Gillian Harvey: How to cope with the new anxiety we’re feeling now

Read the latest column from freelance writer, author and mum-of-five Gillian Harvey.

When I experienced anxiety in the past, it was like living in a bubble. The world ticked on, regardless. People laughed, smiled, got on with their lives and I existed on the periphery – looking in the window but never quite joining people on the inside.

I always thought, on the worst days, that it would be better if other people felt the same way. That it would be less lonely if everyone felt afraid.

The last couple of weeks have shown me how wrong I was. Because we’re all anxious; all fearful. And rather than feeling solidarity, we’re all feeling, well… pretty crap, actually.

But while there’s not yet a solution to the current crisis, there are ways we can deal with our reaction to it. And the main way is to accept uncertainty.

Uncertainty was always there. Every day of your life you lived with the possibility that something terrible might happen. Deep down, we all know that a phone call, a missed step on the stairs or taking the wrong turn in the car might end up being life-changing for all the wrong reasons.

We live in spite of this. We go on with our lives and push the fact that we are vulnerable to the back of our minds. Because otherwise, we wouldn’t live.

Now, more than ever, we need to learn to accept uncertainty and carry on regardless.

(Well, not completely regardless. We need to follow advice, care for others, make sure we do everything we can to keep ourselves and others safe.)

But we also need to give ourselves permission to plan for the future – the best possible version of it.  We need to accept that other futures might happen, but allow ourselves to do everything we can to create the best version for ourselves.

Trust me. If things don’t pan out the way you hope, you’ll be no worse off for allowing yourself to dream.

I’m going to do everything I can to keep others safe. And going to do all I can to help anyone who needs it. But I’m also going to continue to work on my writing.  I’m going to try to enjoy the fact that my novel is being published soon. I’m going to try to find the joy and laughter in each day, even when it seems completely out of reach.

It’s important to carry on, as much as we can in our new locked-down situation. It’s important to keep ties with ordinary life – our pre-corona existence.

We can press pause on certain activities – but we mustn’t let this situation leave us unable to plan; to look forward to a future where this is all over and we can hug our parents, go to the supermarket, visit shows, take the train, laugh with friends and live our lives without a shadow hanging over us.

Need help with anxiety?

If you struggle with anxiety (or your children are finding the uncertainty right now hard) and would like help, please take a look at these articles:

And finally, here’s some advice on how to talk to your children about Coronavirus from a holistic child psychologist.

Gillian Harvey is a writer and mum-of-five. Her debut novel Everything is Fine is out with Orion in May 2020.