I’m Dr Chris George (@dr.chris.george) and I work as a full-time NHS doctor in General Practice. I’ve been a qualified doctor for nearly 10 years and never imagined that I’d find myself on the frontline of a global pandemic.
What has struck me the most has been the profound impact coronavirus has had on the mental wellbeing on each and every one of us. Working from home has brought a loss of routine and purpose for many. Stress and anxiety levels have increased as people struggle to adapt to a loss of freedom and social isolation.
Many of my patients coming through my clinic are unaware that their symptoms are related to anxiety and are often surprised when I explain this to them.
Anxiety is relatively common in the UK with 1 in 20 people having generalised anxiety disorder. For lots of people the catalyst has been the sudden, previously unimaginable change and uncertainty that coronavirus has brought. The good news is that there are lots of positive and simple things that we can all do to reduce our stress and anxiety.
Limit the news
Whilst this may sound counterintuitive regular news updates and notifications can lead to heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Turn off all phone notifications, limit the news and radio exposure to avoid the constant media bombardment.
Be smarter with the time you’ve now saved and connect with friends and loved ones. By staying in contact and discussing your fears you can build a stronger support network and manage feelings of anxiety.
Cut down on alcohol and caffeine
Eating a healthy diet is a great way of practising self-care and reducing stress.
A diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, and fruits is healthier than refined sugars and simple carbohydrates and cutting down on alcohol and caffeine may also help manage symptoms of anxiety. Stick to regular meals to avoid drops in your blood sugar which may leave you feeling ‘on edge’.
With the closure of gyms and some public parks it has become a challenge to stay active. We know that physical activity can have an amazingly positive impact on our mental health so it’s crucial that we find new ways to train. Home workouts and yoga sessions can easily be found on Youtube – read our top picks here.
My personal favourites are lululemon’s free online community sweats sessions. If you’re looking for fresh air and a healthy dose of vitamin D then head outside and make use of the great outdoors (just remember to keep 2m apart from everyone!).
Give meditation a go
Anxiety can lead to over stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system which forms part of our fight or flight response. We can reduce this stress response via our parasympathetic nervous system which slows our heart rate and breathing. Apps such as Calm and Headspace can help you manage stress and anxiety. Around 10-20mins a day has been shown to be optimal for both mental and physical health.
Keep to the same mealtimes
As human beings, we are creatures of habit and working from home can severely disrupt this leading to a feeling of uncertainty and worsen anxiety. Setting an alarm for the same time each day and maintaining a regular bedtime will not only ensure that you get enough sleep but also provide a familiar sense of routine. Keeping the same mealtime each day also helps to provide structure throughout the day and provide a sense of control.