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Covid-19 and its impact on our mental wellbeing

There is no doubt that the last twelve months has been a really difficult time for most of us. The pandemic has had an impact on everyone’s life in some aspect, and the number of calls to Anxiety UK’s helpline in 2020 was nearly double that of 2019.  But support for your mental wellbeing is here.

There’s those that fell ill from the virus or had a loved one who was unwell and those that sadly lost someone. Those who have lost a job, been furloughed or had to adapt to working from home. There’s those who had to learn how to home school and maybe those that have to balance that with work too. Those all-important key workers who still had to go out to work and those who are missing friends and family. Those who have celebrated birthdays in lockdown. Those who have had to postpone milestone celebrations, family occasions and special moments.

There’s no denying the world has changed and is a very different place from the world we used to know. How we respond to change does have an impact on our mental wellbeing, so it’s no surprise that the demand to our helpline was at its highest we’ve ever seen.

 

How can covid-related anxiety manifest?

We’re proud to have been able to be there to support the nation through such troubling times and want you to know you’re not alone. There are plenty of options to help you get through this difficult time and look after your mental wellbeing. We’ve found that it wasn’t just people who were already dealing with anxiety reaching out for support. There have also been calls from many who had never experienced anxiety before.

People have not just been anxious about catch the virus itself but also concerned about spreading it to others, including vulnerable loved ones. Another worry is whether they’re following the rules correctly and whether enough is being done in response to the pandemic. We’ve heard from many different people including our front-line NHS, care and retail workers. They’re feeling the strain of their efforts and have concerns not just for themselves but for their family, friends and of course, for their patients and customers.

 

More support for mental wellbeing

This increase in need for support was also reflected in our therapy services. Although we couldn’t provide face-to-face therapy, the number of therapy referrals also saw an increase in demand.

For example, the number of Foothold community members we helped between June and December last year rose by 76% compared to 2019.

The most common presentations during this time included Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and anxiety-based depression. GAD is described as the feeling of being anxious about almost everything and anything for no apparent reason. It can feel like you’re worrying all the time and not just about one specific thing. Everyone feels anxiety at some point in their life. For example, it could be the nerves you get before a new job interview, but when this feeling persists and becomes an everyday occurrence it can really start to take hold.

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. When your worries and anxiety start to affect your mood and you can begin to feel low and hopeless, as if there is no end to it. Although it may feel this way, that is not the case and there are ways to treat anxiety and depression. If you’re concerned that you are experiencing anxiety, take a look at our “About Anxiety” page which lists some common anxiety symptoms and some DIY self-diagnosis questions.

 

How to look after your mind

It’s important in these strange times to look after yourself and practice some self-care. Take some time to check in with yourself, assess how you’re feeling with no self-judgement and accept those feelings. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but it’s true – it’s ok not to be ok.

  • Are you eating well? There is evidence to support the fact that gut microbes have a major impact on our brain and our behaviour. This is especially true in stress-related disorders such as anxiety.
  • Are you exercising? Regular exercise can be hugely effective in managing anxiety. This can feel like a challenge but it’s a great way to relieve stress even if it’s just a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air (or to the corner shop for more biscuits).
  • Do what makes you feel good. Have a think about what makes you feel good and give yourself permission to do that thing. This could be something as small as “I give myself permission to enjoy my afternoon cup of tea with no interruptions”. Bonus points if you treat yourself to a biscuit too!
  • Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to not to something. “I give myself permission not to complete everything on my to-do list tonight” (cleaning the bathroom can wait until tomorrow). Take a look at our video on practical ways of dealing with anxiety here.

 

Getting professional support

 You may need some professional help though, and our talking therapies are some of the most effective tools for treating anxiety. The therapy services that we provide include counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) or clinical hypnotherapy. You can read more about our therapy offer here and you can access these services via Foothold, at no cost to you.

Once you’ve spoken to the Foothold team, you will be referred to our therapy services team at Anxiety UK who will arrange a wellbeing assessment. Our assessor will then make a recommendation for appropriate treatment or support. Once a treatment plan has been agreed, we’ll allocate you to one of our 440+ approved therapists throughout the country. You’ll also have access to one year’s membership of Anxiety UK.

On average, the whole process from referral to first appointment takes around 2 weeks.

It’s been a really difficult time for many of us. So it’s only natural that you may be feeling the strain. But you’re not alone and support is available for you.

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