Article 23 April 2021

Stress Awareness Month – Coronanxiety, facemasks and vaccination phobia

The last year has been stressful for everyone, but now lockdown is beginning to ease, you may have mixed feelings about the situation.

Some are excited to see friends and loved ones again, and relieved that the kids are back at school, while others might be feeling anxious about our new-found freedom.

As part of Stress Awareness Month, we’ve been highlighting some of the issues that can cause stress. The easing of lockdown is a source of stress for many.

The mental health charity, Mind, says “there’s no ‘normal’ response to lockdown or lockdown easing.” Everyone has had different experiences of lockdown and based on this and their personal situation, someone else’s feelings about the rules being relaxed may be different to yours.

What can I do about it?

Mind offer the following advice:

Get practical support from organisations who can help. Mind’s Coronavirus useful contacts page lists organisations that can help with things like bereavement, work and parenting.

Talk to someone you trust. It might feel hard to start talking about how you’re feeling but many people find that sharing their experiences can help them feel better. If you can’t open up to someone close, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.

Try online peer support. Mind runs an online peer support community where you can share your experiences and hear from others, whatever you’re going through right now.

Give yourself time. Everyone has their own response to lockdown changes, and it’s important to take things at your own pace.

Express your feelings creatively. You might find that it helps to express how you’re feeling by writing, drawing, painting or using other creative outlets that feel helpful to you.

Make choices to control the things that you can. Although the Coronavirus outbreak means that your choices are limited, try to focus on the things you can change, rather than the things that are outside your control. For example, limiting the amount of news you read when you’re struggling may help.

Try self-care. There are lots of things you can try to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing. Look at Mind’s pages on Coronavirus and your wellbeing to find helpful tips for supporting yourself.

Seek help. If you’re struggling, its ok to ask for help. A good place to start is by speaking to your GP. You can also use our Occupational Health Service which provides a range of services and is easy to access. You can contact HR for a referral, your manager can refer you or you can contact Occupational health and Wellbeing Lead for guidance.

Optima Health: 0330 008 4308 (9-5 Mon-Fri)

If you’re anxious about wearing a face covering

The UK Government has made it compulsory to wear face coverings in certain places like shops and on public transport.

For some people, wearing a face covering can cause distressing symptoms like anxiety, panic, claustrophobia or sensory overload.

Mind has some useful tips on dealing with anxiety, breathing or physical issues when wearing a mask, along with advice on what to do if seeing others in masks is causing you to feel afraid.

If you’re worried about the vaccination

Some people may also have a fear of getting the COVID-19 vaccination because of a phobia of needles. This is a specific phobia and is extremely common, yet not very well recognised. It’s thought to affect between 3.5 % to 10% of the population.

Anxiety UK’s vaccine support pages give the following advice:

It can often be helpful to tell the person that’s administering your vaccine about your anxiety and to tell them how you cope with the difficulty. Find what works best for you and tell them what will help during the procedure.

  • See if they can talk to you to distract you.
  • Let them know if you will be counting the bricks on the wall.
  • Ask if it’s ok to have earphones in to listen to music or mindfulness.

Other sources of helpful advice

The Mental Health foundation offer advice on coping with fear, anxiety and uncertainty along with information about picking up social lives, looking after family and dealing with grief.

Young Minds has some great blogs on dealing with social anxiety and reconnecting with friends.

Anxiety UK has lots of videos and blogs on dealing with Coronavirus anxiety as well as information on needle/vaccination phobia. You can also subscribe to their Calm Club anxiety relief sessions for £15 a year.