Covid-19 context – high levels of uncertainty and risk of loss
Anxiety is a natural reaction to Covid-19. Before Covid-19 exploded I was looking forward to a weekend away in Brighton celebrating my partner’s birthday, a trip to Amsterdam in June to write my book, seeing beloved friends on the weekend and being part of two exciting learning programmes not to mention delivering much in-person work myself.
I bet you had things you were looking forward to that are now on hold indefinitely! Many of them will be simply lost. We may not get to go on a summer holiday at all if the virus is not eliminated in time, birthday plans will have to be postponed and life has for sure changed unrecognisably so.
As I write this, I am on my seventh day of isolation from my loved ones as being in a vulnerable group we took the decision I am safer in my flat away from them. Perhaps safer from the virus but certainly not safer or immune from the anxiety, uncertainty and feelings of loss and risk of loss this has brought. Neither is anyone.
Watching people’s reaction to the outbreak in the last weeks has been like seeing the Kubler Ross change cycle, also known as the 5 stages of grief in action. In this model, Kubler-Ross showed that as we approach death or as survivors of an intimate death of others, we will go through specific stages of emotions.
- Denial and shock – a temporary defence mechanism that allows time for us to process disturbing news or reality.
- Anger and blame as the reality of the situation starts to sink in. This is often accompanied by irritability, frustration and short-temper as well as emotional numbing.
- Bargaining whereby faced with the inevitable treat we try to make the best of the situation. This often necessitates a search for different outcomes or ways to minimise the impact, pain and suffering.
- Depression – an incredibly complex emotional phase where one can feel sadness, fear, regret, guilt and other negative emotions that will also paralyse action. Other common reactions here that you may be seeing in yourself and others include indifference, pushing others away, withdrawal, as well as lack of excitement or motivation for any life activity. This is certainly a very low energy point demanding a great deal of compassion, patience, and self-care.
- Acceptance where we stop to resist and gradually start to flow with the change.
Where might you be at the moment?
Typical and perfectly valid COVID-19 fears
Covid-19 is certainly making people anxious and with valid reason. Here are some of the things I have heard in my 1:1s over the last days. I empathise with all of them.
- worry over finances,
- job security fears,
- loss of customers and business survival,
- survival and wellbeing of people (staff, employees, loved ones, friends etc),
- personal health concerns,
- the health and wellbeing of loved ones,
- the realities of social isolation,
- the discomfort of having to endure forced isolation especially as a single person,
- inability to connect with others in traditional ways that included physical contact,
- grief and frustration from plans made that are having to be put on hold or may risk falling through,
- the difficulty, frustration and fear of securing food and basic toiletries,
- feeling forced to adapt quickly,
- too much virtual noise,
- seeing or hearing about people dying,
- fear of death or sickness in one’s life,
- how the crisis is being dealt with by authorities and fellow human beings,
- having to share small spaces with their loved ones far more than before and the fear of this,
- kids being off-school and how this impacts work and productivity,
- fear of conflict with loved ones and the impact this will have on relationships,
- fear of not doing enough for others and frustration not knowing what to do,
- fear of things getting worse before they get better,
- overwhelm and sense of doom and dread,
- access to critical medicines,
- the pressure of needing to be a resource for others and still having to cope with difficult emotions inside,
- and many more.
Anxiety is this circumstance is a normal reaction
Covid-19 is driving anxiety up in many people. Sudden lack of control, a great deal of uncertainty and “wartime” headlines will rattle the cage of even the coolest emotional humans. If this is you, know this: anxiety or a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about real or imagined uncertainty is a normal reaction. We each have a different tolerance level to anxiety and different coping mechanisms. Below are some of the key physical signs you may have anxiety even if you’re in denial.
- feeling sick, upset stomach or butterflies (not the nice ones)
- pins and needles and feeling restless, trembling and shaking
- racing mind that’s difficult to calm down
- engaging in distracting activities that are designed to keep your mind occupied on something
- imagining terrible and often unlikely scenarios
- not being able to sleep well
- feeling very tired and fatigued
- emotional upset and anger
- tight chest or difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath
- sweating or sudden cold and shiver spells
- wanting to eat more
- muscle tension and aches.
Some of these symptoms are mild versions of what the virus causes according to the the National Health Service. If you already suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) your symptoms may be worse unless you’re on medication or in treatment.
Below you will find practical recommendations from my work with clients facing and dealing with anxiety.
1. Setting limits on exposure to anything that aggravates your anxiety, especially news
The attraction of needing to read and follow social media is nothing but a poor coping mechanism that will leave you more, not less, anxious. For most people checking the news once daily is plenty to keep abreast of the latest developments.
2. Deep breathing, especially the way you exhale air
Deep and slow breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system and gives the body a felt sense of calm. This is key to counteract the stress hormones that anxiety will drive in the body, and with it all the body symptoms mentioned above. Counteract them! Breathing out in ways that consciously expel or shed negative emotions is also helpful and used by many healers with clients as well as emotional clearing techniques. Watch this excellent TED talk by Max Storm and follow his advice.
You may also try movement. This need not be exercise if you’re feeling low in energy. Try cleaning your home starting small and seeing how you go. Pretty much any muscle activity will help get your emotions moving as well.
3. Guided meditations or visual imagery
My personal favourite is by Jason Stephenson. Look for others if this one don’t work for you.
4. Neutralizing or buffering negative emotions
Negative emotions on their own can easily overwhelm or bring one down. By bringing to mind their positive opposites we can buffer and neutralize this one-sided and inaccurate momentary illusion. For example, if you’re feeling scared, look for past instances and memories where you felt fearless, confidant and/or strong. This not only helps to re-balance the mind, it calls up real mind-body memories connected with your personal resilience stores.
Below is a very helpful CBT demonstration of how thoughts and feelings can take an event and link it to a belief that either works for us or against us. I encourage you to watch this video and work through something that’s happening in your life.
Useful questions may include?
- What do I believe right now and is this belief empowering me or disempowering me?
- What assumptions am I making?
- What is the impact of my beliefs on my thinking and being?
- Would all other people think the same way?
- Can I evolve my beliefs to produce kinder feelings and more empowerment?
5. Befriending your anxiety by getting clear about what exactly makes you anxious so you can start to work with it
This may sound crazy but trying to avoid something ramps up the fear and anxiety further. By naming it, we acknowledge what is. You may also try giving your emotion a label such as “the thing that I can’t be with yet well”.
If you can’t do this alone, seek help either from a trusted friend or a qualified professional such as a coach or counselor.
Finally, our MEGA powerful strategy that will help you combat anxiety
Grid: restoring order and calm through planning and organisation
If Covid-19 and other circumstances that drive anxiety are getting on top of you, we recommend you try making a number of specific Grids. Grid is our method for staying organised, productive and how we help clients cultivate well being. In a nutshell, the Grid invites you to approach each day, week, month or year through a canvas with 4 quadrants that divide all activity into
- personal life,
- career or work fuel.
In the Grid we highlight what has been completed as it gets done. This helps evidence progress and fuel motivation as well as help us focus on what we CAN do.
5 Grids we recommend making
1. The Covid-19 Grid Task Planner – activities/opportunities I can focus on in each quadrant that will help me to feel calmer, better and emerge stronger now and when this crisis ends. You will my example below and a free template in our Grid resource section.
2. The Post-Covid-19 Grid – things I am looking forward to resuming, starting and ending after the current crisis.
3. The Day Grid – list of task(s) in each quadrant that will help me look after my life, me, my work and professional well-being (career) I can tackle today.
4. The Gratitude Grid – listing by quadrant all that you’re thankful for.
5. The Positive Affirmation Grid – writing out 3-5 short and positive statements that are worth believing in each quadrant.
For more in inspiration and support visit or join our free Facebook Grid community.
Share your Grid work with us on social media channels using #Grid, #maketimecount. We’re loving the images people send in.
Get others involved in the activity so you can help them feel more empowered.
We will all get through this together!
Keep well. Be well.
Whatever you do, keep in mind these wise words from Marcus Aurelius
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Get help early. Explore our Grid pages. Talk to someone. Talk to us.