Four simple tips to help reduce anxiety in these uncertain times

·5-min read
Life coach and Celebs Go Dating presenter Anna Williamson has written about her anxiety-busting techniques
Anna Williamson admits she is feeling anxiety creep in - here are her top tips to stay calm

Anna Williamson is a life coach, counsellor, author and TV and radio broadcaster known for presenting E4’s Celebs Go Dating. Here she outlines her anxiety-busting tips in a time of uncertainty for people around the world.

We’re in a weird time, that’s for sure. There is nothing more scary or anxiety-inducing than the unknown.

A lack of control and not understanding something can make even the most confident ‘Jack the Lad’ feel more than a little overwhelmed.

So, like most of the world at the moment with the coronavirus pandemic, I am also feeling the familiar stabs of anxiety creep in.

The butterflies in the chest, the ruminating thoughts of ‘what if’, the breathlessness of panic when you suddenly realise your household is down to its last loo roll.

What is important is to focus on what else is going around you - the ‘normal’ stuff.

Essentially, we need to take back control from the anxiety that can threaten to take over our mind and body when things get stressful.

Anxiety is very much driven by a sense of lack of control. When the umpteen WhatsApp groups are pinging with stories, anecdotes and hearsay; the news is unintentionally scaremongering; and your relatives are ringing up panicking that their local supermarket has run out of food - they haven’t, by the way - then it makes sense we perhaps feel we have lost our grip on control.

A shopper walks past empty food shelves amidst the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, in Manchester, northern England on March 20, 2020. - The British prime minister urged people in his daily press conference on March 19 to be reasonable in their shopping as supermarkets emptied out of crucial items -- notably toilet roll -- across Britain. The government said it was temporarily relaxing elements of competition law to allow supermarkets to work together to maintain supplies. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Panic buying has left shelves empty across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Read more: Photos show epic queues outside supermarkets as panic buying continues

Some things are out of our hands.

But the good news is there’s lots we can do to redress the balance, to regain some calm and reduce the anxiety that uncertainty undoubtedly brings.

1. Firstly, breathe!

When we’re anxious and stressed we don’t breathe properly. We tend to breathe shallowly in our upper chest area and that can make us feel panicked, dizzy, and even faint.

Something that we can all do, no matter what age, is to breathe properly to ease feelings of anxiety.

My favourite go-to technique is the ‘7/11’.

Sit or stand comfortably and breathe in through your nose at a calm pace for seven seconds, hold the breath for a second at the top, then slowly breathe out through your mouth for 11 seconds.

Side view of young female with closed eyes breathing deeply while doing respiration exercise during yoga session in gym
Breathing in through the nose for seven seconds and out through the mouth for 11 seconds can help calm the mind and body

Imagine you’re blowing out a birthday cake candle, that should help you get the strength and technique right.

Do this up to five times to really feel the tightness in your body ease off.

2. Next up, it’s all about ‘perspective’.

When we’re anxious we lose sight of what’s real, our sense of rationale, and there is a tendency to catastrophise.

Binge-watching the news often doesn’t help anxious thoughts, particularly if the information is speculative - we crave hard facts, they’re often easier to cope with.

So, instead of doing that, have a think about what you can do in your life to get through things in as calm and positive a way possible.

Surround yourself with healthy perspective. Don’t focus on the bad statistics, it’s human nature to do so but it can be so unhelpful. Remind yourself of the good statistics instead.

Take comfort that you’re not alone. There is so much warmth and love radiating from every corner of the globe right now, and that is definitely worth celebrating and embracing.

Read more: Schoolchildren fill their village with rainbows to symbolise hope after coronavirus

3. Create goals to keep your mind focused

Tackle the jobs at home you’ve been putting off for a rainy day.

Put in place a daily framework for you and your family, such as getting up and getting dressed at a certain time each morning, cooking and eating meals, and doing exercise. Make sure you are achieving something every day - however small.

To do list in notebook with calendar and clock on white desk
Set yourself mini goals every day - you'll feel like you've achieved something

Read more: Celebrities share their reasons for staying at home during coronavirus outbreak

4. And finally, talk.

We have so many means to stay in contact with people nowadays, which is a great thing.

So pick up the phone. Facetime, Skype, whatever you fancy. Talk to loved ones, colleagues, members of your community daily… and have a laugh! Laughter and humour is the best cure for anxiety.

It’s always worth remembering that anxiety is a good thing in the right doses.

It’s our body and mind’s way of protecting us and keeping us safe.

The key is to be in charge of your anxiety, and not the other way around. We’ve got this, peeps.

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Breaking Mad by Anna Williamson | £7.37 from Amazon