How to cope with anxiety during a pandemic
Anxiety is endemic in 21st century Britain. A multi-headed hydra of suffering, anxiety is often hiding beneath the slick veneer of modern living.
It’s so prevalent that this year saw the publication of nearly 10,000 academic papers worldwide about anxiety disorders, with almost 400 pieces of research on the subject of social media and anxiety alone (compared to just four such papers in 2004, the year Facebook was born).
First off, a caveat. Whatever other measures you may be considering, if you or anyone you talk to thinks that you are facing potentially serious mental health issues, you should always talk to your GP.
Now, add a pandemic…
How’s trying to queue for food for you, perhaps while juggling a home office and children’s schoolwork too? Stress is a normal response – it can serve as a motor for change: problem-solving, energising, tackling issues. When we can’t get away from the stress, when we feel powerless to ‘do something’, stress can flip into anxiety.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) published a sheaf of data in spring 2020, showing that under the first lockdown anxiety in Britain went through the roof. Loneliness and very real problems affecting our security were major factors. Health, homes, jobs, even food security, and sadly in many cases personal safety, were all major sources of stress.
In a pandemic, during a lockdown, personal agency is limited. The result? Stress often turns into anxiety. Now into lockdown two, for many of us, the worries and feelings of being trapped continue.
While stress might help propel us into tackling those untidy cupboards at last or take up yoga online, anxiety is more likely to make us feel ‘stuck’, perhaps hopeless, and ultimately at greater risk of depression. All those recipes for banana bread won’t help.
What can help to ease anxiety?
Only you can know whether you could really do with help, or whether your feelings and anxieties are quite rational in the circumstances. There is a potential in-built trap: that inner voice telling you how you ‘should’ be ok, or that you just need to “pull yourself together,” may well be lying to you.
Ever watched a film and found yourself shouting at the screen because the solution for the hero/heroine seemed so obvious? Like – ‘turn off from that road’, or, ‘don’t go into that room’.
Anxiety and related conditions can make us feel so stuck that the idea of getting help doesn’t even arise. And, even if someone is around to warn us to ‘get out of that rut before it gets worse’, we often can’t hear them.
Don’t suffer in silence
Luckily, there are many ways of getting help: typing ‘anxiety’ and ‘helpline’ into Google brings up several helpline numbers and lots of online resources to get you started.
Nowadays, mainstream help for anxiety may well start with talking therapies like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or recommendations for various mindfulness practices.
The Oxford Mindfulness Centre, for example, has developed a programme of evidence-based techniques that can work as well as or even better than typical anxiolytics (drug-based anxiety treatments). But, with GPs and NHS resources stretched, the drugs-free route can be hard to come by, and the first line of defence often is still the familiar group of mood-modulating medications, most commonly SSRIs.
It’s not all in the mind
Anxiety can come with a variety of physical symptoms. In some instances, the link may be reasonably obvious, for example, tension headaches or sleeping problems. More deeply embedded symptoms can range from eczema to autoimmune diseases, from digestive problems to high blood pressure, all the way to life-threatening heart disease.
We owe the comic genius of Gene Wilder to this last: to help his mother’s heart disease, the doctor had an unusual prescription. He told little Gene: ‘don’t upset your mother – and make her laugh’. She lived to see him grow up, and didn’t die of heart disease!
The term psychosomatic, which illustrates the source of physical symptoms in the sphere of the psyche, has sadly become quite prejudicial – as if the sufferer somehow should magically be able to free themselves from the physical symptoms by acknowledging their deeper roots. It doesn’t work like that!
Laughter can provide light relief for pandemic life
From Gene Wilder and the unorthodox work of Patch Adams to the runaway success of political and social comedy in 21st century Britain (bad news is more digestible when wrapped up in jokes), laughter is a fantastic antidote to misery. It's good for the immune system, and excellent light relief when the chips are down. But it’s still a short-term fix that can wear thin when anxieties build up.
In pandemic life, can you see that stress has flipped into unhelpful anxieties? Has your immune system been stirred into psychosomatic reactivity, say if previously dormant or well-managed eczema or IBS has flared up? Do you find yourself faced with unclear symptoms of foggy discomfort or sleep problems?
Do you keep wanting to scream when the next online meeting looms, and the prospect of getting some exercise feels like yet another awful chore? Has your diet has slipped into comfort eating (or indeed, drinking) that isn’t even a comfort, and your energy seems to be draining out long before the day is done – or even before it’s really begun?
Do you feel like this pandemic world is a big trap with no exit signs and you’ll never have your life back? Do you feel like all enthusiasm has drained away? You may not even think of this in terms of anxiety, and you may not think of asking for help. But it might be a good idea if you did.
How can homeopathy for anxiety help?
As mentioned, if there is concern about your own or someone else’s well-being, please get medical help.
Meanwhile, many of complementary therapies can offer fantastic support. While bodywork may not be permitted during social distancing, homeopathy is one of the ‘hands-off’ therapies that are available via online platforms – and also face-to-face in suitably set up, properly distanced and risk-assessed settings.
Proper homeopathic treatment is always individualised, and registered professional homeopaths, while most of us are not medical doctors, are highly trained. Homeopathy can work well alongside mainstream prescriptions. If you would like to learn more, the Homeopathy Research Institute has a lot of information about recent research.
People sometimes ask me “what can I take for anxiety?”, as if they’re looking for a painkiller. It can be hard to explain that homeopathic treatment works on different principles: the individualised method means someone’s suffering can’t be reduced to a catch-all fix with ‘anxiety pills’. It’s simple but complex.
Homeopathic prescribing: as unique as you are
It’s “treatment by similars”: think about how too much coffee makes people shakey, nervy – and often anxious. Coffee in a homeopathic preparation can indeed treat some people’s anxiety. It depends on the person, and working out what you need is a skilled process.
The right remedy will help ease and neutralise suffering. If you have faced anxiety before and discussed it with another sufferer, you may have noticed that no two ‘anxieties’ are quite the same. It stands to reason they need different treatments.
Or someone may say "I tried homeopathy but it doesn’t work for me"; then it turns out they bought something vaguely alternative (typically not even an actual homeopathic remedy) over the counter somewhere. No wonder then. But how to show them that a well-matched remedy would make a difference? Even a good remedy match still needs to be managed properly in terms of dosage, dilution level and so on. It’s not a one-shot quick fix.
That’s because, however accurate the findings are about pandemic anxiety, you are an individual, not a little bit of a statistic. And your experience is as unique as you are.
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