Lessons for Leaders 24: Coping with Corona Anxiety

Jul 27, 2020 | Lessons for Leaders

Coping with Corona Anxiety

I’m hearing from more and more people who are feeling anxious, stressed or struggling in some way during the Coronavirus situation.  It’s completely understandable. People who are socially isolated or juggling all things or getting anxious about how long this pandemic is going on for or even getting anxious to go back out into places now that lockdown is easing.

I’m hearing from more and more people who are feeling anxious, stressed or struggling in some way during the Coronavirus situation.  It’s completely understandable.

People who are socially isolated or juggling all things or getting anxious about how long this pandemic is going on for or even getting anxious to go back out into places now that lockdown is easing.

If you’re managing people – it’s well worth a listen too because it will give you the understanding about what’s going on and make it easier to manage.

The world is a complex and sometimes a confusing place and never more so than during a pandemic when the situations are ever changing, and even guidelines can be confusing.

It’s pretty tricky right now with the Coronavirus in our lives and seemingly everywhere we turn.

Even I’ve had rough days, and had to use all my tips, tricks and knowledge to ensure I’m able to stay calm, sane and get me-time in a house that’s permanently occupied.  Having two teenagers with additional needs and no break from them has been interesting.

I’ve not been anxious myself during this time, but I’ve definitely got stressed.  However, I’m talking about anxiety today because I’m hearing so much about it right now.  Anxiety is a form of stress that a person can go through physically, mentally and emotionally and situations can genuinely feel are out of control so that they generate feelings of panic and anxiety.

Yet, I also recognise that there are many people out there who are struggling because they’re on their own.

In my coaching this is all too apparent as I see more clients who are socially isolated or lacking confidence in being able to communicate or even getting anxious to go back out into places now that lockdown is easing.

So often we focus on the difficult and bad experiences in life, we’re wired to notice the negatives.  

The brain is hard-wired to scan the horizon for anything that might be a threat to us – it was always the key to our survival in days gone by. Nowadays the threats aren’t of a big bear coming to eat us, but our brain is still hard at work analysing, making us aware of the negative, and looking to see how it can keep us safe. Unfortunately, as we get older, we become more fear-based.

Being exposed to prolonged stress can both cause and worsen mental health problems, leading to other issues such as tiredness, irritability, poor concentration, poor punctuality, sleep problems and so forth. Identifying and tackling the sources of anxiety can prevent such issues spiralling.

If anxiety becomes commonplace and regular response to daily events, and this is where it turns into a problem.  As a leader or manager you need to be empathic (rather than ignoring or being dismissive).  So, tell them you understand they must feel worried or anxious and that it’s OK to have those feelings. 

Things are so much easier in life generally when we have a plan, or can see an end in sight.  Right now, we don’t really have a plan or an end to this.

We are moving in strange and unfamiliar phases and now more than ever we need to learn to go with the flow.

Often when I work with people who have long-standing anxiety, it shows up in a variety of ways …… planning everything to the nth degree is a common one – so is insomnia.

Just to explain …  often people are trying to control their external environment, so they plan, plan, plan everything around them.   

The other way anxiety can affect is us that it completely stops us in our tracks – and mean we struggle to get anything done – often talked about as procrastination and mental blocks.

With insominia – whether people realise it or not, it’s their brain knocking on the inside saying ooh remember this, or that.  We need to look at this.  There are ways to reduce the brain needing to do this so that you can focus in the daytime and not night-time.

Three key ways you can help yourself with the corona anxiety are explained in more detail on the podcast but in essence:

1. Breathe

Breathing is go-to advice from many coaches and wellness experts, I know. I’m not unique in saying this! But it’s ALWAYS my number one tip … because it’s SO helpful. Breathing deeply, taking long breaths that feel like they go down to your belly rather than just in your chest.  This releases calming chemicals and send a message to your brain to slow down. It helps release physical tension and gets oxygen flowing round your system so you can think more clearly. Plant both feet firmly on the ground, put one hand on your stomach and breathe.

2. Rehearse

When we visualise an event or situation happening whilst in the therapy room, the benefit is that when we do it for real our brains believe we have already done it.  So it is easier and more comfortable.  When you increase these new social outings and activities it becomes easier and easier.

3. Build confidence

So with this process, I will be helping you to feel assured and at ease. You can gradually build your self-confidence on the solid foundations we have already laid down.

Doing small but easy to manage activities and getting back out there is the only way to build confidence.  However it’s so much easier to do when we calm down our internal system first, reduce those feelings of anxiety, and mentally visualise or rehearse these ways.

It is a bit different – going out with masks on, but you do get used to it.

If you’re telling yourself you hate it and can’t do, then your brain will believe this.  So do be careful of what you tell yourself too.

It will be tiring.  When you brain is on constant alert and scanning for perceived danger, as I mentioned, your brain is going to be working overtime. 

So if you’re at the stage of going out, going back into work, bringing staff back into your workplace  – be mindful of this and be empathic and understanding.  This is really the only way to create permanent change in levels and increase confidence whilst keeping anxiety down.

As a manager, leader or HR it can sometimes be confusing when people you work with are not performing as they used to or are struggling with something that seems unusual for them.  However, when I explain about the way our brains work and what happens with anxiety I can see people getting that understanding and often in 1:1 sessions my clients will be “oh, so I have this member of staff and they’ve been doing this, so might they be anxious”  Yep

Or they say “ oh my goodness, I was struggling to understand why Bob wouldn’t do ‘this’ when I knew he was more than capable … this really helps me to understand”

It might be then that there’s a degree of flexibility can that be incorporated to bring down the anxiety whilst still bringing people back into work.

Or as an individual, it’s about trying things out but not putting pressure on, set targets, yes, but not so much that the anxiety spikes up again.  Everything is going to be some much easier when you do things from a place of calm.

If you haven’t yet left a review, please do go and find the little button to leave a review and let me know your thoughts, key take-aways and what you value from the podcast.

If you want to be increasing your performance so that you’re more resilient in these current times, so that you can focus easily, use tools and techniques to deal with all the current and unknown challenges then make sure that you either drop me an email to emma@emmalangton.com .   Or head over to my website at https://emmalangton.com and you can find the contact page and either send me a email from there or book an appointment straight into my diary – saving all that to-ing and fro-ing that you get when we try to get space in people’s diary.

This post discusses: anxiety, coaching, coronavirus, leadership, mentalwellbeing, resilience, stress
Emma Langton

Emma Langton

Executive Leadership Coach

Emma hosts the Lessons for Leaders podcast. Each week she brings you lessons, learnings, tips and advice to enable you to lead with ease in business, without stress, doubt and overwhelm so that I help you to increase your performance, be resilient and thrive in life. Emma has been providing coaching, training and therapeutic support for executives since setting up her business in 2011. Prior to that she spent over 20 years with people at the top of national and multi-national training and communication businesses.


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