We are all in the midst of a global pandemic, with most of the world’s countries implementing unprecedented restrictions on how we go about our daily lives. All of us are wondering how long this will last, trying to adjust to our ‘new normal’ and wondering what ‘normal’ will look like when this is over whilst wondering what will happen next. We all find ourselves in really challenged, frightening and uncertain times. I’m sure, like us, you are finding it strange and difficult being away from loved ones, family, friends, colleagues and key-workers.

As we are all try to adapt and cope with this new normal we may feel lonely, worried about the present and about the future, find our mood dips or our stress and anxiety levels rise. We may have difficulty sleeping. Whilst we worry about children, dependents and loved ones we must not forget to take care of ourselves.

For many, the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus can be difficult to manage. We don’t know how we will be personally impacted or how bad things might get. For those living with an abuse, or with experiences of abuse this will likely be a frightening and possibly dangerous time and for those living with anxiety or depression, this may too get worse. But there are many things that we can do to manage anxiety and to cope with our current circumstances.

Here are some of our tips for coping.

Keeping Informed

Information is power. We need to know what is happening and how the government and our communities are responding to coronavirus so we can follow the latest guidance, keep safe and play our part in slowing the spread of coronavirus. There is a lot of coverage about coronavirus, on every television channel and every social media platform, some of it true and some false which can be both overwhelming and confusing so it is important to choose what, how and when you read and watch information about coronavirus.  

Know your sources 

Try and keep to trust-worthy sources such as the NHS, gov.uk, the World Health Organisation and news channels (such as BBC, ITV, Sky) for your information. If you see something on social media that is from a person or unknown organisation, it may or may not be true so try and stick to the main sites.

Limit how and where you access media

Constant exposure to and checking of the news and social media feeds can quickly become overwhelming and add to anxiety. Everyone is different and will feel differently about how much information they need – be led by how you feel and step away if it feels too much. If you can, try and keep an area or room in your home a safe space where you can relax and do not check for news in this area.

Know when to take a break

If you feel that your anxiety is getting worse consider limiting when you access media to a specific time of day and for a certain length of time (e.g. thirty minutes each evening at 6 pm). If you feel better avoiding media entirely you can ask someone you trust to pass along any major updates you need to know. Speak to them about how and when they will do this for you so you know what to expect and when to expect it.

Share wisely

We all have a responsibility to make sure that the information we pass along or share on social media is correct so we don’t add to the feed of misinformation by accident. Only share information that you are sure is correct and from a trustworthy source.

Focus on the things you can control

At the moment there are a lot of things completely outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how others behave, and the restrictions on how we live our daily lives. If you’re living with abuse, you also can’t control how the abuser acts and you are not responsible for the abuse in any way. These are all difficult things to accept and can be frightening leaving us feeling drained, anxious and overwhelmed.

When you feel worried or scared about what might happen, try and think about what things you can control. For example – you can’t control the impact or spread of coronavirus but what you can do is take steps to reduce your own personal risk (by doing this you will also reduce the risk to others) by:

  • Only going outside for food, health reasons – including if you are at risk of abuse or harm, or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
  • Staying 2 meters (6ft) away from other people at all times if you do go out
  • Washing your hands (for at least 20 seconds) frequently and as soon as you get home

Make Plans

Life is not normal at the moment, you may be living with children who cannot go to school, having to self-isolate, be worried about your job or concerned about people you know contracting the virus. If you are living with abuse, you might be worried that this will get worse or fear that services won’t be able to help you. Sometimes taking action can be helpful in addressing your worries.

  • Write down specific worries you have about how coronavirus and make a list of all of the solutions you can think of – if you need to take a break then do so. Only do what feels right for you and don’t worry about having ‘the perfect answer’, you won’t be able to solve all of your worries - a solution that helps you feel better is a great solution
  • Focus on things within your control and research what support services are there. Please do look at our services and our list of other services that might be able to help  - we are open and we are working around the clock to make sure that those living with abuse can access our services.
  • After you’ve evaluated your options, put together your plan of action.
  • For advice and information on how to keep safe during this time if you are experiencing abuse, please see our COVID 19 safety advice on our website.

Grounding Techniques

There a range of grounding techniques, both mental and physical that may help to bring yourself back to the present, distract yourself and help ease extreme negative thoughts. You can use these techniques anywhere, anytime and no-one needs to know that you are doing it.

These are just a few grounding techniques that might help

  • Thinking games – go through the alphabet naming different things – countries, cities, characters from your favourite films or books etc.
  • Look around you and describe what you can see, hear and smell
  • Try and visualise a picture – e.g. a photo of your favourite memory
  • Concentrate – choose an activity that you need to concentrate on, this could be something like saying the alphabet backwards or using an app on your phone to play a ‘thinking’ game.
  • Focus on your breathing – concentrate on slowing your breathing down
  • Hold the chair you are sitting on tightly or push your feet into the ground
  • Run warm or cool water over your hands
  • Carry an object with you that you can squeeze if you feel triggered

Keep in Touch

Isolation and loneliness can make anxiety and depression feel worse, and even impact our physical health. Abusers can also use isolation as a way to control. That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and access support services. If you are living with the abuser, think about how you can communicate with support services and your friends and family safely. For more safety advice please refer to our COVID 19 safety advice on our website.

  • Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family when you can do this safely. If you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, think about setting up regular phone, chat, or Skype dates so they’re in your diary.
  • Try and communicate face to face as much as you can. As we practice social distancing some of us automatically go to the phone – but face to face contact, even via video is really helpful for our well-being so make the most of video-calling apps.
  • Social media can be positive and a helpful resource for connecting with not just friends and family but our communities helping us feel a sense of purpose and belonging and reminding us we’re not alone. Sometimes social media can make you feel worse – don’t hesitate to unfollow, mute or hide posts or log off if it makes you feel worse – listen to how you feel and be guided by yourself.
  • Don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation. It’s important to take breaks from stressful thoughts about the pandemic to simply enjoy each other’s company— share stories, memories and focus on positive aspects of your life.
  • Stay in touch with your key workers and reach out for support if you need too – there are a range of support services listed in the ‘Other Services’ page on our website.

Take care of yourself

This month is stress management month and we are living in extraordinarily stressful circumstances. All of the long-standing stress managing techniques will be useful, such as eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep and exercise. Here are some of our tips on how to care for yourself.

Be kind 

Go easy on yourself if you’re experiencing more depression or anxiety than usual. This is a normal reaction to abnormal times and to be expected. 

Get into a routine

As we all isolate at home and comply with the government guidance our routines have all massively changed but it is so important to stick to a regular routine. If you can try and get into a new pattern and have set times for meals, work or looking after / teaching / playing with children, and perhaps most importantly sleep. This will help things to feel more ‘normal’.

Make time for yourself

Make sure to include some you time in your routine and try and do something you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a film, play a game, make something— cooking a new meal, baking, arts and crafts. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it helps.

Stay Active

If you can, make the most of your exercise – fresh air and exercise can be really beneficial. Staying active helps to release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While you may not be able to stick to your usual routine or go to the gym there are lots of online videos, DVD’s and apps that can help give you some ideas. If you are exercising outdoors make sure that you follow social distancing guidelines when you’re out and keep at least 2 metres from others.

Weekly Check-In

Schedule a check in with yourself every week, you can rate your mood, write down your thoughts and feelings, think about what coping techniques work really well for you and note if others didn't help as much so you can prepare your week ahead. One of our favourites is one from Mental Health First Aid England which we've used as our image for this blog.