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 - Coping with anxiety and depression 
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Covid-19 Series. Coping with anxiety and depression - Written by Carolyn Brown.

During the current COVID restrictions many will probably be feeling higher levels of anxiety. There are a huge number of changes going on in our day to day lives which can feel overwhelming and can cause strong emotional responses. These symptoms are very likely to be particularly intense during the current lockdown.


There is an overlap of symptoms of anxiety and depression such as poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, tiredness, muscle tension and irritability.

Anxiety is defined as persistent and excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a particular stressor.

Depression is characterised by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure activities that were once enjoyable. 

During the current COVID-19 restrictions many will probably be feeling higher levels of anxiety.  There are a huge number of changes going on in our day to day lives which can feel overwhelming and can cause strong emotional responses.  These symptoms are very likely to be particularly intense during the current lockdown situation.

Anxiety which would include feeling fearful or worried can happen at any time and wouldn’t be unusual to experience this in our daily lives.  However, chronic anxiety can be debilitating and can impact upon our daily lives. 

Feeling sad, feeling low or upset is normal but if these feelings last for more than a few days and are experienced for weeks at a time, the likelihood is that you have depression.

Effective treatments for anxiety and depression would be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in the first instance.  Anti- depressant medication can be helpful in the short term and should be discussed with a GP or mental health professional.   Here are some tips to help…..

  • Both depression and anxiety are not due to being weak.  They are medical conditions and can be treated.  It is not your fault, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.
  • Try some self- help strategies which can empower you to begin the process of taking back control.  Or try achieving small tasks – even getting out of bed and showering in the morning.
  • Try to create a routine particularly during these uncertain times of COVID restrictions.  Again, structure can help to give a sense of control.
  • Try to maintain a good sleep regime. 
  • Go for a walk or get some exercise taking into account current social distancing guidelines.  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body.
  • Reach out to someone you trust and are comfortable talking to.  It’s good to talk. 

Dealing with a panic attack

When anxiety feels overwhelming and occurs suddenly, this would be described as panic.  A panic attack can occur suddenly without any warning and often for no apparent reason.

Symptoms may include

  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • A feeling of not being able to breath or experiencing a choking sensation
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Numbness or pins and needles
  • Chest pain or tightness in the chest
  • Shaking
  • A need to go to the toilet

These symptoms can be frightening due to their intensity, and the person experiencing them can feel like they are going to die or faint.  So, the fear of this can cause the person to be extremely fearful of having another panic attack which then leads to the sense of panic and physical symptoms of panic getting worse.  This might lead to avoiding going out/going to the place where the panic attack occurred.  Physical symptoms of panic attacks will not cause physical harm or a heart attack.  They last on average 5 – 20 minutes. 

Tips for coping with panic attacks and also self -help strategies for anxiety and depression can be found here. These are really useful and easy to read leaflets. 

Two new apps have recently been developed in partnership with The Royal Foundation’sHeads Together campaign, MOD and KCL and from the States a new app has been recently made available called COVID Coach.  It has been developed to help veterans and civilians cope with the feelings of stress and anxiety in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.  Some features, like mindfulness and sleep tools, are generally helpful for improving mental health and wellbeing. Other features, like the indoor activities tool and the staying healthy recommendations, have been specifically tailored to the current COVID-19 situation.