South Wales Life Coach, Jason Bishop, offers tips for tackling anxiety as new local lockdowns begin to bite across the region
No sooner was everyone out of lockdown and finding their feet, and here we go again, with local lockdowns in South Wales once again hitting home, only now we don’t have the summer weather and the novelty of the new normal to distract us. Many people are understandably anxious and fearful.
Taking care of your mental health
Life coach Jason Bishop says that while we do have to take local restrictions seriously, we also have to take care of mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and the current grim predictions and restrictions on people’s freedom of movement are likely to make these illnesses worse. Jason explains:
“If you are already anxious and fearful for the future, it’s naturally going to be detrimental to your mental health to hear nothing but COVID news, especially when it’s all over every TV and radio channel. However, it is important to remember that COVID-19 is only one aspect of our lives and happiness is all about perspective and enjoying the simple things in life, not chasing bigger, grander dreams. Indeed, many of our ancestors will not have ever travelled more than a few miles from home.”
You CAN still enjoy positive experiences
“One of my colleagues picked a new car up last week just after lockdown came info force. The sun was shining, he picked up his wife, drove from their home in Maudlam down to Porthcawl and just thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the drive along the seafront. It didn’t cost any money, it didn’t break any restrictions and they picked up a takeaway on the way home, then they took their dog for a walk together. He said it was the happiest he’d felt in ages! Yes, there are restrictions but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find things to be joyful about.
“For cyclists like me, we can’t cycle all the routes we normally would, but actually we’ve enjoyed adapting them, it’s giving us new local areas to explore, we are still out there and still able to exercise. My advice to anyone who is dealing with anxiety and stress during lockdown is to have a blackout on ‘negative news’ and to actively create positive experiences instead, turning anxiety on its head.”
Here are Jason’s tips for managing anxiety and depression during lockdown:
1. Cut down on your media usage (including social media).
Social media is often depressing and at best, can make you feel inadequate, comparing yourself to others, while the mainstream media is full of hype, inciting fear and discomfort. The virus is out there, yes, but the rules are there to protect you – and worry won’t stop you from catching the virus, but it will stop you from being happy while you are well. If you don’t like wearing a mask, get your shopping delivered and gently start to take exercise outdoors, exercise social distancing but do so healthily, keeping fear in perspective. If you use technology, use it to improve your life, not hinder it.
2. Get used to feelings.
We’re so used to being always on these days that we lose ourselves in a drive to buy goods we don’t need, then stress about the arrival of these goods, brag about them on social media and then STILL feel unfulfilled even though we have everything we thought we wanted. Instead of moving on to buy the ‘next thing’, or to find a new distraction, take a minute to stop and just ‘feel’, identify the feeling, accept it, give it a name, then let it go, move on to the next feeling. You can still feel things without needing to tell Facebook how you are feeling, too, get used to moving through feelings in the present rather than obsessing or stressing about every moment.
3. Get comfortable with spending time outdoors.
I don’t mean in crowded places, (unless you want to), find a beautiful local spot and find an outdoor hobby that relaxes you. I feel lucky to be in Bridgend County, where I can explore beautiful spots like Porthcawl Wilderness, Kenfig Nature Reserve (above) and Newton Beach. One of the upsides of lockdown is that these places are quieter than normal. Whether taking pictures, exercising, just walking or learning more about local wildlife, there are so many simple pleasures that our always-on digital life has caused us to forget. Wrap up warm and feel the wind on your face, the sun on your back or the crispness of a brand new frost – or if the weather is rubbish, listen to the pit-patter rythym of the rain. There is always a new experience if you are open to experiencing it, and it won’t cost you a penny. If you like to read, find a bench and read a book instead of reading indoors or on your phone, or dust off the saddle and oil that old bike in the shed – or start walking, even if you need an umbrella and study shoes. Time in nature is good for body and nurturing for the soul.
3. If you are alone, use tech to reach out and make human connections, not virtual ones.
There is lots of tech out there but rather than using it to listen to depressing news or be sold the latest this and that, use it to reach out to old friends, to catch up on interesting news, to learn a new hobby or to stay in touch with family. One of my clients says that the increase in the use of video tech means they’ve spoken more to their remote families than they have in years and can’t wait until lockdown ends, so they can go and catch up in person! Don’t assume you are the only person struggling, many others feel isolated and like you, are keeping that fear to themselves, so think about reaching out, you will feel less isolated and you could make their day better too. We can still meet outdoors, so if you know someone else who may be lonely, ask to meet for a socially distanced walk. Anxiety hates company, and keeping connected to people instead of devices will help you feel less alone.
4. Ban negative self talk.
Often we are our own biggest critic, we look in the mirror and say unkind things about our bodies, ‘I look fat’, ‘I’m ugly’, ‘I’m stupid’. All the people I know who use this kind of talk on themselves are kind people who would never say that to another human being, so allow ‘I’m fat’ to become ‘I accept my body just as it is’, ‘I have a lovely smile’, ‘I am a kind generous person’. You get the idea – be kind to yourself!
5. Reach out and seek help if you need to.
One of the beautiful things about modern life is that boundaries have become smaller. You may be limited to your lockdown area, but thanks to technology, instead of only choosing an expert in your street, you can access online therapists, healers, life coaches, counsellors all over the world.
Like me, many offer a free exploratory call to see whether or not they would be able to help. We all have our own specialities, I work with young men aged 25-35 – but there really is someone for everyone. Don’t feel limited to one call either, you can reach out to as many people as you like until you find someone who you want to work with, or alternatively, you may decide after speaking to someone that you have your own answers. It’s important to view any fees for healing as investing in your wellbeing and your future, rather than just ‘paying’ for their help – that’s because in order to work, any therapy will need you to play an active role. Do the work, and your life will change for the better.
Of course, if you have immediate mental health concerns, if you are feeling suicidal or need urgent help, the advice remains to call the NHS on 111 or the Samaritans on 116123 and access the support you need – you are as worthy as anyone else to use these helplines, and they are ready and waiting to listen to YOU.
Long term change
However, if you are looking for long term change, not just emergency help, therapists of all different disciplines, all around the world, are, like me, just waiting to help.
Reiki, EFT, counselling, life coaching, transformation, emotional intelligence, hypnosis, journey therapy – there just so many ways to start making changes for the better, there’s bound to be someone out there who is perfectly placed to help you. I can tell you from personal experience, getting back on track, giving fear and anxiety the boot and living a full life, you won’t look back. Lockdown could just be your new beginning, not the end. Welcome the opportunity and give your life a positive reboot.