The first step is to accept that it is normal to feel anxious and afraid. The events happening at the moment trigger the fear centre of our brain, and our survival instincts are activated.


If we already have reason to fear death and illness (from previous experiences), then we will have these experiences and feelings triggered as well. This can be very unpleasant, but it is normal. Our brain tells us that this danger happened before, and it feels like it is happening again. We will be in fight/flight/freeze mode as a result.

The other reason is that there is very little certainty over exactly who, when, how, or even if we will be personally affected. We don’t know. Uncertainty is uncomfortable and can make us very anxious because it triggers a sense of powerlessness and helplessness.


We are anxious because something bad might happen, and we might be unable to do anything about it. These are the central two themes of anxiety: 

  1. Something bad might happen, and
  2. I won’t be able to cope with it.

    It is a state of mind where we are future-focused on what ‘might happen’ and underestimate our ability to cope. Our brain and body then activate us to deal with this potential threat. We will likely feel many different sensations: tension, hotness, nausea, headache, tight stomach, wobbly legs, dry mouth, short, shallow breathing, irritability with those around us, and maybe even more anger.


    First, remind yourself that you have coped with things before and can cope again.  Find people around you who help you feel supported and safe.  Spend time NOW with those you care about, and bring yourself into the PRESENT moment and away from future-focused worry. Actively check in with your body to notice the tension, and breathe slowly to bring yourself down a notch or two.

     Accept that you or others around you might be more nervous or on edge, and be compassionate with yourself and others if you can. Imagine that you are all just trying to do the best you can.

    If your mind races too far ahead to what ‘might’ happen, bring it back to the present. When we are anxious, our thoughts go straight to ‘worst-case scenario’ thoughts. Notice this and bring your mind back to the present and what you can deal with right now. 


    There is a technique called The Worry Tree which can help bring our minds back to problem-solving and away from anxiety-inducing future-focused worry. It asks you one question: “Can I do anything about this RIGHT NOW?” If you can’t do anything right now, let it go or tell your brain when you will do something about it. I find my brain needs a schedule and needs to know ‘when’ I will deal with it before it will let me let it go. 


    One of the things that can help keep us in a state of anxiety is constant checking. This is a normal behaviour that our brain does to ‘scan’ for any threats. Unfortunately, though, it can keep us in a cycle of anxiety – checking – reassurance – anxiety – checking – reassurance. Social media notifications and news reports can feed this. Each check is like putting another log on the fire. 

    Reduce this checking behaviour and balance out your social media and news consumption with stories and information that are not connected to the coronavirus. If possible, seek out people and stories that help you feel connected and safe.


    Be compassionate and understanding.  Do what you can to encourage a sense of safety and connection with the people in your life who matter.  And if you can, try to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can as well.  Let’s all use this as a way to practice the coping strategies that we all have inside us.

    Dog Wrapped in a Red Checkered Blanket

    Seek whatever comforts you in this moment.

    This article follows up on an interview with Jim Hawkins on BBC Radio Shropshire on Monday, March 16th, 2020, at 9:45 a.m. Listen to Jim Hawkins and check out the BBC Radio Shropshire website below:

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