Feeling all over the place whilst stuck in one place? Here’s why and what to do about it.
The current situation we are all facing, that of being confined to our homes unless of course you are an essential worker, is one that none of us have ever experienced before. This is leading us to experiencing behaviour and emotions that we may not recognise in ourselves and those we reside with. You may well have had moments where you are acting erratically; unexplained laughter fits, crying outbursts, cravings for things you wouldn’t normally crave. You may be unable to sleep, be sleeping too much, drinking more than usual, or just feeling a little off. Perhaps you have low days, or overly-excited moments, you may find yourself speaking faster or speaking with difficulty. You could be feeling restless, saying random, inappropriate things, having headaches, or even picking fights. You may be finding yourself desperate to become an expert on pandemics or delving deep into conspiracy theories. Your digestive system may be taking a turn for the worse, or you may feel like hibernating. You could be getting unexplained butterflies in your tummy, or irregular heart palpitations, a tight chest maybe? You may also get a sudden overwhelming fear that you have the coronavirus.
If you are feeling any, or more, of the above then relax and feel safe in the knowledge that you are not alone. This is what the majority of people currently on full lockdown are experiencing too. Why? Well it’s not because you’re going crazy, so wipe that off your fear list, you are having perfectly normal human reactions. To what? The answer is…
STRESS, the main cause of so many modern illnesses and issues has risen with a vengeance amidst the plight of the COVID-19 virus. Typically, when our ancestors were faced with a stressful situation – being confronted with something threatening to their very existence such as a wild beast for example – they would experience the very natural phenomenon of stress.
When under duress, or threat, our bodies (specifically, the amygdala) and minds work in cahoots to encourage us to make a snap decision as to what to do under the current circumstances. They do this by examining the situation and releasing a combination of hormones into our bloodstream. The decision on how to react generally comes in the format of ‘fight or flight’, i.e., attempt to overcome the problem with force and fight it, or run for the hills in order to escape. A third option often occurred which was to freeze. Like the proverbial deer in headlights, we may be deemed incapable of reaction and stay rigid on the spot.
The situation being faced by millions of people worldwide today is an intense one; we are afraid, we are confined, and we are subject to confusion and therefore stress and anxiety – pandemic anxiety. As well as the current flow of all these emotions we are concerned for the future and have no clarity or knowledge of what is to come. We are not being given the option to fight as there is nothing literal to fight against. Neither are we being permitted to flee – there is nowhere to go, and even if there was we cannot leave. So our hands are tied, we must sit still and work out a way to continue our life and make the best of this uncertain situation until it (hopefully) passes. Pandemic anxiety is a sign of our times!
Here you can see that the body and mind are not able to produce a solution to their circumstance. We know we are under a lot of abnormal stress but we are unable to do anything about it, yet those hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, for example) are rushing through our systems with no outlet. Your heart rate is elevated, you are on alert, your breathing goes shallow, your muscles are ready for action, but there’s nothing you can do. And there you have your red carpet laid out for all the out-of-character reactions to creep along. Even if you think you are not encountering stress, your body believes it is.
We are reacting, in ways we don’t recognise because we are in a situation we don’t recognise, and so everything is a little uncharacteristic, to say the least. Pandemic anxiety can present itself in a whole manner of ways such as identified in the introduction: insomnia, headaches, disrupted eating habits, altered sleep patterns, stomach upsets, etc. As well as physically, the emotional side of us is not its rational self due to that amygdala pushing us to make a decision, confusion sets in and we can’t think straight, can’t make decisions easily, and our mental ability is compromised. The exact opposite of what we need right now is happening to us naturally!
If this is describing your own feelings in the midst of a very troublesome, both globally as well as internally, time, there are some simple things you can do to combat the unstableness. Thankfully there are some tried and tested guidelines on turning down the volume on the amygdala dial…
Pandemic anxiety solutions
BREATHE: This sounds like a pretty obvious thing to be doing, all the time! However, what we mean here is to breathe consciously. Go online and research breathing exercises and you’ll see how effective this practice really is. It scientifically reduces stress and you’ll find a sense of calm by simply sitting in a quiet space and following a breathing pattern…
Slowly breathe in through the nose, out via the mouth (when you breathe out ensure it is longer than your in breathe). As you breathe in make your belly expand, not your chest. Do this for a couple of minutes and gauge how you feel afterwards. It works!
MEDITATE: If this is something you can do, this is your moment. Meditation is proven to calm the body, mind and soul and open you up to the present moment. It reduces all the noise and relaxes us into a state of just being.
CALL A FRIEND: You may be feeling like going to ground and not talking to anyone, getting a bit used to the hermit style life but opening up that channel and chatting with people outside your current surrounding will make you, and them, feel a lot better. And calmer.
LAUGH: whoever you are with, whatever you decide to do be sure to fit some humour into your day. Get the endorphins rolling around your system to negate the adrenaline and fear and you’ll feel a whole lot better. Watch a comedy sketch, look at silly stuff on YouTube, call a funny friend, recount hilarious moments in your past, you get the idea.
GET CREATIVE: get busy, keep busy. Get into something new or continue something you once began. Learn a new language, read a book, make something, design something, bake, experiment with recipes, paint, draw, write a story or a poem, learn a song…all these things keep the mind active and focussed.
VITAMIN D: If the sun is shining and you can manage to get out in it (garden, balcony, terrace) then try to soak up some rays for around ten minutes a day to get your Vitamin D the natural way. It enters via the skin so as much skin exposure without any sun cream is the most effective way. No longer than ten minutes in strong sunshine for obvious health reasons – don’t get burnt!
REDUCE YOUR MEDIA INTAKE: The flooding of news and social media comments and posts are literally going to make you feel confused, torn and troubled. This will elevate stress and anxiety and do you no good. Find a reliable news source and take a look once or twice per day, limit yourself to this and you’ll feel far more calm and have more time to do productive things.
STAY HEALTHY: Obvious but more challenging in times when you’re forced to be inside. The couch and Netflix look so inviting – and by all means indulge but make sure you’re eating well, hydrating well, sleeping well and taking regular exercise. Getting drunk, taking drugs, overeating, gorging on conspiracy theories or social media are all going to make you feel worse in the long run, and this is a long run so do the right thing for you.
TREAT YOURSELF: Take long hot baths, stretch, exercise, practice some yoga, dance like nobody’s watching, sing along to your favourite songs, eat your favourite (healthy where possible) foods, indulge in some pampering; do anything which makes you feel good.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS: Take time out to write kind emails to friends and family, reach out and spread some love to those who may be needing it in these times of uncertainty. Maybe share this article with them! Find your own comfort zone within this and do things which make you feel good. Don’t try and makeover your life, it isn’t going to be productive when keeping balanced is hard enough. And recognise that if someone is angry or aggressive, then they are also just scared.
So give those things a go and see how you feel. At the very worst you’ll be so occupied you may just forget about any negative feelings for a while!
STAY SAFE, STAY HOME.
Photos by Gift Habeshaw, Kinga Cichewicz and Dustin Belt on Unsplash
Online diploma courses in Stress Management, Mindfulness and Meditation
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences our online distance learning diploma courses have been educating people all over the world since 1997! In these uncertain times pandemic anxiety is becoming widespread and our Stress Management, Meditation and Mindfulness courses are the perfect antidote to the situation, both for individuals who want to manage these feeling and for therapists who want to be able to help their clients. Find out more about these courses in the links below:
- Stress Management – This distance learning diploma course of 8 lessons, covers a vast scale of stress-related problems and provides answers to the root causes.
- Mindfulness – The course discusses many techniques to help manage stress and pain levels and improve relationships.
- Meditation – This course takes the student on a journey through both Eastern and Western meditation techniques, from ‘Chakra Balancing’ to ‘Walking the Labyrinth’.