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’

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