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Managing Anxiety during a Winter of uncertainty

9 min read
Managing Anxiety during a Winter of uncertainty

As we move into winter, you might be feeling increasingly uncertain about what the next few months hold. There have been questions around whether Covid case numbers will increase, and how long the vaccination will offer protection against new variants.

Uncertainty and anxiety often go hand in hand, and right now there is a lot we don’t know. So it’s understandable that your anxiety levels might be increasing or fluctuating. We can’t predict the future, but we can offer you some suggestions about managing your anxiety during this period of uncertainty.

You might be asked to work from home again for a period of time. This may be disheartening, particularly if you have only recently been able to return to the office. If you are asked to work from home again, or continue working from home a little longer, and you’re concerned about the impact this may have on your mental health, raise these concerns. We’ve put together some helpful tips on Working from Home as well as some on Supporting Teams to help managers support their staff. Remember, you have overcome some difficult times over the past 18 months to come this far, focus on your strengths and the things that helped you through, and avoid the things that set you back.

With shorter days, colder weather, and less exposure to sunlight, the winter months can be challenging for a lot of us. It’s common to experience a lower mood than usual during this time. This lowered mood can sometimes manifest as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you find yourself experiencing SAD this PDF might give you some useful information to help you manage. You can also watch our webinar on Sleep and SAD which is available here.

It can often be difficult to see the people important to us at this time of year due to bad weather and social calendars being fuller. It’s important to try that bit harder to stay connected to others over the winter months. Now is the time to tap into all you learnt last year about keeping in touch with people virtually.

When we’re feeling anxious it can sometimes be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to feel better. Please avoid this. Alcohol is a depressant, so although we associate it with a lifting of mood, in reality it is having the opposite effect. If you are concerned about how much you’re drinking, you might benefit from completing this self-report questionnaire. You can also listen to a podcast here featuring an addictions doctor discussing their own recovery from alcohol addiction.

With the usual festivities largely cancelled last year, there might be a tendency to ‘make up for lost time’ this year. Places are going to be, and feel, busy – shops, pubs, restaurants, etc. – which could be a source of anxiety. On the one hand, you might be worried that you or others you are with are more likely to catch Covid in more crowded places. On the other, you may be worried about the increased pressure you could be under at work if there was another rise in case numbers. If you are worried about these or any other aspects of the ongoing pandemic, talk to friends, family, or trusted colleagues about how you’re feeling. You might find they share your concerns – support one another through these times.

There are a number of practical things you can do to reduce the likelihood of you and those around you catching Covid. First things first, get all your jabs. If you’re eligible for the booster get it as soon as you can. The recommended interval between 2nd and 3rd dose has been reduced to 12 weeks, so if you’re eligible it’s likely that you will already be in that window. If you’re NHS staff there may be a drop-in clinic for staff open near you, check on your intranet for details. For everyone else in health and social care, you can book your booster dose through NHS Inform. While you’re there, get your free flu jab (if you’re eligible). While neither the Covid or Flu vaccines will make you invincible, they will both reduce the likelihood of catching their respective infections and will reduce the severity of illness from both.

Increasingly, we are being advised to do a lateral flow test before any social events, please try to do these regularly, and encourage those you may be meeting to do the same. While we can’t control the behaviours of others, regular testing is one of the best ways to keep those around us safe, it’s a responsibility we all have. Remember face coverings are still mandatory in most indoor public settings.

In addition to the practical tips above, there are also a few things you can do to help you feel a bit more in control during this time of uncertainty:

Think about your breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, as you’re walking out the house. Have a listen to this 10-minute guided relaxation podcast.

Keep a routine. Regular sleep and activity will help you feel more in control. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, try Sleepio or the sleep module on Silvercloud.

Be kind to yourself and other people. We’ve never had to deal with a situation like this before, so don’t be hard on yourself for the way you’re feeling. Try not to be too hard on others either. It can feel frustrating seeing people slip back into the ‘old normal’, but remember, the pandemic has been tough for everyone and we will all feel differently about getting back out there.

Try one of these apps. Daylight or Feeling Good are very helpful for managing anxiety, while Silvercloud has programmes to help with sleep difficulties, low mood, and building resilience.

If you can, listen to or view our webinar session on ‘Anxiety – what it is, and how we can manage it’ – this session concludes with some useful practical tips for managing anxiety. You can watch a video of the session here or you can find a podcast version here, which is also available on our Spotify page.

For more tips to help with anxiety, follow this link to visit Clear Your Head.

If you find that your anxiety levels are getting too much for you to cope with and they are affecting your performance at work or your homelife, seek professional help through the Workforce Specialist Service, or your local psychology service (please note, the Workforce Specialist Service is open to regulated professionals only).

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