How are you feeling as restrictions ease again?

Are you having feelings of anxiety?

We are on the road to Lockdown restrictions easing again, after what seems like an age.

With it comes tentative optimism and apprehensive excitement.
How are you feeling?

Though the government have given us a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which is what most of us want, many people are also feeling wary and anxious.


If you are feeling anxious, here is some advice and reassurance for you, further to my talk with Pat Marsh on BBC Radio Kent.

We have had lots of changes and uncertainty to accustom ourselves to and the energy we have used to adapt and maintain these changes, and the feeling for many of ‘Groundhog Day’ has taken its toll and caused a sense of fatigue.

For people with Social phobia or anxiety (anxiety of being in group situations, meeting someone new or going to a new place) Lockdown in some respects, has ended up being a safety net, taking away the expectation and pressure to be around others.

Several Mental Health Charities have reported that for people suffering with anxiety or social phobia, the easing of restrictions has caused their anxiety levels to soar.

Many people are suffering feelings of anxiety for the first time

For many people who have not previously suffered with anxiety, alongside the excitement and need to be around others and hugs, there is also anxiety about being in groups of people. Many report the feeling of wanting to hang back and be cautious with their family and friends, even though the guidelines have been set out.

For some it really has been such a hard, tragic & emotional time and along with the need to grieve properly and see family, understandably though there is also an overwhelming anxiety at the thought of another Lockdown, if our easing of restrictions has a negative effect.

We all know, that regardless of our individual situations, we have a collective responsibility to look after each other, whilst making sure we are OK.

Do be reassured that the guideline set out by the government are gradual and being monitored along the way.

Advice:

Work related

·       For Employers and Employees, there is much advice to manage the easing back to work and being Covid safe. It is a worrying time for businesses, the workforce and customers, so working together will be safer for all.

·       If you are feeling particularly worried about protecting your staff – the Government Health and Safety Executive website has clear guidelines to help you.

·       If you are due to return to work and are feeling particularly anxious – speak to your employer and maybe you can do a phased return into the workplace – depending on your role. At the moment, working from home is still the preferred option if you are able to

Stay connected

Do try to stay connected – reach out to others. Speak to people about how you are feeling. It is OK to be feeling anxious and more people than you may realise feel this way, so they will be being cautious too.

·       Many people, especially teens and young adults are feeling like they have lost their connection with friends in particular, during the last year. Reach out and say Hi.

From the 29th March (England) you can meet up to 6 people outdoors in a garden or public space. As Spring unfolds the weather will be warming up too, so it is something to look forward to.

Have I done enough? Do I look OK?

·       Other worries are things like; ‘have I accomplished enough during lockdown’ ‘what if I don’t look so good?’ Most people definitely have a Lockdown hair style! Please do not compare your individual experience to that of another person’s. You may it is actually a good way to break the ice and share stories.

You have accomplished more than you think!

Think about, and even write down, all you have achieved from small things like learning to cook something new, to surviving home-schooling and finishing off something for when you had the time!

Do things at your own pace

·       Doing things at your own pace, as much as is possible, is a good idea. Take your time with getting out their again. Please do not feel that others will be upset with you, because most people do understand. You can keep numbers of people that you meet in a group smaller than advised until you feel more comfortable – it is OK.

Helping others helps you too

·       It is worth noting that stress levels will be higher for a lot of people, so be as kind and understanding as you can – helping someone else and easing their anxiety helps you feel better too.

·       Feelings of anxiety are usually all the ‘what if’s’ of something going wrong in the future or thinking about something that happened before. Focus on the things you can control and try to keep yourself in the present moment or situation you are dealing with right now. To take those initial steps back into a more social environment are important, even though it may feel safer to stay home.

Map Apps show you the busiest times for stores, which can help you pick a quieter time.

If going back to work, it could be helpful to do the journey beforehand as a dummy run, at a relaxed pace, to put you at ease.

Controlling anxiety levels

·       Breathe – what we call ‘box breathing’ is great and easy to do. Breathe in slow and steady to the count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. You will only need to do this for two or three rounds – then tell yourself ‘I’m OK’ ‘I’ve got this’

·       Tap or rub under your collarbone, one or both sides if you feel your anxiety levels rising – take a slow breath and think of someone or something that makes you smile, or a calming colour all around you. You can do this quite subtly – like when standing in a que or before going into work, same for the box breathing too.

·       Stay hydrated, eat a good diet and give yourself time for a restful sleep, by having a good winddown routine before bed.

·       Try writing down any worries before sleep and then ripping them up, practice writing down 3 good things from your day in a notebook – anything that made you smile or feel good. It can also help to write down 2 or 3 things you are going to do the next day too – this alleviates anxiety from your mind and allows you to sleep better.

Better than you think

You really have done better than you may be giving yourself credit for. The vaccine rollout has been a success so far and we are incredibly lucky to have it, even though some people have concerns – this is a natural process for anything new.

Moving Forward

Time now to take those tentative steps and look forward.

Warmest regards

Andrea Barker

‘Kent’s Confidence Coach’

How often do you put yourself first?

I have had the pleasure of being on BBC Radio Kent, Pat Marsh’s show, over several weeks now. We have been talking about many things to help your Mental Health and Well-Being.

Today we talked about being kind & and looking after yourself.

Putting yourself first at times matters – it is essential for your well-being to top up your own cup, so you have something to give.

It reduces your stress levels and helps you feel happier, which is better for you and the people around you.

Some people find it hard to put themselves first, worrying that it is a selfish thing to do; which can result on taking on too much, feeling overwhelmed, tired and stressed.

So, how can you look after yourself?

There are several things you can do as listed below, to look after your Mind Body and Soul

100%?
  • Start by taking the pressure off yourself to be ‘perfect’ or things to be done ‘perfectly’ and to be 100% all of the time. A great question to ask yourself; “Is it fair to expect 100% – 100% of the time?”
  • A rule I like to live by is 80 / 20. 80% of the time do what you know you should – 20% of the time do what you like doing. This creates a great balance and avoids you trying to cut things out altogether which can be a hard thing to do – just adding to pressure or stress.
The 80 / 20 rule
  • Eat a wide variety of wholesome foods that nourish and sustain your body and mind. Good nutrition helps to keep your body healthy and more able to fight off disease. When you feel healthly you can do more things well, which helps you feel happier.
  • Keep Hydrated Keeping yourself hydrated helps you think more clearly, and your body functions so much better when well hydrated.
  • Exercise is good for your Mind Body and Soul – it keeps you flexible and fit, reduces stress, gives you headspace and much needed ‘time out’ and reduces the risk of disease. When are body and mind are healthy we feel so good from the inside out and life flows better.

Other important things are;

  • Get plenty of sleep. The benefits of a good sleep can not be underestimated – our mind filters and files our day, our body repairs and children grow. I’m an advocate of the power nap – a great way to top up on sleep.
  • Play and have FUN do what you love doing, have fun and laughs – it is so good for your mental well-being. Doing things you enjoy is so important. When was the last time you factored some FUN into your life as a priority?
laughter – Food of the Soul
  • Looking after your spiritual health is an important part of over health and well-being – whether it is meditation, religion and prayer, the outcome can be an inner sense of peace.
Confidence
  • Developing Confidence in yourself learning to say YES to what you want to do, and NO to what you don’t want to do, or maybe don’t have the time to do.
  • Many people find that little word NO a difficult word to say – so, try buying your self some time to decide what you want to do by saying something like, “Let me see if I have the time to do what you ask, to make sure I can do the best job for you”
  • Learn something new learning a new skill not only expands your mind and feeds your interest, giving you a wonderful sense of achievement. As a result of doing something new – it can open up opportunities for new experiences, or friendships.
  • BE YOURSELF – You are the only you there is. Embrace who you are. Get to know yourself and appreciate your achievements and skills. This will help you feel so much happier and confident.
Be yourself

There is so much more I could add!

TAKE CARE OF YOU – YOU MATTER

Andrea

looking after yourself and others during the continued restrictions

It is hard to believe that nearly a year on and we are still in the midst of the pandemic and restrictions.

Our Mental Health and well-being has certainly been under pressure and it does always seem worse during the colder months – however spring is around the corner, as is the hope of getting back to some form of normality.

Children and parents have been finding it particularly hard, as have those people shielding and living alone, when so many of our social face to face interactions are not possible.

The message is –

  • to stay as connected with other people in what ways you can, whether meeting for a socially distanced walk, phone call or video call, and talk about how you feel – or check in on someone else, especially if you know they live alone. If they do not want to talk, just let then know you are there and will check in again with them. Sometimes people do want another person to just listen –
  • There are so many wonderful organisations you can talk to or text – reach out, it is so worth sharing your feelings – you are not alone. SHOUT, MIND & YOUNG MINDS, CALM, ANXIETY UK to name a few.

Age UK has a good video to help older people who are not familiar with video calling.

Nature continues regardless…

If you can, do outside into nature, it does have a calming effect and helps you feel a little more grounded, getting natural light is important.Even 10 minutes a day will help – look out for the signs of spring, like snowdrops and daffodil buds or just pause and listen to the birds. You can put some food and water out for the birds and get nature to come to you.

If you are feeling low or have feelings of anxiety that you find hard to talk about,

then why not look at expressing how you feel by reading or writing poetry, how about a story or blog, if you are musical – you could write a song or rap? There have been some particularly funny Lockdown songs and during these times – humour is a saviour.

If you do feel particularly anxious

try writing down all your thoughts on a piece of paper and then rip it up and throw it away.

Maybe draw or paint your feelings and use the colours as expression – you don’t need to be ‘good’ at art, just use the colours in a way that helps you feel good or release pent up feelings.

Put some music on and really feel the music, express yourself through movement – dance like no-one is watching – or dance together whether in person or over a video call and have fun. Movement, like dancing or other forms of exercise are so good for you, and help you feel energised.

Focus on the positives from each day

take each day one day at a time. Take timeout for self-care, like reading a book, going for a walk or having a bath – this helps you cope with what is going on around you

Remember to Breathe… and let go of those things you cannot control and focus on what you CAN do

Valentines in Lockdown?

‘Lockdown Love’ has certainly been a challenge, especially if you do not live with your partner, or are single and looking for love.

So, what can you do for Valentine’s day?

  • You could have fun making each other a valentine’s card and a poem to go in it! Or send one to cheer up a friend or someone you admire!
  • Write a valentine’s song.
  • Send a valentine’s video – with a lovely message or song!
  • Dress up for a night out & cook a meal together – or if you live apart both cook the same meal over zoom!
  • Maybe support a local restaurant by ordering a valentine’s meal or food hamper.
  • Watch a film together and cosy up – again you can watch the same film together while on a video call – just press play at the same time!
  • Wrap up warm and go for a country or coastal walk
  • Send flowers, an indoor plant or seeds for the garden.

If you are single and looking for love

Are you currently single?

It certainly is a challenge to be able to meet anyone in person, however dating site reports suggest it is a good time to have more meaningful chats with a potential partner, with a little less initial pressure about meeting up.

If you are using dating apps, do take care and make sure you try not to go on them when you feel particularly vulnerable, and do not give out your phone number – use the withhold number option, until you feel safe to.

Only ever arrange to meet someone if you feel safe. That it follows current restriction guidelines, and you tell someone where you are. Do not meet anywhere remote.

For Valentine’s why not buddy up online with another single friend. Watch a romantic film or RomCom – with a warming hot chocolate or a cocktail!

If you can – treat yourself to some lovely food to cook or order in and why not?

  • Loneliness can be hard, so remember to connect with friends, or the wonderful organisations out there. Check up on someone you know is alone.

Valentine’s day is just one day!

Stay connected and stay safe

Andrea

AGE UK https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/work-learning/technology-internet/

MIND https://www.mind.org.uk/

Young Minds https://youngminds.org.uk/

Anxiety UK https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

CALM https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Confidence and Self- belief

Five years ago, I took a leap into the world of working for myself, as The Confidence Coach, doing something I value.

Which is helping others to develop their self-confidence, believe in themselves, overcome fears and anxiety, empowering them to grow as a person, feel happier being who they are and to be their best.

There is no price you can put on the glowing feeling you get, when you see someone else ‘click’ and buy into themselves. Fully embrace learning to like, look after and love who they see in the mirror and making the decision to give themselves a chance to reach their potential and to shine.

I thank all those amazing and inspiring people who have trusted me to guide them.

Over this last 5 years I have had the most uplifting times and also had to dig very deep into the well of my own self-belief.

I’ve got things wrong at times, been naive as a businessperson, felt the strain of working for myself. I have also had simply the best of times, and met so many wonderful people.

I have learnt so much about my chosen therapy area, business, others, and myself most of all; continuing to do so and I would not trade the experience.

Confidence, determination and BALANCE

During the challenges, I have kept the determination to carry on. To keep ploughing away and sowing the seeds of what I believe in. Developing my own expertise, resolve, resilience and confidence along the way.

One thing that I know to be so important, is to keep a balance between working, maintaining health, connections with others, nature and having Fun.

Support and friendship

I could not have survived without the huge support, friendship, laughter, advice, shoulders, and kindness from the people around me, and I am truly grateful.

Thank You

Now for the next Five!

Andrea

Staying Happy and Healthy is crucial to your well-being

If you are feeling low or anxious – here are some small things you can do to help you stay Happy and Healthy.

Do keep connected with others, in what ways you can.

Keep moving and get outside if you can, or buy some houseplants to bring the outside in, and feel the benefits.

Playing games with others is a great way to have fun and be connected, all you need is a pack of cards – why not revive some traditional games.

Look after yourself

Look after yourself – you’re worth it, and when you’re ok – life flows better, and you feel more able to deal with any stresses.

Andrea

As we head into our second lockdown, how can we reduce anxiety and stress?

A return to restrictions and lockdown has seen Anxiety levels soar again, in all ages.

It has been a year that has touched everyone in some way. One we certainly won’t forget.

Continued uncertainty and not being able to plan for the future, can give the feeling being anxious, stressed and not being in control. We are left wondering when ‘normality’ will return.

This can also create stress and overwhelm, as our mind becomes hypersensitive to the continued threat to our well-being and fears go into overdrive.

As the weather changes too, how can we manage our anxiety, or help those close to us?

Following on from being on Pat Marsh’s show, on BBC Radio Kent – I have listed the advice spoken about and more…

Focus on what YOU can control

Like your getting up time, when you have lunch or some exercise, whether indoors or outdoors.

A routine is a great thing to have in the week, especially if you are not able to continue your normal routine, to give you structure. Relax at the weekend. This will help you feel less anxious to keep the days of the week and the weekend seperate.

Also, Stick to a good bedtime, to get important sleep you need. Waking up refreshed is so much better for you and will help you cope better day to day. Our body repairs and our mind helps file away our day.

If you wake up in the night – listen to the calm silence and then task your mind to count down from 300 – gently keep bring your mind back to the countdown and you will go back to sleep. It is a good idea not to turn on phone screens if you wake up, because the light affects your sleep hormone, which promotes sleep.

Stay connected in whatever way you can with family and friends. This is the time to keep talking. Talking to friends and family about how you feel, or listening to others, can really help.

Pick up the phone and have conversations. Check on your neighbours. You can meet one other person for a walk, so even if it is meeting for just a half hour walk, it is well worth doing. Wrap up if it is cold and prepare to be invigorated!

If you feel anxious and like thoughts are whirring around your head – get a plain piece of paper and write everything down – then rip it up. It feels good.

Try to limit the news to once a day, just so you can keep in touch with what is happening that may affect you, then concentrate on what you can control within your own environment – whilst following the guidelines.

Other things you can try:

  • Join virtual group or create one – like a model club, knitting, photography… there are other things too, if you are not wanting to use a device or computer.
  • Have quiet time and read, colour, draw or paint and do crafts, or a jigsaw
  • Try calming mindfulness – focus on your breathing and think of things that make you smile and feel happy
  • Make a calming glitter jar – literally fill an empty jar with water and glitter – seal and enjoy its calming affects
  • Get a stress ball – or something lovely and touchy-feely for when you feel anxious and stressed or pop bubble wrap!
  • Listen to music, sing out loud and dance – music has wonderful power to uplift you and change your mood instantly and it lasts
  • Watch things that make you Laugh, laughing really is a tonic.

So, give a few things a good and you will feel better

Feeling panicky?

If you are feeling panicky:

  • Breathe – breathe in for the count of 3, hold for 3, breathe out to the count of 3 and hold for 3 – do this three times and you will feel calmer
  • Tell yourself ‘I’m OK, I am calm’
  • This could be useful to try: Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear (even if you create the noise) 3 things you can touch. This grounds you and helps you feel calmer.

Really not feeling yourself?

We can all be feeling anxious and stressed, but if it is taking over your day to day living, affecting your sleep and eating habits, then do seek help from your GP, and the many organisations available to get the support you need.

You are not alone: 1 in 4 people suffer anxiety.

Andrea

Tips to help reduce the anxiety of returning to school after Lockdown

Covid19 pandemic of 2020 and the resulting lockdown, has certainly had an impact on all of us, not least our children causing much anxiety. So, how can we help?

*firstly, do seek professional help if you feel you or your child’s mental health is of concern.

As lockdown eases further, children of all ages and their parents may be having feelings of anxiety around returning to school after such an extended break and worrying about how safe it is for their children, which is understandable.

For many children, lockdown has been a happy & safe experience that they may not want to change.

Many children have desperately missed their friends, teachers and the routine school offers and have also been missing out on extra-curricular activities.

Children & young adults can respond in different ways:

Maybe becoming withdrawn; be unusually clingy; be ‘naughtier’ and seek attention or lash out and can show their concerns by really worrying about what might happen but find it difficult to say how they feel.

Things that may help

  • Children mostly take their cues on how to deal with a situation from the adults around them.
  • Be aware of using negative language, or talking about your worries within your child’s earshot, about them returning to school.
  • If your child is worried about going back to school, it isn’t enough to say, “everything will be alright”.

Acknowledge how they feel, and that it is ok if they feel worried and then help them to deal with it and find good coping mechanisms

  • Older children – let them know it is Ok to feel anxious and that the feelings can just be some apprehension and are the same for excitement too! That after day one or two they will feel much better
  • Try to limit the news coverage and stick to things you can control within your environment and your child’s school.
  • On a practical level – connect with parents and children your child knows from school. Arrange a safe play date or meeting. This helps you share your worries too.
  • Walk or drive past the school a few times before the term starts. Also, get your child involved in getting their uniform and bag ready.
  • Encourage your child to talk about what they like doing at school and their friends
  • If your child is moving from primary to secondary, remember that their anxieties are real, encourage them to talk over how they feel.
  • Most schools have good information on their website about the safety measures they have put in place. Contact the school if you are particularly concerned.
  • Some Children worry about leaving their parent alone at home…reassure them that you will be fine.
  • For most children of all ages – after the first few days of getting back to school, a routine will soon be found, and they will have survived and so will you!

*SHOUT – part of Heads Together a useful texting service for people struggling with Mental Health. Visit Childline, Young Minds and Anxiety UK’s websites too, all packed with great advice.

Focusing on positives helps your Well Being

As lockdown was announced on 23rd March 2020, to restrict the spread of Coronavirus; could we ever have anticipated how much day to day living and the fabric of our lives would change?

That terms like ‘Stay Home’ ‘Lockdown’ ‘Social distancing’ and ‘Pandemic’ would be commonplace in our conversations.

It has been an anxious, and challenging time, with heart aching tragedy for too many. Businesses, schools, whole communities and cities shut and eerily quiet. So many of us missing family and friends and having a hug, being able to meet up for a meal, or celebrate a birthday, a new arrival or to grieve.

However, people have also come together and embraced the sacrifice for the greater good, and for that we should be immensely proud.

“Though we have had and still have much uncertainty and are all in the same storm, as with anything, we will have our own unique experience and how we weather it will be different for us all.”

Our Mental health and Well-being is incredibly important, and more so than ever at the moment.

Thankfully, people are more willing to talk about how they are feeling. People are having genuine conversations – which I really hope stays with us, as people find that speaking out and opening up is so much better, and a far more courageous step to take, than locking down emotionally, especially when people and organisations are so willing and able to help.

If you are feeling anxious, take things day by day, concentrate on what you personally can control and do seek help and support.

Thinking of the positive things you have liked and enjoyed during this time helps you feel happier and uplifted. Try writing them down to keep.

*Spending quality, guilt free time with your family. One young person said to me; how much they had enjoyed reconnecting with their otherwise busy parents! and how good it had been to relax and play games together.

*Having time to appreciate your home, garden and local area – including getting to know your neighbours.

*Maybe, you have read some books for the first time in a long time.

*If you are working from home, it could be how much you have appreciated not having to commute. Some people working from home have found they have been more productive and more connected with colleagues, which could bring about more flexible working in the future?

*You could be a student that has enjoyed home schooling, or a parent that has survived it better than you thought you would, with a new appreciation for teachers?!

*Is it that you can hear the birds singing on your new love for a daily walk?

*Are you one of the many people rediscovering the love of baking or cooking?

*Have you enjoyed the giving and receiving of wonderful acts of kindness and how thoughtful and caring people have been?

*Possibly you learnt how to do video calling and found getting many people together on a call has been easier than you thought, and quite a revelation?

Some people have been worried that they haven’t achieved enough! Do take the pressure off and be kind to yourself, especially as this has been completely new for us all.

Try writing a list or write a journal / story about your experience and credit yourself for the things you have achieved like:

‘I survived home schooling’ or that you actually relaxed and read some books; connected with your family; did more exercise; completed a puzzle, de-cluttered and tidied up; helped others in your family; did acts of kindness for keyworkers and the NHS; like putting art in your window to cheer people up, making masks, donating or fund raising in what way you could. Maybe you took the step to talk about how you feel, or learnt how to use video calling for work, or went on a virtual date…

As we prepare to move forward and Lockdown restrictions to relax further, think of the things you would like to preserve and keep doing.

What have you learnt?

It is important for us to focus on what we have learnt from this crisis, as it is from any crisis. To decide what we would like to take from the experience, especially as it is possible we will never have a time, or time like this again.

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. Arguably there is nothing ‘good’ about a crisis, however, there are always exceptional creative ideas born from adversity, amazing resilience, bravery and kindness shown by others and from ourselves too, which can surprise us.

This creates an opportunity for us to mine great learning and wisdom, to ensure that what we all have, and are going through, in some way is worth it.

love and light

Andrea

Anxiety can happen and increase for anyone when there is uncertainty, especially around change that does not seem to have clarity – like the current relaxation of Lockdown & just when you may have got into a routine!

Ways to help your anxiety

Be Kind to yourself if you are feeling anxious, it is valid to be feeling worried.

Make sure you talk about your fears with people you trust.

Remember this is unchartered waters for us all.

Focus on what you can control like:

•          Still observing social distancing when going out, and integrate yourself slowly to doing more things

•          You can wear a facial covering when on public transport, or in a queue, though do remember keeping your hands clean and avoiding touching your face as much as you can is the best way to avoid the spread of any infection

•          If going back to work – speak to your employer and other colleagues on what works for you all, and recognise that tensions may be high for everyone, until you get into a routine with a new way of working – give yourself and everyone else time to adjust

•          Children going back to school – schools will be working out the best ways to do things – do raise your concerns if you have them, or suggestions that may help.

•          When your anxiety feels like a 7 – 8 – 9 or 10

*Imagine you are pressing a ‘Pause button’ which gives you time out to

*breathe in and out slowly and deeply

*think of a calm or uplifting colour wrapping itself around you like a hug

* ask yourself what can I do that will make me feel better right now?

*Maybe you can talk to someone?

*Turn up some uplifting music

*Go for a walk

*Bake or cook something good to eat…

•          As always try to reflect on the positives in the situation

•          Be grateful for what is good in your life right now.

I hope this helps

Andrea