Managing anxiety, worry and stress around Coronavirus

Hello everyone! Today’s post is obviously connected to finance through what is happening in the wider markets, but this is a little more off piste than the usual financial posts on here as to discuss some of the stress and anxiety around COVID-19.

The present world has thrown up a lot of uncertainty out there, and with a constant stream of 24 hour news dripping in it can be somewhat overwhelming.

Personally I consider myself a calm person, and people around me would generally say the same. Over the last couple of weeks my approach to the virus had generally been feeling relaxed and joking on the virus, and not been too bothered by it.

I’ve had some previous issues with stress and anxiety when I was too focused on work and frankly not living a very healthy lifestyle in general, but generally have been able to manage it well since.

So it was a real surprise to find on Monday that a constant feeling of over stress and worry connected to the present situation suddenly hit me. It was the moment the markets fell and seeing supermarket shelves empty, and the enormity of the situation hit. It’s that old chestnut of worrying about a situation that I can do very little about, which really isn’t helpful.

It’s helpful that I’m able to at least recognise it for what it is and start to take appropriate action to manage it, and I know that since I stepped up the self-care I’ve been feeling generally better about things.

I wanted to write a guide today as I’m sure I’m not the only one going through this experience right now and wanted to note a few things I do which have really helped. By and large it’s amazing how all the classic advice of keeping active and eating your greens can do so much for you!

Exercise:

I’d honestly put this one at the top of the list. It’s difficult to start off if you’re not a regular exerciser and put it in a “too hard” / “not for me” bucket. The key is to find something you really enjoy so it can become a habit more easily, which can take some experimentation.

It works because as well as you looking good, exercise promotes the release of serotonin in the brain, leaving you feeling mentally healthier as when as physically.

It really does do wonders for your mind and self-esteem. Personally, getting in the swimming pool and having a good hard session in there is my method of choice – once I get into my rhythm, I find it immensely relaxing even when going at full pelt!

If you’re nervous about going to the gym or pool in the present environment there are some fantastic exercises you can do at home and Youtube can be a good source of instructional videos.

Yoga can be of particular benefit, as it conditions you to do breathing exercises whilst you’re working, which can relax the mind. Personally I really like Yoga with Adriene – she has a lovely friendly style and there are plenty of videos aimed at the beginner yogi.

Sleep:

Another classic, but it really does make a difference. We don’t really fully understand why we sleep, but the body and brain feel so much more relaxed when you get a good night’s 40 winks!

The nasty little trap is that when you’re affected by worry and stress, the very thing that can heal you becomes more elusive as it can become harder to sleep.

If this is the case, I recommend making a point of going to bed a little earlier than you feel you need to. Shut off all screens and just spend some time enjoying the comfort of bed and relaxing and reading a book. Avoid your phone or screens, as these can stimulate the more active parts of your brain.

You might consider lighting a candle or playing some very light music to aid the sense of relaxing, or doing some meditation right before bed. And on that point…..

Mediation

I was very, very sceptical of meditation. I thought it was something slightly hippy, out there and a bit full of mystical rubbish that left it very much “not for me.”

Then during a stressful period I tried out Headspace which has become one of the more popular meditation apps. The approach taken isn’t “woo-woo” at all and focused on recognising what’s going on in your mind and focusing on the breath in a matter than calms your heart rate and the central nervous system, reducing stress. I can honestly say that to my great surprise it really helped.

Person meditating on a late

There are other alternatives out there. I’ve never used but heard great things about Calm. I subscribe to Headspace as I find it useful (you can still try it out for free), but there’s an app called Insight Timer that also has a number of free meditations (although the tradeoff is that the interface of the app is harder to use and it contains more of a variance of meditative approaches and techniques, which could be a positive or a negative!)

Limiting news consumption

Part of what I know has made me feel anxious and stressed recently in the constant stream of bad news coming in, and 24-hour rolling news does not really help this. It also becomes slightly addictive to check it which isn’t healthy behaviour!

I need to do some degree of news monitoring for my work, but I’ve made a conscious effect to step back from the news stream and only check in occasionally, which has helped a lot.

Eat Well:

One thing that seems completely unconnected to your mental health but actually makes a huge difference is to focus on healthy eating. This can be actually more difficult as points of stress, as our body’s fight-or-flight systems activating can make you want to build up food stores in anticipating of building up energy and needing to take evasive action.

However by eating healthily and making sure that you get your fruit and vegetable consumption in your body really does feel the benefits. A difference in energy levels is the main thing you notice (over time!) which can help if you’re been feeling a bit depleted by worrying about stuff.

It’ll also leave you looking and feeling better in general and more resistant! Whole fruits and vegetables are always best, but smoothies (preferably home made) can be a good source for extra nutrition.

Stay Positive:

This can be difficult in the present environment, but it’s amazing how less insurmountable problems can see when you adapt a positive mental attitude toward it, and think about how you can adapt and overcome.

If this doesn’t come naturally, there are some resources you can use to change your thinking, using the less-scary-than-the-name-sounds approach of cognitive behavioural therapy.

If you take in information best via reading, I really liked “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns, who’s research influenced a lot of the modern way Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is approached.

If you’re more of a small and often type learner, I’m a huge fan of the app called Woebot. It’s essentially a chatbot that asks you about your day – far less strange that it sounds and balances things out nicely with lots of humour and terrible puns whilst teaching you good resilience techniques. It’s free and I’m a huge advocate having found it immensely helpful.

Official advice:

The NHS has some good resources here for managing anxiety – if your symptoms become severe, do consult your GP.

Community Tips:

The Financial Wilderness is a member of the UK Money Bloggers community, a wonderful group of people who work together on our collective blogs and I very much recommend checking out some great other writing.

I asked the community if they had any other good recommendations, and they came back with some great responses:

Naomi from Skint Chef suggested the importance of continuing to socialise regularly. This can be done with Facetime or Zoom if you need to self-isolate, but still brings that sense of connection that can place us at ease. You can even both have a drink if your usual Friday night is one in the pub!

Jo from Young, Fun and Thrifty suggests a more project-management based approach. She suggests taking specific time to worry, thinking through the scenarios you are faced with how you could response. By having a contingency plan, you can mitigate the risk and feel less anxious.

Zoe from Eco Thrifty Living notes the range of places available to get goods if local stores have run out and to consider alternatives like zero waste shops, or the Olio app where people give away things they don’t use. She also highlights making sure that you avoid unnecessary food waste when buying things in, a message I welcome wholeheartedly.

Vicky from ThriftyMum has been making the most of needing to speak extra time to look after her parents and children, and found pleasure in the simply joy or doing simple and cheap things like baking, reading and street go karting(!) with them has been relaxing it self.

On the more financial side, Sara at Debt Camel has written a fantastic article on actions to take if you’re facing hardship or likely to see a drop in income through your circumstances changes as a result of Coronavirus.

Do you have any others you’re like to share? Make sure you comment below if so and we’d love to feature them in the article!

I want to end this post on a positive note. This can feel big, but the world’s best medical experts are providing guidance on the best ways of stopping this and limiting the damage. Efforts are being directed to a vaccine. In the short term, life may change a little and be scary, but there is absolutely nothing to date that humanity has not yet been able to overcome.

Above all, I hope whatever your circumstances, this most has been helpful to you!

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