Coping with anxiety during periods of stress
- 14 April 2020
- 10 mins
These are uncertain times.
Both our health and our wealth are under pressure.
Here are a few tips to help you cope with anxiety.
We are living in uncertain times. Some might even call these dark days. Within a few short weeks, the coronavirus has changed everything, and some of us are feeling understandably anxious.
Our health worries
What are we most anxious about? Well, there’s the immediate threat to our health and the health of our loved ones. Watching the reported death tolls on the TV every night, there is no hiding the fact that Covid-19 can claim not just those who are elderly and with health problems, it can overwhelm fit and healthy people, too.
We’re worried we might catch the virus when we queue at the supermarket or pass people on the street on our daily stroll, or take the bus to work if we are key workers or are employed by essential businesses.
Those who think they already have it are worried their symptoms will escalate. And now, there are people in our lives we can’t go and visit because we don’t want to risk infecting them.
Our money worries
The coronavirus hasn’t just made us anxious about health, it’s also caused severe anxiety about work and money. Almost every kind of investment, from pensions to ISAs, has fallen in value. Those in retirement could be facing lower incomesand for others retirement or other plans will probably be delayed. Meanwhile, those who can still work from home, are now isolated from colleagues and sources of support. Those who still have to go into work risk catching the virus from colleagues, customers and patients.
Employees who have been ‘furloughed’, are facing a drop in income and worry about having a job to go back to; and if they were hoping to draw on their savings they are also facing falling investment returns Business owners and the self-employed are concerned about when their incomes will pick up again. Some businesses may already have been damaged beyond repair.
Anxiety isn’t good for you
With all these very real worries, it’s easy to spiral into a state of anxiety, which can cause many physical problems  like panic attacks , headaches, irritability, heart palpitations, stomach upsets, extreme fatigue and raised blood pressure.
Anxiety can also lower your immune system and lead to damaging health habits such as an over-reliance on alcohol or comforting sugary and fatty snacks. One slice of cake or glass of wine might be help you to unwind, but in excess, sugar  and alcohol  can both contribute to increased anxiety.
Focus on what you can control
Try not to fixate on the things out of your control – such as rising infection numbers and the global response – instead it’s more useful to focus on the things you can control. For example, you can be mindful of not catching or spreading the virus, by regularly washing your hands and keeping food shopping trips to a minimum. If you’re worried about others, help them practically – order groceries for elderly relatives and keep in touch regularly.
If you’re entitled to payment breaks (such as for your mortgage or credit cards) make use of them. This should allow you to have more money in your account during these uncertain times. If you’re put on furlough, make sure you understand your furlough terms. Look up all the support available if you, or your business, face a struggle. Professional financial advice could also be useful (see below for more on this).
Movement can help
Just a little regular exercise – no need to slog through a circuits class – generally helps people feel better. It eases tension, gives the endorphins a boost, pumps energy levels and also promotes better sleep . Currently, those not in the high-risk group are allowed one exercise trip outside, so make that an invigorating walk, even a jog if you enjoy it. Or find something fun to do inside. There’s no end to what’s available online, from ballet to tai chi to yoga.
Take some time every day to do the things that you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be complicated. How about talking to a good friend, listening to music you love, or taking a relaxing bath? Re-watching a favourite film, getting lost in a good book, grooming the cat, rearranging your sock drawer, learning Icelandic – anything that takes you out of the whirl of worry. Remind yourself often that this difficult time will pass.
Making, creating and crafting are soothing hobbies with proven benefits. Simple, repetitive movements like knitting  or crocheting have been shown to reduce anxiety . Painting, playing a musical instrument, taking photographs, jotting your thoughts down in a journal, calligraphy writing – these are all creative ways to channel your feelings positively. You can find some ideas for hobbies that have been shown to alleviate anxiety here
Sometimes, you might feel just too overwhelmed or panicked to be able to do anything. That’s when the simple technique counting breaths in and out could help you calm down. This simple ‘grounding’ exercise can quickly reduce intense stress . It lets you reconnect with the small moments of life, rather than rushing into a negative stream of thoughts.
Do more with what you have
If you’re worried about your finances, talking to an expert could help. Because circumstances have changed so dramatically, you might need to change your financial plans. A financial adviser could help you work through your current situation to find ways of meeting your immediate needs or alleviating your immediate worries and your longer-term goals. At the same time they could help you lay some longer-term plans that could help get you back on track later on.
Any views expressed are our in-house views as at the time of publishing.
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