Lockdown has meant that the whole country has suddenly been able to experience a bit of what it’s like to live with chronic illnesses like Crohn’s and Colitis. To have to put your life on hold; not to be able to work; to have to miss out on things; to have a restricted social life, and to be in a constant state of anxiety about your health - these are things many of us with Crohn’s or Colitis experience year in, year out. Seeing the general population experience these all too familiar things because of coronavirus - and to see them discussed at length every day in the media - has served to magnify them to an overwhelming degree. Even more than usual, it feels like there is no escape; no respite; no light relief. I think that’s partly why anxiety levels have risen for so many of us during the lockdown period.
Luckily there are things you can do to help yourself to feel better. Here are five top tips and helpful resources that have worked for me. I’m sure you’ve plenty of suggestions and tips of your own, and we’d love to hear them!
I’ve found meditating on my own extra hard during lockdown, due to the constant barrage of anxious and negative thoughts that come up. So I’ve turned to guided meditations instead, which I’ve found really helpful, both for relaxation, and to help me sleep better. I’ve been really enjoying the guided meditations from hypnotherapist Glenn Harold, some of which are available for free on YouTube.
Avoid news and social media
At the start of the crisis, I felt under pressure to stay abreast of all the daily news updates, but as time has gone on, I’ve realised that I simply don’t need to know all the upsetting details. I can gather all the info I need from an occasional glance at the headlines. The rest of the time I’m avoiding the news and social media entirely. I’ve deleted all news apps off my phone, and I’m limiting myself to only occasional use of social media. There are apps you can use to help you limit your use - find the best one for you here. I’m also making sure I stick to trusted news sources rather than listening to hearsay or speculation.
I’ve found the information on the Crohn’s & Colitis UK website really helpful during this period, especially the sections on risk levels and the FAQs.
Get fresh air
Sometimes when you’re in a state of anxiety, the last thing you feel like doing is stepping outside. However, if you can safely get out, it will be a great help to your mental health. It’s proven that spending just 20 minutes a day in nature can reduce our stress levels. For those of you who are shielding, get into your garden (as long as you're two meters away from other people), or open all the windows in your flat once a day and let a breeze flow through your home.
Focus on things you can do
At the moment it’s very easy to focus on the things you can’t do - like staying with friends and family, going to shops and restaurants, or going on holiday. I’ve found that when I dwell on these things I become more anxious and it can become a downward spiral of negative thoughts. I’ve been trying to focus on the things I can do each day that I enjoy doing, such as baking, having a Zoom chat with family or a close friend, or doing some gentle exercise. I’ve been keeping a journal, which helps me remember and record the positive things that happen each day. There are lots of different ones available but I’ve been using the undated planner from Inspired Stories.
Set achievable goals
I’ve found that if I set myself just one or two small, easily achievable goals each morning for the day ahead, this gives purpose to my day and stops me from feeling overwhelmed. Things I’ve set myself have included: doing a guided meditation, doing some exercises, or doing a short training session with my puppy. However, they could be work tasks, DIY, or a bit of spring cleaning. There’s so much noise and chatter on social media about how people are spending lockdown, that it can feel a bit like a ‘productivity competition’, to see who can achieve the most stuff. Don’t pay attention to this and instead concentrate on yourself and what you want to do, however small.
How have you been managing your anxiety during lockdown? Do you have any top tips to share? Join the conversation on our social media channels by using the hashtags #ItTakesGuts #LifeInLockdown #Crohns #Colitis or email us.
Lauren Psyk is a Brighton based photographer, content creator and marketer based in Brighton, who lives with Crohn's and volunteers for Crohn's & Colitis UK in her spare time.