Are you obsessing over the news or just feeling so overwhelmed you want to stay in bed.” The good news is, you are not going mad. Deep inside our brains, there is an almond shaped bit of the brain called the amygdala, it’s like the security guard of the brain who alerts us to danger by triggering a flood of chemicals such as, adrenaline and cortisol. Our heart rate goes up, our breathing becomes shallow, we feel shaky and sick. When we finally calm down, we feel mentally and physically drained.
Once the immediate danger is over, your imagination can keep your amygdala active, making you feel worse, or, it can help you adapt to the new situation and survive.
There are many things we can do to help ourselves remain calm and in control, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, below, I have listed a few to get you started, but please remember, if you are under medical or psychiatric care, please take the advice of your medically-qualified practitioner over any general advice offered here.
1. Keep to a routine: The more of a routine you have, in general, the more likely you are to stay calm, relaxed, and in control.
2. Accept what you cannot control and take control of small things: Small positive actions bring back a sense of being in control, give us focus and purpose, and move us gently into the problem-solving part of the mind.
3. Develop a good sleep routine: A regular 8 hours of sleep positively affects our hearts, immune system, and mental health; but sleep can elude us when we are anxious. Avoid coffee and tea in the afternoons or switch to decaffeinated. Avoid horror films, disturbing thrillers, and social media in the evenings. If you have been comfort eating, start cutting down on sugar and refined carbs, which also cause insomnia. Several studies indicate that chamomile tea really does help you get to sleep.
4. Focus on what is good now: Focusing on what is good or working well will help you move out of your anxious primitive mind.
5. Breathe: Breathing into the abdomen calms the central nervous system. Simple daily breathing exercises can help you stay calm and in control.
6. Stay in the moment: Mindful awareness can also calm the mind.
7. Social Connections: We need to connect with others, to encourage and reassure each other. Luckily, there are so many ways we can stay in touch. You’ll find other people feel just like you do, and you are propbaly coping better than you think.
Anxiety, withdrawal, and exhaustion in a crisis is a normal human response. Staying mentally healthy does not mean not feeling. It means experiencing your emotions, accepting them fully, and finding ways to process them and get them in perspective. I hope some of these ideas help you to stay safe and well, physically, and mentally, during the coronavirus crisis.
Written by Sharon Dyke