Managing anxiety and worry

Anxiety can make our heart race, we might feel sweaty, shaky or short of breath. It can also cause changes in our behaviour, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger it. Everyone feels anxious from time to time and the feeling usually passes once the situation is over.

There’s no question that worries about our health during the lockdown period are challenging for many of us. It’s important to acknowledge and respond to any feelings of worry or stress, and to know what you can do to help yourself.

Tips for managing anxiety

Here are five tips to help you manage worry and anxiety. But if your anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you could consider seeking further support.

1. Postpone the worry. Instead of engaging with your anxiety right now, try postponing it – and setting aside 30 minutes at the end of the day for worrying. It can feel like an odd thing to do at first, but it will allow you to control your anxiety instead of the other way around.

2. Plan a new routine. The best routines involve a balance between pleasure, achievement and staying to connected to others. The lockdown means many of our normal routines and daily activities are changing. But from chatting to family on a video call to reading a good book to cooking a new recipe, there are still plenty of things we can do in our homes to find a balance. Download the guide from Psychology Tools on living with global uncertainty.

3. Connect with friends and family. Chatting to those you love will improve your mood and can be a distraction from your worries. Don’t be afraid to be honest about how you’re feeling so you can work through the difficult times together. Try the Silverline befriending service if you’d like to talk to someone different.

4. Be present. Our minds have a tendency to ruminate on the past, or fast-forward to the future, sometimes in a negative way. By noticing what’s happening in our minds, bodies and the external environment with an attitude of kindness and curiosity, we can calm ourselves down. The Mental Health Foundation has find tips for being present and mindfulness.

5. Try online CBT. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. There’s no need for a therapist. You can see a selection of mental health tools and apps in the NHS apps library.

How to manage difficult thoughts or feelings

If you’ve tried all the tips above, you could practise the APPLE technique from Anxiety UK:

  1. Acknowledge – Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
  2. Pause – Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Just pause and breathe.
  3. Pull back – Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
  4. Let go – Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to negative feelings. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
  5. Explore – Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

Do you need more support? Have a look at these NHS mental health helplines or get in touch with APF today on our support line.