Acquired Brain Injury Ireland expert gives advice on coping with an 'anxiety pandemic'

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland expert gives advice on coping with an 'anxiety pandemic'

Worrying is not dangerous and despite the old saying, you won't go mad worrying, says neuropsychologist, Dr Brian Waldron, who has advice for coping with the Covid-19 crisis.

Dr Waldron is Acquire Brain Injury Ireland's principal clinical neuropsychologist and he specialises in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behaviour.

“Everyone of us will experience significant anxiety and stress during the coming weeks,” says Dr Waldron.

On St Patrick's Day, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described fear like a virus in itself in his address to the nation and urged people to take regular breaks from watching the news.

Dr Waldron, who echoes Mr Varadkar's advice, says everyone will experience significant anxiety and stress during the coming weeks.

“We can't control everything in our lives and the current coronavirus pandemic is a major example,” he says.

Having disrupted sleep, waking at night, and having unusual dreams are to be expected during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there are things we can do to help manage and control the emotional impact.

Dr Waldron says people have both positive and negative beliefs about worry.

Those on the negative side often believe they have no control over worry; that worrying is dangerous and they may 'lose it', go mad or crack up.

“The good news is that none of these beliefs are true. Worrying isn't dangerous and you won't go mad from worrying,” he says.

Some believe worrying helps with problem-solving, reduces stress, promotes coping and helps them to be prepared.

Dr Walrdon says constant rumination about an issue like Covid-19 does not help deal with the problem and constant worrying does not help with coping and preparedness.

He urges everyone to introduce a 'worry period' in their day by setting aside 30 to 40 minutes to worry and problem solve.

Dr Waldron says people should use the time to write down their thoughts and fears and any practical action they may take over the coming days.

“Then after the 40 minutes are up, do something else,” he urges.

He also urges everyone to make an extra effort to pick up the phone and stay in touch with loved ones.

“Everyone is feeling fearful, sad and angry. So it's good to talk to your family and friends to share your thoughts and feelings.”

Also, one way to contain the anxiety pandemic is to limit exposure to graphic news stories or images by not watching the news around the clock.

“Choose a trusted source for information and stick to it,” Dr Waldron advises.

Here are other tips from Dr Waldron on coping with Covid-19.

  • • Practice stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditations.
  • • Stay busy, both mentally and physically.
  • • Keep a normal daily routine as much as possible,
  • • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
  • • A brief walk while social distancing is good.

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