An Anxious Person's Worst Nightmare
Imagine not being able to leave your house all day. Imagine constantly being worried about other people, either your friends and families well-being, or worried about 'the others' (as I have no began to describe other living people I see out my window). Imagine being lethargic all the time, not working or working from home.
Sounds familiar right?
Yes, this is exactly what is happening to each and every one of us at the moment, but this is also a lot what anxiety is like to deal with on a daily basis.
What I'm trying to say is, the virus is hitting people with anxiety hard. Really hard. Myself included.
Yes, there are people who are hit a lot harder- those in the NHS working their bloody arses off right now to keep our country safe, those in supermarkets, working to keep us fed. those in the emergency services keeping us alive. Everyone out there, risking their lives to protect the nation. And I can't express how proud I am at this moment of our little nation. We may not be keeping clam and carrying on, but by golly, we are coping. On the outside, it may be.
The news is incredible at the moment- literally something out of a horror story. Walking down the street feels like I'm in 28 Days Later, where the only other people I see are in the queue for Waitrose. It feels so strange, like we're all living in a collective bad dream. And, it seems it may go on for a while. With the gov announcing they are extending their furlough scheme until June at the earliest and the lockdown continuing for at least 3 weeks more, it seems at this point all of this will never come to an end. Ever.
But, it will. In a few months time, we will all be going out and getting smashed with friends we haven't seen in ages, remembering that crazy quarantine time.
Still, it can be hard to see that at the moment, and I really understand why. With social media bombarding you with bad news, it's easy to see why something like Captain Tom's achievement could take off and become so viral and raise the sheer amount of money it has (literally staggering). People in these times are crying out for some story of hope, of good news to raise their good spirits.
They're also crying out for a sense of community and together-ness, which is why clap for the NHS is such a great thing. It brings us together and reminds us of not only what to be proud and grateful of in these times but also reminds us that there are other people still out there, and everyone is likely feeling the same.
It's a scary time, there is no denying that, and for someone with anxiety, of which a major symptom can be over-worrying and imagining the worst outcome for every scenario, it can seem like this will never end, that the apocalypse is upon us and we're all doomed. But, we're not. We're fighting this- with every squirt of anti-bac gel, every side step taken to avoid a stranger, every nurse and doctor on the front line, every carton of toilet paper unpacked on a supermarket shelf, we are fighting it.
And, while it spreads further in countries like America, where the peak is yet to hit, it's also so, so important not to loose your sense of self. Without your daily routine (which, for me, seemed so monotonous before but I'm really, really missing), work, colleagues, gym, friends, cinemas, shops, bars etc.. it's easy to forget just who you are and for me, hanging onto that with every inch of my life is what is helping me keep sane. I'm not entirely, there are days where I don't sleep, days where I sleep for 18 hours, days where I don't move and days where I'm jittery, but still, it helps.
Remember who you are- what did you enjoy doing before this? Was it going to the gym and exercising? I pulled out my yoga mat and now (try to) exercise for an hour everyday using youtube videos. I still listen to my favourite podcasts and even make a conscious effort to get up, shower and get ready each morning because it just means that I feel like me again. Speaking to my friends on house party or Zoom allows me to be sociable and speak to someone other than P (despite the fact I love him and he loves me, and we've only had the minor-est of squabbles since being in our own little version of Big Brother for the past 7 weeks, it is nice to talk to someone else too).
When it comes to sleep, again it's important to keep your routines. We still go to sleep at regular time most nights, around 11-12ish, and still wake up usual time because P works from home, but for me the hardest thing was to not nap during the day as it really fucks up the rest of your sleeping pattern for the next 24 hours, making it hard to sleep in the evening which can have effects on your energy the next day and so on... When you've been lolling on the sofa like I have recently, basking in the afternoon sun like a cat, it's so easy to just drift off... but no! I've found that switching up my schedule and exercising after lunch instead of before really helps me avoid this.
Anxiety and sleep can really affect each other too- when you're anxious, it's impossible to sleep because all you do is worry and panic (too easy to do in this time) and when you can't sleep it makes you anxious (especially me, extra especially when I have work the next morning). So, when you have a healthy sleep schedule, it does help slightly.
Overall, it's an incredibly hard and trying time for all of us. This is something that we will be telling our kids and grandkids about, it's a major historical event. It's important to remember that this too shall pass, and will one day be a distant memory. It can feel, being stuck in the same three rooms for weeks on end, like drowning in mud- the air feels thick and your mind is racing with nightmare scenarios.
But, you are not alone. Anxiety is a mental health condition, a real condition, and at the moment it is flaring up in a lot of people because of the virus. Get the help you need, reach out and make a phone call. Tell someone, be it a loved one or a professional, that you are not feeling okay. Because it's bloody tough at the moment, and despite how strong we are for coping with this- especially with a mental health condition, it's okay to ask for help.
PS. I'm interested to know how you have all been coping with your mental health in this time. What are your strategies?