ANXIETY in 2021
Not as much fun as you thought it would be? “Normal” feeling different to how it used?
Personally, I was looking forward to having the opportunity to do more but, amongst the excitement I was also aware of my bubbling uncertainty; how would it be seeing people I hadn’t seen face to face for such a long time, would they want to hug or kiss, go indoors; how would I communicate where I’m at, what’s comfortable for me?
So undoubtedly there have been some nerves, some tension, some irritability, some desire to put off engagements and withdraw, but these are familiar anxious responses for me and ones that I’m now usually able to spot.
I know though, that doing this isn’t always easy, particularly if these feelings are new and/or unfamiliar or even if they’re old familiar feelings that are now magnified but carry on reading, for information that might help you make sense of some of what you’re experiencing.
Pandemic Re-Entry Anxiety – is this a thing?
You’re not on your own in finding the re-opening difficult as lots of people find themselves in new, unfamiliar, uncertain territory and the media continues to give us mixed messages of opening up whilst the impact of the Delta Variant seems unknown.
No wonder then, that we don’t know how to be around others in a way that will keep them and us safe.Within that lies the trigger for an anxious response
Let’s face it, as threats go, a global pandemic is pretty major so it’s no surprise that we find ourselves struggling now with the feelings that have come up.
Combine that, with what we’ve been told and learnt over the period of lockdowns and restrictions i.e. to limit, control, minimise and distance our contact in order to keep ourselves safe, it makes sense to me that anxiety might be triggered, as restrictions lift and we find ourselves out and about more with less control over our environment and levels of contact.
This feeling of lacking control is the perfect cue for our anxiety to fire up and step in order to keep us safe.
What can you do about it?
It’s easy to be critical of your own anxiety. Perhaps you find yourself wondering what’s wrong with you…why aren’t you able to get on with and enjoy things like everyone else.
The problem with this though is that rather than accepting the anxious response and allowing it to pass, you’re telling yourself that there IS actually a problem, something IS wrong…so your anxiety remains high.
If you’re able to change this inner voice to one that is kinder, more accepting and responds with reassurances in the same way as you would to a friend who told you they were uncertain, worried or afraid then, the anxiety response will be able to “quieten”.
Know the symptoms
Knowing how your anxiety shows itself can be really helpful. We often think of sweating and irregular breathing as signs but often its less visible e.g a racing heart, headaches, migraines, dry mouth, nausea and/or worrying endlessly.
The actual response will be unique to you and your body, but spotting your signs can be a good way of knowing that you need to take some time to look at your emotional health; why is your body feeling threatened? Is that threat real? What action do you need to take?
Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling
Bringing your anxiety out into the open can make it feel less imposing and shameful. In telling someone out loud, you notice and accept the feelings that you’re experiencing where before, you might have been questioning yourself with the critical voice I spoke of above.
For example, “what’s wrong with me” “why can’t I just get on with it like everyone else” “I’m letting myself and others down”. This is all added threat i.e. extra fuel, going into the anxiety fire.
Understand some of the neuroscience
Having a basic understanding of what’s happening in your body when you have an anxious response can make it easier to understand and accept the physical and emotional response that your experiencing.
For example, knowing that you’re body has gone into fight/flight mode so blood is pumping to your muscles means that now is a good time for exercise/go for a walk or run, and allow the adrenalin and cortisol levels to normalise.
The thinking/logical processing side of our brain will have gone “off line” whilst this is happening so other activities that involve focus and concentration will feel harder as all your body’s resources are being channelled elsewhere and even simple instructions like “turn to your left”, become really difficult to follow.
The after effects
Do you find yourself analysing events afterwards; replaying what happened and being critical of what you did/said? Again, this is your anxiety checking things out and looking for reassurances that you were safe. This can become problematic though when the negative thoughts get stuck and start to spiral because reassurances are hard to find. This can be the case when confidence and esteem levels are low.
Focusing on facts and logical reasoning can be helpful though as what the anxiety is telling you is often the worst case scenario. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about this.
If the anxious response has been intense and long lasting you might also feel yourself fatigued, exhausted, run down and generally “floored” a few hours after. This is because of your body’s physical response and can be considered a “hangover”, where you body needs time to recuperate and level out the adrenalin and cortisol used in the response.
Get in touch
Let's talk about your experiences of anxiety. Together, we can look at:
This puts you in a better place to accept the feelings you’re experiencing and allows your body to step down from high alert before the anxiety escalates, “snowballs” and/or takes over.
This is an area that I have lot of experience in, as I run Anxiety Management Workshops and I'm also an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist providing therapeutic support to the charity’s members and partner beneficiaries.
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BLOCKS and BARRIERS - Does your race, religion, gender, sexuality or any other label get in the way of others understanding you?
In the wake of the Black Lives Matters movement, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences of counselling and why, in the past, I found it difficult to talk about issues around my racial and cultural identity, in the counselling room.
I believe that this was down to the lack of open dialogue around issues such as gender, sexuality, race, colour, heritage and culture; my upbringing where this was "just stuff you have to accept and deal with" and also because of my assumption, that unless my counsellor had the same heritage as me they wouldn't understand the issues I’d struggled with and that white privilege might get in the way of them understanding what I was talking about.
Now this awareness has come to light for me, I wonder if you feel the same?
Perhaps you find yourself thinking that there’s no point in asking for support or talking to a counsellor because there’s no way they’ll understand. This is a really easy assumption to make, particularly if:
All of these thoughts act as blocks or barriers to getting support.
Stigma around mental health is another block to accessing support and maybe counselling and talking outside of your community is frowned upon by other people who’re important to you? Or it could be that talking about your issues feels disrespectful or disloyal to others?
Alternatively, the pressure to conform to the expectations that your label brings might have become all-consuming leaving no time or space for you to explore the aspects of yourself that are important to you.
You may have experienced one, some or all of these issues when it comes to thinking about counselling and its important to recognise that these thoughts are there to keep us safe, particularly if others haven’t reacted in the way that you wanted to in the past. Its more than likely, that you'll feel anxious in trying to talk to someone about these feelings again.
Consequences of not talking
The consequence of “not sharing the load” is that your thoughts and feelings remain buried (if its too hard to think about) or unprocessed within yourself. This can lead to feelings of aloneness, anxiety, isolation and you might think “why me” as you find yourself carrying these difficult thoughts. Relationship issues might also arise.
This feels really important to me right now, as there’s been a massive amount of loss in lives, livelihoods, lifestyles and cultural identities and I know that restrictions and isolation can magnify all of these difficult feelings, particularly if you belong to a small, minority and/or marginalised community.
And then there’s the Black Lives Movement and all the feelings, often difficult to talk about and process, that that might have been stirred up and added in to the mix.
How do you overcome that block or barrier?
If you find yourself wanting to talk to someone but afraid that you won’t be understood, I would say, do a bit of research (there’s some links to well reputed directories that you might find helpful below) and if you come across a counsellor profile you like the sound of, get in touch.
If the initial contact doesn’t feel helpful, you don’t have to go any further.
But if they’re the right counsellor for you what you might find, is:
They’ll ensure that they’re well informed (without you having to educate them), willing and open to learning about identities different to their own. They’ll be able to fully explore all the issues that you bring (even the blocks and barriers that you’ve experienced in coming to counselling) in an impartial and non-judgmental way. They’ll provide you with the empathic understanding and empowerment that results, that each and every one of us is entitled to.
Morgan Harper Nichols
So, what’s stopping you?
Get in touch if you’d like to speak to someone experienced in working with blocks and barriers or if you’d like to know more about the culturally sensitive counselling without stereotype that I offer.
May 20, 2021
Expectations during a Global Pandemic
Expectations of Counselling