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Coping with post-pandemic worry

Updated: Apr 19

black male wearing a yellow face mask with a worried look in his eyes

An expert guide to coping with post-pandemic worry

By Dr James Woolley, Consultant Psychiatrist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea

The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on each of us in a variety of different ways. However differently we've responded to the experience, there's no denying that it has been a very challenging time for us all, and research by The Mental Health Foundation found that six out of ten people were anxious about the pandemic and at risk of ‘persistent and severe mental health problems’. It's now more crucial than ever to take care of our mental health and wellbeing.

In light of this, we've compiled some simple tips on how to cope with worry, advice for relaxation, and mindset strategies for people who are feeling overwhelmed in life. So whether you're struggling to cope with money, experiencing problems within the family, finding work too stressful or finding anything in the post-pandemic world worrying, we aim to help you navigate how you're feeling and implement ways of alleviating that stress.

What can you do on your own to minimise worry?

We're seeing many people in this post-pandemic phase at our mental health clinic in London, compounded by economic concerns and world events struggling with high levels of anxiety. A good proportion of these also then have knock-on effects on mood, increasing the risk of depression.

Whilst seeing specialists and therapists to fix the situation can be an attractive sounding rapid intervention, some of the most effective strategies are often the ones which you can do yourself at an earlier stage and are within your own hands. Often with high levels of anxiety, worry and stress, much is rooted in a sense of "lack of control" of a situation or external events, so grasping the issues that you do have some influence over can often be highly symbolic in starting to turn things around.

If this doesn't help, or if you're finding it too difficult to cope on your own, it's important to seek professional help when you need it.

Routine is helpful for good mental health

The body and brain respond well to routine, regularity and predictability, so regardless of how you're feeling, sticking to a relatively consistent bedtime, and getting up at about the same time helps to start impose useful structure which otherwise easily drifts. Are you doing things which whilst helping in the short term, in the long run may be exacerbating the situation?

For example:

  • Are you getting adequate rest, sleep, and exercise?

  • Is your diet healthy, with regular meal times and trying to minimise unhealthy dietary choices or snacking in between?

  • Are you managing to avoid excessive naps during the day?

  • Are you making time to put in some regular exercise?

  • Are sleep patterns steady?

Sufficient social contact can also be beneficial to positive mental health. Are you saying yes to brief contact with friends and family, rather than avoiding them? Although it may feel a lot of effort to socialise even to a minimal degree, for most people it's likely to be better than the tendency to isolate which comes at times of high stress. There's lots of advice out there, and no one-size-fits-all approach. For some, they also benefit greatly from meditation.

Others achieve it through the practice of mindfulness. Others find it through connecting to nature in a walk through the woods. According to research by Mind, your mental and physical health can benefit from spending time in natural settings or incorporating natural elements into your daily activities.

Negative coping mechanisms to avoid

Other unhelpful coping strategies sometimes creep in, such as heavier or more regular consumption of alcohol (or other drugs). This can feel helpful in the short term, sometimes assisting in getting to sleep and reducing anxiety levels, but at the cost of these sorts of symptoms being even worse the next day, as well as having a longer-term depressant effect on the brain.

Similarly, try to keep control of caffeine intake. With high levels of fatigue which accompany stress and anxiety, people will often increase their caffeine intake to compensate, but then this drives anxiety up even further and worsens sleep. Keep an eye out for less obvious sources of caffeine such as stimulant drinks, and other soft drinks which are sometimes fortified with caffeine.

What's the best thing to do to stop worrying?

Anything else you can be doing in order to gain control over the situation is likely to help as well- for example if it is financial concerns, speak with your bank, utility company, or any other organisation which is causing you concern to ensure that your worries are completely in line with the actual situation.

Bear in mind that when we are in an anxious frame of thinking, the anxiety itself can skew our thinking patterns and make them less rational. You may be 100% correct about the reality of the situation, but when ruminating about them from an anxious perspective, we are all susceptible to jumping to faulty conclusions, giving excessive weight to "worst-case scenarios", and being generally less able to use the rational parts of our brain to problem solve. So check the reality of situations out with friends, family, or organisations you have relationships with as ways to strengthen your rational decision-making and ability to weigh up the actual situation you are presented with.

For some, this is one of the practical benefits of psychological therapy and counselling - connecting with an impartial observer who can act as a practical sounding board to help you keep unrealistic thought patterns in check and to help you devise strategies you can employ day-to-day to tackle them.

Expert treatment for anxiety and mood problems in London

At our Chelsea mental health clinic, we understand that everyone who comes through our doors experiences mental health problems in different ways. That’s why our treatment is tailored to the needs of our patients and their families and is based on the latest clinical research.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health problem, our specialists are here to help.

Learn more about our specialised treatment programme for common mental health problems at our leading London mental health centre, Schoen Clinic Chelsea or speak to our Private Enquiries Manager at no obligation, on 020 3146 2300

Dr James Woolley is a Consultant Psychiatrist BSc(Hons) MBBS MRCP MRCPsych PGDip (CBT) at Schoen Clinic Chelsea.

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