Struggling with Covid anxiety?
For quite some time, we were all told to stay at home or risk possible death - of ourselves or our loved ones. Maybe not in so many words, but that was the underlying message.
I may be a therapist specialising in anxiety, but I still found myself cleaning my shopping during the first wave and watching every news bulletin. OK, I stopped once I realised it was making me feel worse, but a few months ago my husband came in and I was wiping over some packets. "Back to doing that again eh?" he said - "hmmm", I replied, "I must be worried about something", and that was enough for me to snap out of it.
When we find ourselves reacting differently to things we'd usually be fine with, I call this the anxiety radar and it will ping when anything crosses its path if you're already in a more heightened state.
Our brains have a brilliant survival mechanism for life threatening emergencies, it's called the limbic system and it has a kind of primal fire alarm, the amygdala, which when set off, takes over our whole mind and body. It's fantastic at making us run away from danger, play dead to avoid detection, or fight for our lives.
This awesome survival technique keeps us alive by kicking in without conscious thought - it's automatic, like a smoke alarm. Great for surviving, annoying when it's just burnt toast! The thing is we don't get a say in when it goes off. There's no time for rational thoughts, we just FREEZE! or ruuuuuuuuun! or the red mist descends and we can fight with an aggression and strength we didn't know we possessed! Which is precisely why it works so well.
But as wonderful as this response is, it also has its downsides. The response you have can be turned into an instinctive reaction, so the survival anxiety kicks in when we really don't need it. Great for our ancestors legging it every time something stripey moved in the long grass, not so great when we're vaccinated, can test and manage the risks around Covid - then it just stops you from connecting and can trap you in a state of anxiety at home.
My point is this: If you're still struggling, be gentle with yourself - we have all been through a horrendously anxious time recently and it's not that long ago that we weren't allowed out of our homes. With time, we will heal, but we're individuals with varying sensitivity levels to anxiety and not everyone copes in the same way, or at the same speed.
I firmly believe that you can feel better and manage anxious times well with the right support. Give yourself time and remember you are definitely not the only one! More and more clients are telling me this is causing issues with friends, loved ones, colleagues and peers being at different points regarding Covid.
A final thought: Our ancestors with the best survival responses were the ones who survived. Maybe we need to understand and learn how to manage unhelpful anxiety, rather than trying to eliminate or ignore it completely.
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