Anxiety in Lockdown
I was chatting with a fellow therapist friend this week. He was maligning the fact that he had been thrown out of a Facebook group for people suffering from anxiety for daring to - shock horror - offer advice on dealing with anxiety. He was frustrated, and rightly so. He cared, and he wanted to help.
I reminded him that, much as we would like to, we cannot help everyone. People have to REALLY want to help themselves - they have to be ‘at threshold’. In other words - they have reached the point where they simply cannot imagine going on in their current circumstances without significant change happening; they are desperate.
My words came back to me this morning, when I too was on the receiving end of a similar situation in a Facebook group that I have been a member of for many years. I gently offered a different perspective on how we can choose to view the future, how we can focus on what we can change in the present and how we can feel happier and healthier as a result. I was wholeheartedly slapped down as “viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses” and not considering what a horrible time some families were having. Didn’t I know how hard it was for some of them?
Now these are not bad people; they are just people who are so entrenched in their circumstances, thoughts and feelings that they feel affronted by the mere idea that there could be another perspective, another way of being. They understandably feel anger towards the world, the government, the virus and anyone who shows the remotest glint of positivity.
Our current situation with the coronavirus pandemic has inevitably led to a whole host of anxieties rearing their ugly heads - we are living in close proximity with our family members 24/7, working from home, home schooling our children, worrying about loved ones near and far, fearful for our jobs and the economy and the future. And in addition to this, we may find that memories or situations that we thought were long forgotten and buried suddenly make a reappearance in our lives for no obvious reason.
This is because our amygdala - the most primitive, lizard part of our brain (the one that stimulates our fight or flight response) is constantly scanning for potential dangers - constantly pattern-matching against previous experiences. If it senses danger it can cause old, protective behavioural patterns to kick in. These could show up as a range of emotions or behaviours such anxiety, compulsions, anger, withdrawal, extroversion, loss of sleep … it’s our unconscious mind’s way of telling us to beware.
In our household we have had our own ups and downs during lockdown. My husband would be the first to admit that this situation has been a huge trigger for his depression and anxiety; the kids have been argumentative, demotivated and apathetic about pretty much everything; I have been juggling my day job, schooling and my own therapy training and business. It’s not easy for any of us, and each household around the world has been dealing with its own unique set of personal challenges. But we will get through this; in a year or two we will be looking back at this time and reflecting on how things have changed. And I do believe there are many positive changes that will come out of this situation, so I choose to focus on those rather than speculating about what the future may or may not be.
But what can we do to fend off anxious feelings? And let's face it, we all have them!
Well, it’s a case of finding what works best for YOU as an individual. In my next post I’ll be sharing some of the things that you can put into practice immediately to make a short term and long term difference to your emotional health.