This year has been particularly challenging for all of us, let alone those with existing mental health problems, and so it’s no surprise to see rates of anxiety and depression spiking across the country. With a second wave of the coronavirus potentially already underway, and the cold days of autumn and winter approaching, it’s fair to say that the next few months could bring even greater mental health challenges.
Anxiety is a serious mental health issue, and unfortunately it cannot simply be wished away. But this does not mean we are entirely helpless in the face of it. As autumn and winter approach, read on to find out some of the ways we can help ourselves through this difficult time.
Use technology to stay social
Sometimes, when we’re in the grip of anxiety, socialising can be the last thing we want to do. During the pandemic, an extra layer of anxiety has been added to social occasions due to the potential risk of infection – as well as the complicated new rules we have to navigate.
With more restrictions on social gatherings increasingly likely in the next few months due to further COVID-19 breakouts, socialising in person will obviously become more difficult. On top of this, the cold weather makes socialising outdoors a less attractive prospect than it was in the summer.
Despite all of this, however, you should make a concerted effort to keep socialising throughout the autumn and winter months – even if it’s something as simple as a phone or video call, or a virtual game night. Socialising has well-established benefits for our mental health, and so it’s more important than ever that we’re not isolated in this difficult period. Although it may not be possible to meet your family and friends face-to-face, virtual meetings are still incredibly valuable and should not be forgotten.
Lean into the cosiness
We’ve all heard of ‘hygge’ by now (the Danish and Norwegian word for contented cosiness), but it really can be beneficial for your anxiety levels to embrace it. As the long, cold nights of autumn and winter draw in, snuggling up with a warm drink and a blanket can be a real pleasure.
Check other areas of your health
It’s also true that diet can have a role to play in our anxiety levels. From eating a balanced diet to limiting our intake of alcohol, it’s worth seeing if there are any small changes you can make in this area. If you’re a man, low testosterone levels can also overlap with the symptoms of anxiety – and affect you in a range of other areas – so it might be worth looking into this area of your health too.
Give yourself permission to take a step back
Finally, it’s important to give yourself permission to take a step back from the whirlwind of health and economic worries that are circulating in your mind. Rather than catastrophizing, and fixating on disasters that haven’t happened yet, reserve your energy for the problems that you can fix right now – and forget the rest. This is easier said than done, of course, but by making a continual effort to live in the here and now you will be more able to cope – without the worries of the future weighing you down as well.
Anxiety is extremely debilitating, and there is no ‘silver bullet’ that will eradicate it from your mind. But try to get into the habit of banishing negative thoughts when they arrive, and thinking positive thoughts instead. Studies have shown that this method can be surprisingly effective – but it’s not the only answer. It’s important to empathise that if you experience anxiety, or are in any way concerned about your mental health, your GP should be the first port of call.
Anne Williams is an independent researcher and writer. She has been writing for different publications for two years now. She loves swimming and is an active advocate for mental health in her community.