Anxiety and Agoraphobia, mostly go hand in hand although it may go unnoticed. Anxiety is bred from fear and agoraphobia is the definition of a singular fear, the fear of public spaces. In a time where our actions are monitored and restricted those who may have never experienced these things may start to and those who already have past experience with them (like me) may start to travel backwards as the days progress. It’s time to prepare…
Everyone’s experiences with anxiety will differ, the main trigger may be something completely unrelated to a fear of public spaces. Let me try and set out how it works from my own struggle.
My main fear (trigger) is a fear of being physically sick or ill, the emotion I feared was embarrassment. I was scared of a loss of control which would cause me to be judged. Now you may notice that there is no mention here of being worried or scared to go down to the shops? Or leave my house? Bear with me…
As this fear grew within me and I had less and less control of my daily thoughts the agoraphobia was looming. When you experience anxiety you tend to fixate on your primary fear and apply it to everyday situations such as “What if I get sick in class? That would be awful, maybe I should give it a miss today cause I don’t feel 100%” or “What if I go shopping with my friends but there is a really long queue in the shop and it’s a warm day, they might not have air conditioning and I could start to sweat, maybe even pass out in front of everyone!” the idea of these things happening (which they never did I will add) was as traumatic to me as the actual event would have been.
You begin to lock yourself in to reduce the chances and eliminate the risk. You may not think you have agoraphobia, and you most likely don’t; not as a primary cause or trigger, but its certainly a side-effect of anxiety for some.
So now we are a world experiencing the most unprecedented circumstances, we couldn’t have ever seen coming or known would have happened in our lifetime. How do you keep those feelings from not seeping back in, how can you possibly keep them at bay? Believe me, I’m no expert, who can be? I’m just someone going through the same stuff other people might be at this very moment.
I’ve watched the days roll past and the attitudes of people change, the fear of going outside is very real and even though we are all doing the absolute best we can and we absolutely do have to stay inside to stay safe at the moment, I don’t want to get myself into a place of concrete thinking “I CAN’T go outside” because, for me, I will use it as an excuse long after this is all over. It took me many years to get up the courage and strength to take a plane alone, and I only ever managed it once. I’m still learning, baby steps, “one day at a time,” I told myself and my greatest fear now is going backwards!
Eliminate the word CAN’T
I’m getting rid of the word can’t for my own benefit. No, I shouldn’t go out right now, and no I won’t be but that’s my choice. I choose to stay in to protect my family and friends and I choose to stick to the restrictions, but I will never let myself get into the mindset that I can’t do anything, it’s a spiral downwards for me and a restriction I put on myself a long time ago and that is not what I’m trying to achieve. If I start to feel boxed in, a walk can do the world of good at the moment, even if I’m sick of looking at my computer or television, getting back out in nature and feeling grounded can re-fresh your whole mindset even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Get into a routine
Now I know I’m lucky enough to work from home and already have tasks for the day ahead of me, but not everyone does. Maybe you don’t have work, but you don’t have a lot of hobbies inside the house? And I’m not going to be one of those people who simply say “get a hobby” because you need to have a passion to do so, otherwise it's aimless and useless, you’ll soon get bored and feel worse. I tend to go my a rewards system (yes, like a 5-year-old!) I implemented this years ago to keep myself distracted, motivated and on-track!
Try writing out a list the night before of what you want to achieve the next day – and DON’T over it and be too ambitious, it’s alright to just have tiny stuff on there like, take out the bins, put laundry in the wash, you’ll feel a sense of achievement afterwards and knocking things off the list is a motivator to achieve more the next day; if I manage to do my list I’ll gift myself some television or a treat (maybe a nap!)
This way every evening you are setting yourself up for the next day and giving yourself something to get up for, which in itself works wonders.
Each day is an achievement
Remember in this unprecedented time, every day you get through is closer to getting back to normality, keeping yourself occupied and busy will mean those days go quicker for you. It’s devastating to not be able to see family and friends, even enjoying a nice meal out or a trip to the cinema, which I have never valued as much as I do right now!
Everyone coming out of this will feel much like you and I do, they will have had a glimpse of what it’s like to be frustrated that you can’t do something, I hope there will be more compassion after this struggle and when I next get on a plane alone I won’t look around at the people sitting around me thinking “they are judging me, I must act normal” and instead I’ll be reminded of the camaraderie and spirit that has inspired togetherness at this time and think “these people will look after me if something happens”.