Managing Anxiety & Fear

The whole world is fearful at the moment. No one is immune from the epidemic of fear any more than the Coronavirus pandemic. Even as a therapist, I struggle to withstand the emotional impact of the spread of Covid-19. I feel more emotional and hold more tension than I usually do. Some of us will control our fear by pretending it is not happening and denying or diminishing the threat. Some of us will try to control the uncontrollable by panic buying or obsessively reaching for antibacterial products. But none of us can protect ourselves fully from this scale of fear. Here are some strategies that help me to support myself and manage my fears:

Breathe : Slowly breathe out until you have completely emptied your lungs. Then let the in-breath do it’s own thing. Repeat at least 3 times. 

Ground yourself : Bring your energy down into your body from your head. Feel your feet on the floor. Feel your connection with the ground. If standing, unlock your knees. If sitting, feel the support of the chair, push your bottom right back into the chair and use the arm rests. Take full support from the chair. Breathe as above. 

Self Soothing: try the butterfly hug, wrap your arms around yourself then squeeze, stroke or pat your arms. 

Self-Reflection, allow time for self reflection by practicing meditation or journaling about your feelings. Use any extra time to follow some of your passions or learn a new skill.

Keep in contact remotely with as many people as you can to maintain a level of social connection.

What is Self Care?

The term self – care is used quite a lot these days but what does it mean? For many it means finding the right life- work balance. For me self -care starts with understanding my own needs and to do that I need to be able to tune into my body and listen to what it is telling me. Before I discovered Gestalt Psychotherapy back in 1998 I had no real understanding of my own needs beyond basic needs such as tiredness, hunger and thirst. My priorities were being a good student, a good employee, pleasing others and basically spending my time “doing” and keeping busy. I struggled to allow myself time to relax unless it happened to also please someone else. I pushed myself so hard that my body eventually fought back. I developed Fibromyalgia. Chronic pain and fatigue. My body said “ENOUGH!” I had no choice but to learn about self-care.

Which areas of our life does it cover?

Self-care is unique to everyone. It is not enough to say self -care is about learning to relax and take breaks from our busy lives it is more than that. It encompasses many areas of our lives such as:

  • Health and physical well being
  • Psychological well-being, self awareness and self reflection
  • Emotional well-being and self compassion
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Personal fulfilment, meeting our goals and desires
  • Professional / work well being

4 simple ways to increase your self-care:

  1. Start a “Happiness list” on your phone

This is a document where you start to list everything that makes you happy. Ranging from your favourite food or beverage or a soak in a bubble bath to rock climbing, water skiing, or planning a round the world trip. It should ideally include a whole range of price and time brackets so that there is always something you can do from your list no matter how short on time or money you are. The beauty of it is you can add to it anytime you find yourself laughing out loud or getting a warm glow.

2. Keep a journal

A journal is an excellent tool for self reflection and for getting to know yourself. It can also help sort out your priorities as you tap into your own inner wisdom.

3. Practice Self- awareness

Develop your self awareness of what exactly your needs are so that you can find ways of meeting them. It can also help you to recognise when your life is in balance and when you might be neglecting your needs and sliding towards depletion.

4. Find a retreat or join a group with others trying to do the same thing. Look here

Are you depleted?

In my opinion the biggest threat to mental health for this generation is depletion. Every person who walks through my door is suffering from depletion in one form or another. Regardless of what other issues a client is bringing to work on, this has to be worked on first.

What are the signs of depletion?

  • Tiredness
  • Irritability or a lack of patience
  • Low mood
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Reduced enjoyment of life
  • Increased reliance on alcohol, sugar, caffeine or drugs to keep you going

What are the causes of depletion?

The causes of depletion are everywhere we look. Here are some examples:

  • Work
  • Parenting/Grand-parenting
  • Caring for others
  • Body image
  • Social media
  • Relationship issues
  • Leisure time
  • Education or professional development

Look at the list, some of them will apply to you more than others but ultimately it is the quest for perfection that depletes us. It is worsened by the media-portrayed ideal which leaves us all feeling not enough. As a result, we all need to work harder to reach what we perceive to be, the level everyone else has already achieved. For some people the need to please is to prevent rejection. For some this can lead to profound levels of shame. When we experience shame we may believe that we are completely worthless, this can lead to destructive behaviours, such as  addictions and anger issues and a decline into depression and mental illness.

Every time we are doing something we “should”, be it chores, work or  pleasing others, we are depleting ourselves; and every time we do something which gives us joy and makes us feel alive, we are nourishing ourselves. The key is to get these outgoings and in-goings into balance. Most people spend all their time doing the “shoulds” and end up running on empty. By focusing on nourishing yourself you will make yourself more robust and you will cope better with unwanted or stressful life events.

What can I do about it?

The old airline analogy of the need to put on your own life jacket first is a good place to start. If you don’t start looking after yourself you won’t be any good to others. Make self -care a priority. You can do this by:

1. Blocking out times in your diary just for you,

2. Instead of filling your time with jobs on your to do list, put some fun or relaxing activities on there and check them off too,

3. Reading my blog on self-care.

Valentines Day

Research shows that couples in romantic relationships are happier and have higher self-esteem than passionate couples or relationships based on friendship. Romance isn’t about grand gestures on Valentines day it is about regular everyday kindness and thoughtfulness without expecting something in return. It is about everyday affection such as hugs and hand holding and saying “I love you”. Making time to sit down with each other and taking 15-30 minutes everyday, giving each other your complete attention when talking and listening.  Learning to express and take ownership of your own feelings so that you aren’t storing up your resentments such as “when you said or did this I felt hurt” instead of “you hurt me”.

Holding your feelings back for long periods of time can lead to health problems and a decreased ability to cope with stress. If you find you can’t talk without one or the other getting angry, put the conversation on hold for a while to let yourselves calm down and discuss it again later. If that doesn’t help you might benefit from couples counselling. Learn to recognise when you or your partner are letting off steam and the anger is aimed at the wrong person. If you are on the receiving end try to give the person space to calm down and let them know it is inappropriate later. If it is you misdirecting your anger, try to find other ways of discharging it. If you feel you are stuck in a rut, introduce some new activities into the relationship either together or separately both will bring a new dimension to the relationship.

Equally if your sex life is in a rut or you are experiencing problems, find a way to talk about it or introduce something new. Keep it lighthearted, laughing at yourselves is more likely to keep things relaxed rather than putting pressure on each other.

We are not the same person this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.

W. Somerset Maugham

Some people will read the above quote and be able to relate to it with many of todays relationship difficulties. Sometimes we need a person who is not so close to us to help recognise our relationship problems.

The way I work with couples counselling is by building on what you already know and by helping you to increase awareness of how you communicate and how you are in relation to the other. I encourage you to speak openly and help you to clarify any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the others perspective.

Valentine offer……..Take advantage of a free consultation available throughout February.

If you would like any further information I will be happy to speak to you.