Covid anxiety is as real as the pandemic itself – tackle it before Christmas

IT was first labelled last year but in the past week or so, Covid anxiety syndrome appears to be spreading.

Maybe you work in the NHS or have had a procedure cancelled. Or maybe, like me, you have Covid (again). But one thing is certain. People are more worried about Covid – specifically, Omicron – than they were a month ago.

There are practical things we can do, such as getting our vaccines and boosters, doing tests and wearing masks. And there are things we can do to keep our anxiety down.

Even before I got my positive PCR result, I’d cancelled my engagements in the run-up to Christmas because seeing family was more important. We didn’t want to risk not being able to share our baby’s first Christmas.

Anxiety doesn’t always present with overwhelming thoughts and worries. If you can answer yes to any of the following, you could have some anxiety.

Have you been experiencing heart palpitations or a dry mouth? Have you felt agitated or restless? Are you struggling to concentrate or sleep, or do you wake up feeling unrested? Do you get stressed if your phone runs out of battery or if you can’t check news or social media?

Answered yes to a few? There are things you can do to improve your wellbeing and take care of yourself.

The NHS’s Five Ways To Wellbeing is a great resource checklist. It includes:

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  • Connect with other people. See friends, call family, eat a meal with a loved one.
  • Be physically active. Try starting a couch-to-5k or going for a walk in your local park. Even having a boogie to some Christmas tunes in the lounge counts as exercise.
  • Try learning a new skill. Maybe have a go at making a gingerbread house or mulled wine if you haven’t before. Or use YouTube to learn how to knit or crochet. It doesn’t matter what it is, just try something new.
  • Pay attention to the present. Switch off devices, focus on your breathing, look out of the window for five minutes. It doesn’t matter how you spend the time, but be present with no distractions to help centre yourself.
  • Give to others. If you are worried about Covid, you might feel better after joining The Sun’s Jabs Army and volunteering towards the vaccine effort.

🔵 Read our Christmas 2021 live blog for the latest news and updates

If you feel anxious at the thought of being around people, why not call round a neighbour’s house and see if they need any shopping done? Or have a clearout and donate your spare/old things to a refuge or shelter.

Countless studies show volunteering and helping others helps the giver as much as the receiver.

If you are worried someone you love is experiencing Covid anxiety, the same rules for a general mental health condition apply.

Bring it up and talk directly about it but don’t look to apportion blame. Don’t use phrases like: “You’ve been obsessing” or “All you do is . . . ”

Instead, use language that puts the focus on you: “I’ve been feeling concerned you’re thinking about Covid a lot.”

Or: “I’m worried you’re not having enough downtime.”

Encourage the person you are worried about to access the Five Ways To Wellbeing and work through them together. Covid anxiety is as real as the pandemic itself.

The Omicron variant was first observed in Africa and until the world is vaccinated, there will be other variants. It’s a whole-world problem that requires a whole-world solution. If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet, why not add the gift of a vaccine?

If you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet, why not add the gift of a vaccine?

The World Health Organisation has launched a new site, Just £4 buys a vaccine for someone in a low-income country.

Finally, be kind to your NHS. Its workers are exhausted, understaffed and have not stepped back from the frontline in almost two years. Whatever anxiety there is among the public, it could be so much worse in NHS staff.

So whether it’s someone you know or someone administering your jab, be kind to your NHS. We need your support now more than ever.

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