Return To Work: Leaving The Safety Bubble Anxiety

(part of The N Cubed Group)
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Return To Work: Leaving The Safety Bubble Anxiety

N Cubed Group
(Listen to podcast here)

I have had a significant rise in the number of people coming to me, to talk about how they are beginning to feel trapped in their homes because of the constant lockdowns and restrictions, which in itself is quite a normal reaction and only to be expected.

What was more worrying was that as many of these discussions progressed, it became clear the feelings were less about the lockdown restrictions and guidelines related to the attempts to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), which have created a sense of fear of mixing with strangers in case one is a carrier, but more about actually leaving the cocoon of safety which is the home.

The neural link to the anxieties had been replaced, but not in a good way.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy uses the principle of understanding the 'activator' (A) or event which initiates a 'behaviour' (B) or response based on a previous experience or learning, which results in a 'consequence' (C) or outcome, and replacing the neural association or pathway linked to that previous experience or learning which is responsible for our reaction, with a better one which will result in a more positive outcome and an improvement in our view on life and our environment.

We are capable of making these changes unconsciously too, as strong emotional responses such as fear can affect the way we react, and I am seeing the start of a pattern where many of my clients are becoming so fearful of 'catching the virus' from other people, that they are avoiding going outside their safety zone of their home, but when challenged on what they are fearful of, they are associating their 'going outside' with their anxieties, instead of their 'failing to avoid a situation which could lead to infection'.

Their neural-association-shift has potentially set them on a path of developing panic disorders, a condition of which is agoraphobia, which is actually a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn't be available if things go wrong, and not as people tend to think, simply a fear of open spaces.

If you feel yourself experiencing such a symptom, there are some things you can do to reduce this anxiety, and to keep the 'activator' where it originates, allowing you to understand the cause and implement some strategies for minimising the effects on your lifestyle.

Instead of associating the 'outside world' with the risks, consider the circumstances under which contraction occurs; touching hard surfaces and then touching your face, or being within 8 or so metres of a carrier when they sneeze or cough directly at you, etc, and develop ways to avoid such situations. These can be such strategies as planning specific directions for your journeys, going at less busy times, having alternate routes to take should unexpected crowds appear, and being mindful to avoid touching hard surfaces as much as possible and carrying and applying anti-bacterial gel to your hands after doing so, if it was unavoidable.

These tools should keep the 'activator' focused as the situations which carry the risk, and not allow it to expand to an 'all-or-nothing' type of flawed thinking ("I can't go outside because it is not safe"), commonly associated with depression and anxieties which tend towards depression, and therefor keep your behaviour (reaction) appropriately focused on positive ways to avoid the specific situation which carry the most risk.

One word of caution, though. Be sure to understand and be mindful of the possibility that behaviours such as constantly applying anti-bacterial gel to your hands, after each time you touch a hard surface, could become so habitual, that it strays into the obsessional and a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which might be a good thing under current circumstances, but will need to be addressed at a later date, should it become something which impacts your everyday behaviour.

Above all, keep things in perspective and don't let fear and anxiety create a prison of your own making. Seek help if you feel you are already suffering from this, or encourage anyone you know, to do so if they are exhibiting such symptoms.

Stay safe and apply common sense, and we should all get through this relatvely unscathed.

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