We all experience anxiety from time to time. This can be a perfectly normal reaction to a stressful situation like moving house or changing job. Sometimes, however, our anxious feelings can become overwhelming or chronic.

The coronavirus pandemic has created circumstances where many of us feel anxious for much longer periods of time than usual. This can be debilitating and scary, especially if you’ve not felt like this before.

Think you’re experiencing anxiety? Check out our anxiety fact sheet, which lays out the major physical and emotional symptoms.

In addition to seeing your GP or talking to a therapist, there are ways we can soothe our own anxious thoughts. If you’ve been feeling on edge or worrying and it’s becoming problematic, try using some of the tips below to self soothe.

Take a break from the news 

Coronavirus news is everywhere. It’s on our social media feeds, on news websites, popping up in notifications. This can be overwhelming, especially given the magnitude of the situation and the endless onslaught of new facts and figures. 

Checking the news all day, every day, is unlikely to benefit you. It’s important to stay informed - especially with regard to government health advice and how you can help - but this can be achieved by checking the news once or twice a day for big updates. Pick a couple of news sources and set times in the day that you’ll check them. Outside of these hours, try and focus on your work, or hobbies, depending on what you’re doing during lockdown. 

It's also okay to temporarily delete Twitter and Facebook from your phone, as these can spark similar degrees of anxiety.

Avoid stimulants

It's a simple tip, but true nonetheless. Caffeine, and stronger stimulants in recreational drugs can make anxiety problems even worse. If you're feeling anxious, try reducing your intake, or if you feel up to it, cutting it out entirely.

Take time for pleasure

Lockdown is generating huge amounts of pressure for us to self-improve, but you're not a failure if you haven't learned a language, done DIY, and exercised every spare minute of the day. It's okay to simply be, and take care of yourself during this turbulent time.

Make time for yourself to simply relax and do the things you enjoy, whether that's playing videogames, watching TV, or cooking a nice meal. 

This isn't to say that creative pursuits and learning are bad, they can be great for our self esteem. Just don't use them as a rod to beat yourself when you're already feeling anxious. Self-care is just as important as any of these things.

Access reliable information and facts 

Conspiracy theories and sensationalist headlines are the enemies of good mental health. Accessing well-researched and reliable information about the ongoing situation, and its potential effects on mental health, is key. Think carefully about where you’re accessing your information -  round robins on WhatsApp are full of spam, sensationalism, and completely inaccurate information, often deliberately so.

Talk to someone 

It’s important for our mental health to connect with others, whether this is face to face or digitally. Speaking to other people can help us rationally work through our problems, or dissect the negative thought patterns that are keeping us worried.

Call a friend and ask if you can talk about what’s worrying you. If it helps, you can make a list of what’s on your mind beforehand so that you cover all the bases and you can address your worries in an ordered manner. After you’re done, you’ll likely feel better.

For many of us it's especially important to keep in contact with other LGBTQ+ people, as we're stuck at home in difficult circumstances with people who might not understand us, or worse, are being abusive. There are plenty of online communities where you can connect, and have people remind you that being queer is beautiful.

Online support 

Not everyone has close friends and family then can talk to, and if they do, they might not feel comfortable sharing their experiences of anxiety. That’s why services like the OutLife forums are great. You can talk to other people who are likely to understand your feelings, whilst also remaining anonymous. 

London Friend is also running a Lockdown Remedy Support Group in response to the coronavirus lockdown. It's there to help people manage higher anxiety they are experiencing as a result of social distancing.

Get your daily exercise 

Exercise is key to consistently reducing levels of anxiety, whether it’s running, lifting weights, or doing yoga. When we exercise, the amount of stress hormones in the body goes down, allowing us to feel more relaxed. If you get outside for your dose of exercise, then you’re also taking in fresh air, sunlight (vital for vitamin D production), and for lucky people, nature, which has been shown to have positive effects on our mental wellbeing. 

Our personal circumstances all differ during lockdown. Not everyone has a private garden to run around in. This is why OutLife is running free online yoga and exercise sessions that are completely equipment free, and can be done from a living room, bedroom… or pretty much anywhere you have a few feet of free space.

Routine is your friend 

Our daily routines have changed beyond recognition, and many people are struggling to cope with the new normal. If you're still working from home, are furloughed, or have found yourself unemployed, then the usual rythms of daily life aren't as easy to maintain.

It might be tempting to let stay up into the wee hours and let your sleep pattern go topsy turvy, but this can prove problematic for mental health. Try to stick to regular sleeping and waking hours, and divide your space between work and leisure, even if that's as simple as working at the table and relaxing on the sofa. 


What Next? 

Support

The OutLife Forums is a great place to go if you need to talk. It's a friendly, judgement-free community that's there to help.

Anxiety UK has posted a whole suite of resources around coronavirus and anxiety, including tolerating uncertainty, feeling trapped and claustrophobic, and mindfulness techniques.

Switchboard is there if you want to speak to someone who is LGBTQ+. It's a free helpline and they'll be happy to talk about whatever's on your mind. Phone: 0300 330 0630, webchat, email: [email protected].

MindOut is an LGBTQ+ mental health charity and is running peer support groups and peer mentoring

London Friend is running a Lockdown Remedy Support Group in response to the coronavirus lockdown. It's there to help people manage higher anxiety they are experiencing as a result of social distancing.