For the last 17 years I have been working with people to help them overcome all sorts of anxieties, fears and and life stresses and then… the Corona Virus appeared!

Now all over the internet and social media I’m seeing swathes of people talking about how anxious and concerned they are and how the uncertain times that are unfolding around us are the cause of these feelings.

People are talking about how they’re feeling overwhelmed. Parents are perhaps trying to work full time jobs all whilst home schooling kids (which essentially translates into working late nights and early mornings and then feeling exhausted.) Or on the other hand some people have no work to do, little money and no one to talk to and the toll of physical isolation and mental isolation begins to take hold.

So here is a conundrum for you…

Given that more people than ever are feeling the mental toll of Corona in the form of anxiety, overwhelm and stress, why aren’t more people seeking help to overcome these mental challenges?

I myself have noticed that despite everyone talking about corona anxiety, very few people have come forwards to say, “is this something that you could help me with.”

 

 

So what is going on?

I have 3 possible theories: (There may be more but these are the ones that strike me at present)

 

1. Let’s stop spending?

Simply put, during times of uncertainty people get more conservative with their spending. Perhaps things like personal development seem less important to them when they feel their survival is at stake?

 

2. “This one is real”?

People who come to see me because they are anxious will often say things like, “I need help because I get anxious public speaking even though I know I shouldn’t” Deep down there is a feeling that their fear, or anxiety is somewhat irrational.

For example:

  • “I know the spider can’t hurt me but I’m still afraid”
  • “I know that flying is the safest form of transport but I’m still terrified”
  • “I struggle in situations where I feel under pressure but others seem to cope ok with this”.

So what’s different in the case of Corona anxiety?

I suspect people are saying to themselves, “I should be feeling anxious about this one… this corona stuff is real. Everyone seems anxious.”

In other words what they are communicating is that they don’t see their response as a problem, but simply a normal response to difficult situations and the thinking is “if it ain’t broke why fix it”.

In other words“I get seeking help for irrational fears and anxieties BUT this is a real one… this is a rational one”!

 

3. Anxiety protects me…

People often believe that anxiety protects them. They believe the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response is designed to give us a much needed protective burst of adrenaline to flee danger, or to fight the enemy more effectively.

And many people I’ve spoken to mirror this idea that not only is it normal to feel anxious at times likes this, BUT they feel that the anxiety is in someway helping them stay protected and take action to do all the things they need to do (like stock up on toilet paper!).

So of course, if people perceive anxiety and stress as positive and protective for them, why on earth would they be interested in changing it?

 

BUT what if these above notions were simply innaccurate?

 

Let’s revisit each of these 3 issues and explore, “are they valid”? Do they really hold weight? Or is there something that we could be missing?

 

1) “Let’s stop spending…” – the reality.

Is this actually the best thing to do? People continue to spend money on food and water. Why? Because it aids their survival.

People are continuing to spend money on heating their homes. Why? Because it helps them and aids their quality of life.

So one could argue that spending money on learning to be resilient and handling situations like this (if we are struggling) should not be seen as a ‘nice to have’ but instead could be viewed as essential.

 

2) “This one is real…” – a different take on this.

You’ll have no argument from me here. Yes, these really are uncertain times, yes their really is a virus pandemic currently going on and yes their may indeed be economic and financial ramifications for all us.

AND I would also invite you to consider that it’s in times of ‘real’ challenge that we are in most need of clear thinking and calm.

Just because something is really happening doesn’t mean we can’t develop the skills of resilience and peace of mind to cope best with it.

 

3) “Anxiety protects us” – Does it? Does it really?

Let’s go back to 1000’s of years ago when we were hunter gatherers and the likely challenge that we’d face? Being attacked by the sabre tooth tiger out of the blue whilst we were sitting in the cave cooking our roast warthog dinner. When the beast pounces unexpectedly you’d likely benefit from a short sharp burst of adrenaline that gave you faster reaction times and the ability to run away and take action.

However, this primal ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response is really not that useful in longer term stresses and strains of modern life. Yet this biological remnant of dealing with challenges is still a little overactive for many.

Think about it, in terms of the corona virus, what enemy are you going to hit? Where are you going to run? How is freezing on the spot going to benefit you? This short term primal fear response really doesn’t serve us well at all.

In fact it does nothing but place unnecessary stress on the whole system and guess what? People tend to make worse decisions from places of ongoing stress AND excessive ongoing stress in the body can actually impact negatively your immune system responses (which I would argue are vital at this time).

Consider learning to cross the road. When we are toddlers, we learn to cross the road using fear. Mum will say to us, “don’t run into the road as you will likely get ‘splatted’!”. So at this age fear/anxiety of being run over, does keep us safe. BUT how many adults do you see at the side of the road having panic attacks and anxiety about crossing. None right? Why? Because at some stage the brain upgrades the mental programme to use wisdom instead of fear.
Crossing the road still poses certain risks but the adult knows that if they use wisdom (look left and look right and wait till it’s clear) they don’t need anxiety to stay safe.

Developing the skills of clarity and clear thinking in the face of adversity is much better approach.

When I was on LBC a couple of weeks ago talking with the presenter about how the nation could best deal with Corona anxiety he asked me a question at the end (almost as though he were trying to catch me out). “Quick question Howard before I go” he said, “how many times have you washed your hands today?”

I replied, “an appropriate amount of times BUT here’s the thing, I can wash my hand’s and take the appropriate action to stay safe and minimise the risk of spreading the corona virus without my heart racing or falling into catastrophic thinking.

 

 

So what’s next?

Well, in order to help people learn to achieve ‘peace of mind’ during this uncertain time, I’ve created an online 3 month coaching programme to support you in learning the skills to cope better with all the difficulties that arising. (You can find out more here: https://www.rapidchange.works/coronaanxiety)

The idea that just because “this is a real issue” or “it’s normal to feel this way” shouldn’t stop you learning how you can navigate these difficult waters with greater ease and clarity of thinking.

Let me leave you with this thought, (and it’s pinched from one of the 1000’s of memes that are currently hitting the internet at the moment).

 

“Most young kids will remember how their family home felt during the coronavirus panic more than anything specific about the virus. Our kids are watching us and learning about how to respond to stress and uncertainty. Let’s wire our kids for resilience, not panic.”

 

You have the opportunity to emerge from this experience stronger… I encourage you to take it.

 

#hypnosis #hypnotherapy #rapidchangeworks #coronavirus #coronaanxiety