental. We can’t do without it completely for sometimes it protects us and helps us survive.

But amidst the Covid chaos it’s easy for anxiety to become overwhelming.

Fear of the unknown

Anxiety often centres around uncertainly, our fear of the future. And in times likes now, with Covid chaos around us, anxiety can hit even the calmest amongst us.

What if I catch Covid? Will I get very ill? Will my family get sick? How will I keep working? How long will I be isolated? When will I next see the “high-risk category” people in my life?

Anxiety may be familiar to you. If you often feel anxious, the Covid situation is likely fuelling it. Some of our most powerful fears are the deep hidden ones, the ones we don’t even know are lurking, like fear of being alone or fear of depending on others, and if these have become a habit, something like Covid can make it harder to cope – but it’s certainly possible.

Anxiety is normal

All fears are of course totally normal. Anxiety is something we all have to go through at some point. But the Covid virus doesn’t help.

If we don’t acknowledge and begin to do something to address our ongoing anxiety it’s bad for our mental and physical health, and ultimately can downward spiral to depression and victimhood:

Anxiety can be conquered

Take a look at this film, Ten Meter Tower, capturing fear in various guises – it’s hilarious. And moving, fascinating, and inspiring. Here’s what’s great about it: in all its real, human, empathic jubilance it proves to us that fear can be conquered.

In this film, the fear is of the height, of jumping. Sometimes it’s not so obvious to us what we’re really scared of. But it’s important to try to identify our fears as once we’ve acknowledged what it is that we’re really anxious about, and say it out loud — then often we find it’s power lessening, and we have more control over it and choice in how to deal with it.

“When we voice our fear, its power lessens”

Whatever our method, Ten Meter Tower shows how time and time again in all their different ways, humans conquer their fears.

Stemming the flow of anxiety

Like in this film, conquering our fear involves some kind of first step – a small first step that forms a leap of spirit, of bravery, that proves to ourselves that we can do it, that we are and will be OK — and the first step is simply acknowledging and speaking about our fear first.

Get talking

That’s half the battle won.

A well-known coping technique that can be useful in the immediate short-term is “Apple”:

ACKNOWLEDGE – Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

PAUSE – Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Just pause, and breathe.

PULL BACK – Tell yourself this is just the anxiety or depression talking, and this thought or feeling is ONLY A THOUGHT OR FEELING.  Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements of fact.

LET GO – Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them.  You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

EXPLORE the present moment – because right now, in this moment, all is well.  Notice your breathing, and the sensations of breathing.  Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell.  Right now.  Then, shift your attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

Keeping anxiety at bay

In the slightly longer term and for recurrent anxiety, here are our 7 steps to getting closer to calm:

  1. Focus only on right now: Breathe. Look and think about only what is in front of you right now, in the present moment. Notice your breathing. Wiggle your toes. Look around you – what do you see, what do you hear, what are you touching, what can you smell?  Right now. Roll and drop your shoulders. Because right now in this moment, all is well. Breathe.
  2. Recognise when anxiety is controlling you. Some examples are: silence; putting something off; withdrawal; ignoring someone or something; always making a joke (often a good avoidance tactic); making excuses (“not now”, “not me” etc). It’s ok if you need to do this for now, just acknowledge that you are doing it, helping to bring more awareness to your emotions and the reasons for them.
  3. List all the reasons ‘why’. Why are you anxious, what are you afraid of? There are probably several reasons. Getting ill. People you care about getting ill. Your livelihood perhaps. Then next to each one list all the reasons why such extreme worry may be unfounded right now: the NHS are great, we have a plan, you are healthy etc.
  4. Action plan: What can you do now about the things you are afraid of? What’s the worst that you can imagine happening and how would you cope if it did? Because you will cope. List all the ways you can handle it now and would do so in future.
  5. Start small: take one tiny action in the direction you want to go in. If you are watching the news 24/7 cut down to watching say every 2 hours. If you are unnecessarily calling your loved ones every hour in fear that something might’ve happened, cut down to say twice a day. Start small.
  6. Talk to a therapist: this helps with all of the above. It can be very difficult to deal with our anxiety, and perhaps to see what else is underlying it, on our own. And we all need support through the tough things in life – which is a brave thing to do and take responsibility for.

Find your therapist

These are uncertain times, and uncertainty is uncomfortable. But there is support out there and you have calm inside you; together we will get through this.

More from Self Help Tools

The Circle Line is launching soon! Sign up now and we'll be in touch when we're fully working