Coronavirus and Cerebral Palsy – Managing Anxiety

We know lots of people in our community are worried about Cerebral Palsy and COVID-19. Our priority remains supporting adults living with Cerebral Palsy.

We have launched a Facebook Group to help support the CP community through this crisis – click here to join

 

There are a lot of questions we all have about the next few weeks which none of us can answer. This is creating a lot of Anxiety for many people, so we thought we would take the bull by the horns and get to understand anxiety a bit more so we could possibly recognise it in ourselves or our families and have some techniques in our tool box to try out.

The below literature is produced with kind permission from MIND  www.mind.org.uk /

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

What is the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response?

Like all animals, human beings have evolved ways to help us protect ourselves from danger. When we feel under threat our bodies react by releasing certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones:

  • make us feel more alert, so we can act faster
  • make our hearts beat faster, quickly sending blood to where it’s needed most.

After we feel the threat has passed, our bodies release other hormones to help our muscles relax. This can sometimes cause us to shake.

This is commonly called the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response – it’s something that happens automatically in our bodies, and we have no control over it.

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety feels different for everyone. You might experience some of the things listed below, and you might also have other experiences or difficulties that aren’t listed here.

Effects on your body

  • a churning feeling in your stomach
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • pins and needles
  • feeling restless or unable to sit still
  • headaches, backache or other aches and pains
  • faster breathing
  • a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat
  • sweating or hot flushes
  • problems sleeping
  • grinding your teeth, especially at night
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • needing the toilet more or less often
  • changes in your sex drive
  • having panic attacks

Effects on your mind

  • feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
  • having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
  • feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
  • feeling like other people can see you’re anxious and are looking at you
  • feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
  • worrying about anxiety itself, for example worrying about when panic attacks might happen
  • wanting lots of reassurance from other people or worrying that people are angry or upset with you
  • worrying that you’re losing touch with reality
  • rumination – thinking a lot about bad experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again

At the moment it is very difficult to not be feeling anxiety however we do need to continue our day to day life and know we have a number of weeks / months ahead of us living with social distancing or isolation to help protect ourselves.

When is anxiety a mental health problem?

Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if:

  • your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  • your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  • you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
  • your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
  • you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
  • you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

How can I help myself?

  • Talk to someone you trust, utilise phone or letter writing, for people able to access IT; what’s app, facetime, Zoom etc.
  • Try to manage your worries, look at the lists and see if you can identify any of the symptoms within yourself.
  • Look after your physical health, try and do something every day to help activate the body’s natural endorphins and enkephalins (feel good hormones)
  • Try breathing exercises, deep slow calm breathing.
  • Keep a diary, putting on paper or record on your phone how you feel might help release some of your body’s tension.
  • Write a daily gratitude diary – Every night, just before you go to bed, sit down for a while and look back at your day. Think of 3 things that went well during the day. Write them down.
  • Try peer support, contact someone you know who has also suffered with anxiety, might help you feel more connected.
  • Access Helplines and Organisations such as