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Coronavirus Impact: Dealing with anxiety, staying steady and maintaining our wellbeing

Relevant to all with special content for NHS staff and other key workers.

Welcome to this temporary page, designed to help you deal with anxiety, stay steady and main wellbeing whilst we work through the current Coronavirus crisis.

 

These are unprecedented times. As the COVID 19 impact unfolds, we find ourselves in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar and changing daily. NHS staff and other key workers remain at work whilst the rest of the country follows Government guidelines for social distancing and, in some cases, self-isolation.https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

As well as a physical threat, many people are experiencing high levels of concern and anxiety about their own health and the health of family members as we deal with the uncertainty of this threat.

In the NHS many staff are having to be redeployed, acquire new knowledge and learn new skills, making big changes in their working practices in order to care for patients and save lives. This can be stressful and add layers of anxiety for Drs, Nurses and other Health care Professionals and key workers who find themselves in uncharted territory.

I worked for many years in the NHS, am proud to have trained and worked as a Nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and, after a clinical career in surgical nursing moved into Education, becoming a Senior Lecturer in Nursing and Psychology. In my coaching practice, I enjoy enabling people to boost their success and wellbeing in life. I have a special interest and expertise in mindfulness, NLP and wellbeing, and in helping people feel calm and confident in challenging times, hence this temporary page.

On this page you will find tips and strategies and useful links to help you be grounded and steady and to regain a sense of steadiness in moments where it may seem elusive.

Understanding that anxiety is a normal response to threat. A brief summary.

When we human beings are faced with a threat, it is a natural and biological response for the brain to generate a "fight or fight" response so that we can be prepared to run or defend ourselves against danger. This can be lifesaving in some situations but with chronic levels of uncertainty and stress, as many are experiencing in the current global situation, the stress response, whilst logical, can be long lasting and thus unhelpful.

Feeling continuously anxious and frightened, undermines our health and wellbeing as well as our ability to function.  For those in the NHS , needing to focus or learn new skills, make decisions about care or management and function at a high level, working through a busy shift; the activation of fight or flight, means that the cognitive functioning ability of the brain…much needed… can be compromised. Thus, is it essential for effectiveness and for wellbeing that you are equipped to take steps to care for yourselves and manage state.

Feeling steadier and more grounded.

So, what can we do to feel steadier over the days, weeks and months to come as Covid 19 continues to affect our lives, whether at work or perhaps in isolation?

Thankfully, as history has taught us, we human beings are quick to learn and adaptable. When equipped with the right mindset and strategies we can boost our ability to maintain our equilibrium and wellbeing, in even the most unusual and extreme situations.

There are many useful resources that specifically relate to Coronavirus and anxiety and wellbeing. I have collated a few and the links to some useful sites are signposted.

Habits to develop

  1. Be self-aware and in tune with how you are feeling.

Knowing how you are in any given moment means that you can be proactive in using strategies to manage your mood and stay in control.

If you feel unwell physically, follow current Government guidelines re testing and protocol, inform your employer if working, and get help from medical professionals.

  1. Set an intention for how you want to feel.

If you feel uncertain, wobbly, anxious or overwhelmed, recognise that, don't fight it but rather act as a kindly observer to your mood, as best you can and set a clear intention for how you want to feel moving forward. e.g. calmer, more confident, more in control, steadier, more grounded.

  1. Be selective and limit your exposure to the news and social media and anxious conversations.
  1. Choose a reliable and trusted source and check in once or twice a day as constant scrolling through varied news stories can lead to preoccupation and increase anxiety.
  2. Limit social media use to that which is uplifting and positive. If it's not, stop scrolling.
  3. Be proactive in choosing which conversations you engage in. Focus on the optimistic and positive and on all that is being done to successfully fight the virus
  1. Maintain and enhance your connection with others whilst you are at work, working from home, social distancing or in self-isolation. We are social beings and maintaining social contact can reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety. This applies to peers and frightened patients, for those in NHS settings.

If at work and busy, take time to pause and take breaks when able. If in PPE and communication is challenging, use body language, e.g. a thumbs up sign or a smile to connect and support peers and patients. Check in on colleagues in between shifts to stay connected.

If working from home:

  1. Have a daily team video meeting and use video link to talk to colleagues during the day rather than emailing or messaging.
  2. Plan in video chats with friends and boost your sense of connection with those you love.
  3. Talk to your manager or to colleagues if you need support.
  1. Be present and manage your thought patterns.
  1. Our thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves have a huge impact on how we feel.
  2. Levels of anxiety tend to rise when we focus on possible difficulties or problems in the future.
  3. Practice being an observer of your thoughts rather than getting caught up and carried away with them.
  4. Notice your internal dialogue and be aware if you are using scary language, catastrophising or being overly negative in your thought patterns.
  5. The more we creatively develop "what if stories" about problems that may arise, the more anxious we tend to become.
  6. Remind yourself that these are stories and that more positive scenarios are possible.
  7. Stay in the here and now as best you can and ground yourself in the present moment ( see below for a technique to help you to do this.
  8. If facing difficult decisions, remind yourself of all that you know and all the experience that you have. Know that you are making the best decisions that you can in the circumstances that you find yourself.
  9. Be kind to yourself and talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend who needed reassurance and to feel calmer and more confident.
  10. We can use mindful techniques to bring ourselves firmly back to the present moment e.g. feeling our feet on the solid floor or feeling the sensations of the breath, root us back in the here and now and help us to feel grounded. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/
  1. Take a mindful breathing space when you need one and even if you don't!

The Breathing Space is a key part of all mindfulness training. It is a very short (can be for 30 seconds or several minutes depending on time available) and helps to regain composure and a feeling of being centred and grounded.

For an audio recording of the breathing space from Oxford Mindfulness centre, access this YouTube movie:

To create your own breathing space, follow these steps

  1. Recognise that you need a breathing space
  2. Step away from what you are doing if able or stand still with feet firmly planted on the ground
  3. Set an intention to be fully present
  4. Adjust and straighten your posture and notice sensations of connection to the floor or the chair supporting you.
  5. Do a quick sweep of what's going on the inside, thoughts, feelings and body sensations e.g. tension or discomfort. As best you can be an observer of these rather than getting caught up in them. Have a gentle approach rather than judging… allow things to be as they are, kindly.
  6. Take 3 – 5 deep breaths in and out, or even just one if you are short of time.
  7. Notice and track the sensations of the breath as it enters and leaves your body.
  8. If the mind wanders (it probably will!) simply notice where it has gone and gently guide it back to the breath.
  9. Expand your awareness to pay attention to the sensations of the body and boost a sense of grounding as you notice sensations of connection to the floor or the chair supporting you.
  10. Notice the degree of calm and ease
  11. Go back to what you need to do next, taking this feeling with you.

Another very quick way to gain composure and feel steadier is to set an intention and then focus all attention into the feet. The feet don't join in story telling or experience anxiety, sadness, frustration or fear. Placing attention into the feet, noticing connection with ground is settling and steadying.

  1. Be proactive, look after yourself and plan things that will lift your mood.
  1. Be proactive in asking for practical or emotional support and help when you need it. This is a sign of strength and will give others permission to do the same.
  2. Take charge of your internal chemistry. Boost feelgood hormones by doing things that make you smile: –
    1. Get fresh air, take a walk in the fresh air or sit with a window open if unable to go out.
    2. Eat a healthy diet
    3. Stay hydrated both on and off shift if you are working.
    4. Get enough rest. Use relaxation apps to help switch off.
    5. If in isolation, start a project, read a book you've not had time to pick up.
    6. Schedule calls with friends and family members who will help to boost good feelings.
    7. Listen to music that lifts or calms you.
  1. Tap into the many free resources available to help calm and manage your state. E.g. Headspace has launched free resources for employers and employees.
  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing/guidance-for-the-public-on-the-mental-health-and-wellbeing-aspects-of-coronavirus-covid-19.
  2. https://www.headspace.com/work/covid-19
  3. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/#collapsee3dab
  4. https://www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/2020/28-february-coronavirus-anxiety-how-to-cope-if-you-re-feeling-anxious-about-the-outbreak/
  5. https://oxfordmindfulness.org/for-you/resources/
  1. Practice gratitude.

There is growing evidence that gratitude aids wellbeing and happiness.  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

  1. Keep a gratitude journal and write down at least one entry every day. Jotting this down before you go to sleep points the brain in a good direction for rest.
  2. Stop for a moment and notice all the things that you appreciate that are still the same, unaffected by Covid19.
    1. The dawn chorus and birdsong…
    2. Nature, budding trees and emerging blossom
    3. Friendship
    4. Colleagues
    5. Laughter
    6. The love of those close to us and our love for them
    7. Kindness… there are so many examples of this at the moment.
    8. Music
    9. Great films and box sets.
  1. If working from home, establish a routine.

This, it would seem, will be, for many, the new normal. Take control. Get dressed for work. Set up a workstation. Organise the family if more workspaces are needed. Take breaks. Plan in social contact. Have a defined beginning and end to the working day. Be kind and tolerant of others also working from home, you may have to share space. Check out additional tips here. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51868894

I hope that this page is useful in helping you find ways to feel more grounded and steadier as the coronavirus experience unfolds.

The people of this country are grateful for all of the dedicated work that key workers are doing in the NHS and in other areas of society. We also want you to take care of yourself.

Please follow NHS and Government guidelines to protect and safeguard your personal and family's physical and mental health and make use of the many resources available.

About the author

Bridget has a background in Nursing and Psychology and is an Executive Coach, consultant and Trainer specialising in Wellbeing, Resilience, Mindfulness, Stress Management, Resilience, Personal and Leadership Excellence and Emotional Intelligence.

Working with both Public sector and corporate clients including The NHS, Deloitte, Tesco, Boehringer Ingelheim, The NMC and Cancer Research UK, Bridget works with her clients to enhance their performance, success and wellbeing. Contact Bridget via LinkedIn or via Bridget@bridgetclapham.co.uk

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open quotesBridget is a highly skilled NLP Master Practitioner and Coach who oozes curiosity, warmth and confidence from every pore!

If you want to make real and lasting changes in your life, I highly recommend her!close quotes

Michael Neill
Hollywood Success Coach

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