Are you feeling anxious during COVID-19?
There is a great deal of information, coverage and opinion circulating about COVID-19.
Children and young people are hearing a lot about COVID-19 and normal life will be disrupted over the next few months for all of us. The extensive media coverage provides helpful information, but this can also be overwhelming, and it is natural that children and young people may worry about themselves, family members and friends.
Parents and other family members can be a great help when children and young people become anxious, and there are some reliable resources which can support adults in providing this help.
Good information is key, and avoiding scare stories on social media is really important at this time.
This disruption to our normal lives also provides children and young people with an opportunity to help other people in their community, which may distract them from worrying about themselves. We can hope that some good will come out of these challenging times.
Below is some information to help understand and support children & adolescents who may be experiencing anxiety during these uncertain times.
NHS Scotland has developed an advice paper in collaboration with other key organisations and details useful links and specific strategies for children with a range of mental health conditions. This can be found here.
COVID19 Resource Packs
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction that helps us deal with difficult or dangerous situations. Other words for anxiety might be:
If we are faced with a dangerous situation we feel anxious and get ready to either fight or run away. This type of anxiety is called your ANXIETY RESPONSE and it is good and natural.
Anxiety can affect us in 3 different ways:
→ Affecting how our bodies feel
→ Affecting how we think
→ Affecting how we behave
Information and resources about sleep
- Sleep Scotland – Currently their phone number is not in use at staff are remote working so any queries/requests should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with a contact number and they will be in touch.
- Gov UK website has some information and tips regarding sleep hygiene.
When we become anxious our body prepares itself for some form of physical action, often called the “FLIGHT–FIGHT” reaction. As the body prepares itself we may notice a number of physical changes such as:
- shortness of breath
- tight chest
- dizziness or light-headedness
- muscle pain, especially head and neck pain
- wanting to go to the toilet
- dry mouth
- difficulty swallowing
- blurred vision
- butterflies or feeling sick
Sometimes there may not be an obvious reason for feeling anxious. Another cause of anxiety is the WAY WE THINK about things. We may think that
- things will go wrong
- we will be unsuccessful
- we will be unable to cope
Life can seem like one big worry as minds become full of negative and worrying thoughts. We can’t seem to stop them, we find it hard to concentrate and think straight, and the worrying and negative thoughts seem to make the physical feelings worse.
WAYS TO GET RID OF UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS
There are at least three things that you can do to help get rid of unhelpful thoughts:
- Stop focusing on your body
- Distract yourself from unhelpful thoughts
- Question your unhelpful thoughts
- Stop focusing on your body
Try to notice whether you are focusing on your symptoms, or scanning your body for something wrong.There really is no need to do this and it makes the problem far worse. It may be useful to use the next technique to stop the habit. In particular, focus on what is going on outside rather than inside you.
- Distract yourself from unhelpful thoughts
This is a very simple but effective technique. Again you need to keep distracting yourself for at least three minutes for the symptoms to reduce. There are lots of ways you can distract yourself. For example, listening very carefully to someone talking, think of a pleasant scene or your favourite TV programme, doing sums in your head or singing a song. Really concentrate on it. The important thing is that your attention is taken off your body and on to something else. Use whatever works best for you.Some people distract themselves by doing something else. Go and read a book or play a game or have a go on your bike.Distraction really does work. Have you ever been in the middle of a panic attack when something happened that totally took over your attention e.g. the phone ringing?
- Question your unhelpful thoughts
Sometimes, rather than distracting yourself from your anxious thoughts, it is more helpful to challenge them. In the long run it is more helpful to challenge your worrying thoughts so that you no longer believe them.
If you are going to change this anxious way of thinking to a way that is less upsetting, you first need to recognise these anxious thoughts and then change them to more reasonable thoughts.
- Next time you feel scared or worried, try to pick out the thoughts you are having. They will be thoughts like:
- “I won’t be able to cope”
- “Something bad will happen to me”
- “I’ll never get better”
- Using the chart on the next page, first write down the situation in the first column (e.g. going out for a walk).
- Next write down the worrying thoughts you are having in the second column named ‘frightening thoughts’.
- After you have written them down, look at these anxious thoughts and think about what might not be true about them.
- The next job is to substitute them with more reasonable, realistic thoughts that don’t make you feel as worried. It may help to imagine what someone else might say or think, someone who is good at making you feel better.
Below are some specific strategies for feeling anxious during COVID-19
- Maintain good social connections and communicating openly with family and friends through Skype and Facetime.
- If you are finding news updates and social media triggering, unfollow or mute accounts. Mute Whatsapp groups and hide Facebook posts if you find them too overwhelming.
- Keep up a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising often, maintaining a good sleep routine.
- Try to maintain a routine for yourself despite disruption
- Meditate (Apps such as Headspace, Calm)
- Mindfulness Colouring
- Writing, reading, knitting & other crafts
- Learning a new hobby, like origami or other simple craft ideas
- Online workout videos (Youtube channels such as ‘Yoga with Adriene’)
- Grounding and breathing exercises
- Catch It – CBT focused guide
- CBTi – CBT app for sleep difficulties
- Daylio – daily mood/activity recording
- Flowy – breathing game
- Mindfulness Gnats
Below are some links for websites aimed at children and parents/carers
- Young Scot COVID-19 website – A website dedicated to information and support relating to COVID 19. This will be continually updated and links added to information you can trust.
This is an age appropriate news source
- BBC Newsround
- This clip is called: “Advice if you’re upset by the news”. It will help children to know that their feelings are a natural response to the unusual situation
Other sources of information for children on helping children understand COVID-19
- Coronavirus Explained! (for kids)
- This short clip gives advice on worries related to COVID-19
- A short book to help explain COVID-19 and discuss emotions
Some advice to help explain and talk to your child about COVID-19
- Children 1st – Talking to Children About Coronavirus
- Unicef – How to Talk to Your Child About Coronavirus
- Supporting parents and carers through disruption (Video)
Information about managing children and young people’s anxiety
Resource for families
- Taking Care of Family Well-Being
- Supporting Homebound Children During COVID-19
- Supporting Your Family During Quarantine or Isolation
OCD and COVID-19
OCD can make us feel that it is highly likely we will contract this new virus. OCD can make us feel we must take every precaution to not pass it on to people we love and care about. The intensity of guilt, shame and anxiety may not be new but no amount of heavily publicised reassurance or advice will make us feel better.
Current advice to social distance and wash your hands can mean the OCD monster can take control. For many that can struggle with OCD it can make life that extra bit harder. For people who find themselves troubled by horrible intrusive thoughts/images/urges or for those get really stuck on something and feel they need to “do something” to make things better here is a list of helpful ways to cope during this difficult time:
Worst Case Scenario: Scream it now!
OCD quite often wants you to keep it a secret. OCD likes control and quite often if you say the worst case scenario out loud OCD will make you do something to stop it from happening. Rather than be bullied by OCD say the worst case scenario out loud. A horrible thought of course, but powerful in fighting back OCD.
Don’t feed the monster!
It’s the job of the government and the news media to make us aware and, at present, even scare us with facts, figures and “lockdowns”. Again this is all food to feed the OCD monster. The corona virus does pose a risk it would be silly to not acknowledge that but OCD will inflate this risk. Minimise your time watching the news or scrolling through social media to give yourself some rest.
Follow Advice…within the limitations
The soundest and most rationale advice would be to follow what health officials and government are telling us: wash your hands. For those who have contamination fears this means practicing control over how often and how many times you wash your hands. Washing your hands with soap in the correct way will drastically reduce your chances of contracting corona virus. Whether you do it once or ten times.
Relax and Recharge
OCD is exhausting. Do your best to have Time focusing on the things that relax you and allow you time to recharge. Of course play games, Face Time friends and enjoy some TV but also get good sleep, eat well and exercise when and where you can. Having a big window of tolerance means you can fight back OCD.
Stop waiting around
Don’t just wait for the obsessions to go away. We know that OCD likes to stick around like gum on your shoe. Re-focus yourself to something important. Stay connected to those around you – disconnection will make you feel dysregulated. It’s important to not let OCD or COVID-19 get in the way of important relationships.
We are ALL worried
Remember every single human being on the plant experiences intrusive, scary thoughts, images and/or urges. Everyone is worried about corona virus – it would be silly not to be – and knowing this can help you feel less lonely.
- Breaking Free from OCD by Jo Derisley
- Break Free from OCD by Dr. Fiona Challacombe
- What to do when your brain gets stuck by Dawn Huebner
‘Remember a thought is just a thought, a thought is not a fact’
Eating Disorders – BEAT!
Our helpline services continue to operate as normal. Beat’s advisors are highly trained, and available to talk to anyone affected by an eating disorder.
Online support groups
Most of our online support groups for people experiencing and affected by an eating disorder are running as normal. Full details including times are available here.
The Sanctuary is an online group created specifically in response to the Coronavirus, subsequent social distancing and the anxieties this could lead to for people with an eating disorder. A safe space for people with an eating disorder to share concerns and advice on how they are coping with the pandemic.
Unlike our other online groups, The Sanctuary is available all-day during helpline opening hours from 12:00pm to 8:00pm Monday to Friday & 4:00pm to 8:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Haven – Starting Wednesday 25 March
The Haven will offer a place for people with an eating disorder to escape from the news and talk about coronavirus. It will operate from 6pm – 7pm every day.
More information about this group will be posted here.
Our helplines are for people experiencing an eating disorder themselves, for people who may be supporting someone through recovery and for people who may be worried about someone – a loved one, friend, relative, pupil, colleague etc.
- Helpline: 0808 801 0677
- Studentline: 0808 801 0811
- Youthline: 0808 801 0711
Our Helplines are open 365 days a year from 12pm–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays.