Expert tips for tackling Omicron anxiety over the Christmas period

Well… this Christmas didn’t turn out exactly as hoped, did it?

After last year’s crushing low of Christmas plans canned due to a last-minute introduction of Tier 4, we started to raise our hopes for a far more festive 2021.

Then, just as we were on the home stretch, Covid cases began to climb, Omicron became a thing, and we were chucked right back into a state of lockdown limbo.

Christmas is already a tough time for many of us, mental health wise.

Chuck in the threat of Omicron and a pile of uncertainty around restrictions, and it’s no wonder many of us are feeling especially anxious right now.

To help us through it, we spoke to the experts over at YoungMinds for their advice.

They specialise in helping young people with their mental wellbeing, but to be clear: these tips are great for people of any age.

Stevie Goulding, parents helpline manager at YoungMinds, said: ‘Young people have faced a huge range of pressures this year, including anxiety about the pandemic, loneliness and social isolation.

‘Many will be feeling worried about the Omicron variant and uncertainty around possible further restrictions and school closures.

‘Christmas will be a difficult time for many.

‘If you’re struggling to cope over the festive period, it’s important to reach out for help – whether that’s to friends, family, a doctor, a counsellor, a teacher or a helpline. It’s also a good idea to take the pressure off as much as possible, and do things that you enjoy or which help you relax if you can.’

Here are the YoungMinds’ team’s top tips for tackling Omicron-related anxiety over the festive period.

Take some time out

There’s a lot of pressure over Christmas to socialise like mad and spend every minute soaking up festive fun with your family.

Give yourself permission to take some time for yourself.

‘Take time out: If you feel yourself getting a bit overwhelmed, or upset, take five to ten minutes away from everyone on Christmas Day to recharge and have some time to yourself,’ YoungMinds advises. ‘Or you could organise something else for the day, like volunteer work or helping at a local event.

‘First and foremost, you need to look after yourself, and you need to do that every day of the year. Have a think about some alternative things you could do this Christmas to make the day more enjoyable for yourself.’

Don’t overexpose yourself to the news

Staying informed is a good thing, of course, but if you’ve got notifications switched on for every case of Omicron, then you’re spending hours a day doomscrolling, this is doing you more harm than good.

Try to limit your exposure by turning off breaking news alerts, if you’re finding them overwhelming, and perhaps only going online at certain points during the day.

Find things that help to distract you

Similarly, we know it’s tempting to stew in your worries and ruminate on all the possible things that can go wrong, but we all know that’s not a particularly healthy way to spend our time.

YoungMinds says: ‘Plan some activities that you enjoy and will help take your mind off things. That could be baking, reading, taking an online exercise class, journaling or video chatting with friends and family.

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Limit time on social media

Related to the above on doomscrolling, make sure you’re limiting your social media use, too. There’s really no need for you to see every single photo of people’s positive lateral flow tests.

‘You can set timers to limit how long you spend on social media or only go on at certain times of the day,’ advises YoungMinds. ‘It’s important to remember you are in control of what you see on your feed and you can mute or unfollow accounts that make you feel more worried at this time.’

Arm yourself with relaxation techniques

Find what works for you, whether that’s breathing techniques, meditation, or mindulness apps, then keep those tools handy should you start feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

‘You could try putting together a self-soothe box filled with things that ground you, make you feel more relaxed, or reduce symptoms of panic, anxiety, or low mood,’ advise the experts.

Remember it’s okay to be anxious

Don’t berate yourself for finding this moment tough – it’s a really weird, tricky time.

‘Overall, it’s important to remember it’s okay if you’re finding things difficult right now and to acknowledge your feelings,’ say the YoungMinds team. ‘It’s okay to be affected by what’s going on and to talk to people to help you make sense of things.

‘Taking a break from what is going on is necessary for all of us, and you don’t need to feel like you have to be aware of every change that is happening.

‘If you need someone to speak to, you can text YM to 85258 for free 24/7 support.’

To chat about mental health in an open, non-judgmental space, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.

Follow us on Twitter at @MentallyYrs.

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