This months guest blog is from David Samson, an award-winning hypnotherapist based in Harley Street W1G 9PF and Mill Hill NW London. He has nearly 18 years of experience in Clinical Hypnotherapy and is a Senior Member of the General Hypnotherapy Register. He was recently awarded 'Hypnotherapist Of The Year' His work is regularly featured in the media, radio and television.
It is only natural that a huge event such as a global pandemic could change the way we see and experience the world around us. For many people, this has manifested in the form of new worries and anxieties that they may not have experienced before. As restrictions around socialising and convening in public spaces begin to lift more and more, many are feeling anxiety about going out again.
To an extent, these fears are justified. There are still genuine risks associated with social contact, as the Covid-19 virus is far from eradicated. Despite this, however, it is important to remember that there are other factors which also contribute to our health and wellbeing, including our ability to go about our lives with freedom, enjoy socialising and manage anxiety and stress effectively. At a certain point, our fears and anxieties can become irrational, and can stop us from living a fulfilling life.
As a hypnotherapist, I often work with clients who are struggling with social anxiety. Usually this stems from events in their early lives and can be treated using regression hypnotherapy, which allows them to access memories from early childhood and reframe them in a positive light. But for many whose social anxiety and fear of going out has occurred as a direct cause of the Covid-19 pandemic, other methods such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be more appropriate and more effective in treating their needs.
What can I do if I am suffering from post-pandemic anxiety?
If you are struggling with social situations, finding it hard to manage travelling outside your home or being in busy places, there are a few things you can do to help yourself feel better. Consider the way you are feeling around certain situations, and break down these feelings into different parts.
1. Situations: Try to notice what types of situations set off your feelings of anxiety, fear or worry, and notice if any particular aspects are especially triggering to you. For example, you might find that enclosed spaces might set off feelings of anxiety, or the idea of meeting new people may be frightening after a long period without much face to face social interaction.
2. Thoughts: Pay attention to what thoughts arise when you find yourself in situations that you are not comfortable with. Notice whether these thoughts reflect what is happening around you, and whether any worrying thoughts you may be having are really in keeping with the genuine risks involved in a situation. For example, if you notice yourself having thoughts about catching Covid-19 in a certain setting, weigh up whether this is a genuinely large risk- are there distancing measures in place? Is the area well ventilated? Are masks being worn?
3. Emotions: Notice what emotions you are having, whether these be fear, worry, stress or even embarrassment.
4. Physical Feelings: Hone in on the physical feelings that accompany your emotions. Do you feel a pounding in your chest? Do you feel hot or sweaty? Are you trembling or shaking? Are these feelings particularly concentrated in any one part of your body? Noticing these feelings and approaching them with mindfulness can be a powerful way of preventing yourself from spiralling into worse feelings.
5. Actions: Think about your actions. What are you doing currently, and is it helping you to feel better? Is there something you could do to alleviate your feelings or alterations you could make to your situation to help you feel more comfortable?
Breaking your anxiety down into its different parts can be the first step in confronting the issue and helping you to deal with it in a pragmatic way.
Should I avoid going out?
If you are feeling anxious around the idea of going out post-pandemic, the last thing you should do is avoid going out! Exposing yourself to situations that you find uncomfortable, even just in small doses, can help you start to beat your anxieties. Consider increasing your interactions bit by bit, perhaps going for a walk one day, and to the shops the next. After this, you could think about meeting up with a friend outdoors, and then perhaps spending some time in an indoor venue (with lots of ventilation and social distancing in place, of course!).
Consider seeking CBT as a treatment, as this will use some of the methods above and more to help you to manage your anxieties and can be highly effective.