Managing Covid Anxiety In The Age Of Omicron

As the cold weather sets in, memories of endless summer nights spent frolicking on Port Erin beach have given way to dark mornings, gale force winds and horizontal rain. 

Many of us will turn to social media and box sets to keep our minds off the bad news cycle – but is that always the best thing for our wellbeing? Here are some tried-and-tested tips to help you navigate uncertain times and develop good habits that will enable you to manage anxieties this festive season.

Log off

Many of us battle with the desire to stay informed without drowning under a tidal wave of bad news. While it’s valuable to stay connected to your friends and family through social media, it can be overwhelming to be faced with a constant stream of updates, opinions and “opinions.”

Dr Beth Godwin, a clinical psychologist at Island Psychology, says: ‘Some people may feel better keeping informed about the situation by watching the news, whilst others may find this detrimental to their mental health and need to limit how much they hear or read about the pandemic. Identify the people around you that you can turn to for help, support and advice.’

Consider turning off phone notifications and expanding your ‘do not disturb’ parameters to give your brain a break during hours of rest.

Love yourself

Emma Blackburn, a fully qualified personal trainer and mindfulness coach, begins each day by writing three things she is grateful for into a journal, which sets her up for a good day.

She says: ‘I also think it’s super important to perform self affirmations, which involves repeating nice things back to yourself. For example, saying ‘I am doing my best/I am strong/I am grateful for all that I have.’ I recommend doing this while looking at yourself in the mirror. Performing self affirmation increases positivity and self love! We often forget to be nice to ourselves.’

Get outside (or get in the sea)

If your workplace implements a WFH policy, the temptation to stay indoors for the whole day should be resisted. As we head towards midwinter, the Isle of Man will only see around 4-5 hours of daylight, so getting that sweet vit D is vital. The health benefits of even a short, brisk walk are well documented.

For anyone looking for a slightly more hardcore hobby or New Year’s resolution, Emma Blackburn recommends taking up cold water swimming: ‘Get yourself in the sea!* You can thank me later.’

*Check out local Wild Swimming groups to do this safely – never go out into the sea alone!

Don’t stress about what you can’t change

It’s easy to fixate on issues and events that, realistically, you have no control over. This is a difficult habit to break, but Dr Godwin recommends focusing on positively reframing our responses to situations, and identifying ‘what we want our daily routine to look like, how we act like the person we want to be, and how we want to be kind to ourselves.’

She continues: ‘Throughout the pandemic we have been unable to predict what restrictions will be in place and when – you can make plans, but you also may have to consider the possibility that these plans may not go ahead for reasons outside our control. Think about a Plan B that you would also look forward to if Plan A is affected by restrictions. And maybe even a Plan C! This allows your brain to be flexible and to consider the possibility of changing the plan and managing disappointment.’’

Ask for help

Sometimes, ‘quick fixes’ won’t go far enough, and you may need to reach out to your GP or a counselling service to discuss a suitable treatment plan. The pandemic is affecting everyone in different ways, and it’s vital to seek help if your mental health is affecting your day-to-day life.

Dr Godwin says: ‘We are all dealing with these uncertain times in the best way possible. If you are struggling, remember we are not designed to cope well with this situation and struggles are all part of being human. You are not alone. Be kind to yourself.’

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