THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has caused uncertainty for many people and for some it may have triggered feelings of anxiety.
Experts say that some degree of anxiety about the current situation is normal, as many people face financial difficulties, while others have lost their loved ones.
Anxiety is a functional human emotion and is built into us like our own personal alarm system.
Dr Jenn Cooper, lecturer in counselling psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University said this system keeps us safe, warns us of danger and sends signals to our body to get ready to respond.
Writing in The Conversation she said that the global pandemic has seen a rise in threat and danger in the outside world.
"As a result our alarm system is switched on more than ever.
"We rarely get the opportunity to feel completely safe, as even in our own homes we are constantly reminded of the threat outside with the news, limits to socialising and local lockdowns.
"While some anxiety is normal and helpful, it can become a serious difficulty for some, taking over every aspect of day-to-day life."
She said it's in these instances that our brain tells us everything is dangerous – making even the most normal of tasks, like going to the supermarket, or even leaving the house, seem impossible.
KNOW THE SIGNS
Dr Jenn said that during a panic attack you will likely notice some common physical sensations.
These include racing or pounding heart, feeling sick or having an upset stomach, sweating or feeling hot, shaking, hyperventilating and feeling faint.
She added that some people may also experience intrusive thoughts.
"Such as thinking you’re going to die, that something terrible is going to happen, that you may faint or lose control, that you’re going crazy or that you can’t cope with the current situation.
"Your behaviour may then change as a result, such as avoiding certain places, running to the loo, running away to get to safety, and getting angry."
If anxiety has taken over, Dr Jenn said there are ways to get through this and shared her five ways to overcome an anxiety attack.
Dr Jenn said that it's important to take control of your breathing if you are having a panic attack or feel one coming on.
She said: "Breathe slowly in through your nose for a count of four, and out through your mouth for a count of four. Do this several times."
2. Find distractions
When feelings of anxiety creep in, it's easy to let them take over all of your thoughts.
Dr Jenn said a good tool is to try and occupy yourself.
"Count back from 3,000 by six. Pull up a webpage and count all the “Ts” on the page.
"Focus on a picture or painting and count the colours or shapes. It’s important to get your brain really distracted."
3. Reassure yourself
If you often experience anxiety attacks then you know that they are fleeting and can be controlled – Dr Jenn said it's important to remind yourself of this.
"We often just trust our thoughts, but remember, during a panic attack we are misinterpreting the world as dangerous.
"Talk to yourself. Tell yourself you are safe and you will be OK."
While the coronavirus pandemic left us longing for a time when things were simpler, Dr Jenn said it's important to recognise where you are right now.
This she said will help you control your thoughts.
"Ground yourself into the here and now. What is the date and time? What do you notice around about you? What can you hear, smell, touch and see?"
5. Soothe yourself
When it comes to calming down, everyone is different.
Dr Jenn said that taking a minute to relax will help quell your anxious thoughts.
"Listen to some music, suck on a candy, carry a nice smell around on a handkerchief, or keep an object with you that you can focus all of your attention on.
"These are especially helpful to use before you go into a situation that makes you feel anxious to help keep you feeling grounded and prevent the panic attack from happening."
Dr Jenn added that panic attacks can come on suddenly for many people, but highlighted that if they have become more frequent and harder to control then you may need to seek further help.
She said while there are online self-help tools available, people struggling may need to see a professional.
In this instance she said a GP may make a referral for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
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