Overcoming anxiety

The rise in COVID-19-related anxiety – and how to help

The pandemic is still having a huge impact on mental health

It is no secret just how drastically the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on people’s mental health and anxiety levels.

The Brain Charity’s counselling team has seen an increase of more than 50% in the number of people coming to us at the point of mental health crisis. In particular, many people are struggling with feelings of covid-related anxiety.

Our CEO, Nanette Mellor, has explained the impact of coronavirus on mental wellbeing and why more people are feeling covid anxiety.

Nanette Mellor CEO of The Brain Charity
Nanette Mellor, CEO of The Brain Charity

She said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most seismic societal crisis of a generation. For the vast majority of people, 2020 was the first time in their life they have ever felt directly impacted by a global emergency of this scale.

“People’s sense of self, community and safety has been rocked – anxiety, triggered by the body’s fight or flight response, is the brain’s natural reaction to this instability.”

But how can you help someone with anxiety practically?

Here, Nanette lays out what to say to someone with anxiety.

I’m here to listen

The most important thing is not necessarily to say anything at all – it’s to listen. The person will be having lots of anxious thoughts, so giving them the opportunity to offload is helpful.

Shall we talk at a different time?

Someone with anxiety may be feeling quite defensive and under threat, which triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response and means they may perceive a question as an attack. Be prepared for this, stay calm and ask them if they would prefer to talk at a different time.

How can I help?

Give them the opportunity to say they are struggling with anxiety. Talk through any potential causes and solutions to help remove them from the thing which is causing them stress.

What about a decaff?

Lifestyle factors can have a huge impact on anxiety. A really big thing that affects anxiety is caffeine, so someone with anxiety should look to reduce or completely cut this out. A healthy diet is also really important.

Why don’t we go for a (socially distanced) run together?

Physical exercise does absolute wonders for anxiety, and it doesn’t have to be running a marathon – you just need to get out of breath. When you exert yourself, your body floods your brain with feel-good chemicals which take away the anxiety almost instantly.

Have you spoken to your GP?

If they’re really struggling, always encourage them to go and speak to their GP.

The Brain Charity offers free counselling and befriending to anyone affected by a neurological condition. Click here to find contact details for The Brain Charity’s departments.

Category: Advice

Published: 12 November 2021