The List: how to manage your anxiety during these times

With the civil unrest spreading in South Africa, many are likely to be experiencing anxiety and fear. If you are feeling any intense emotions, the following tips may be helpful.

Dr. Erica Munnik, a clinical psychologist from the university of the Western Cape told The Daily Vox that if individuals are directly exposed to public violence, they might experience many things. Munnik said these things include disbelief, shock or a feeling that what they just witnessed is “unreal”. “They might have difficulty concentrating on tasks at hand, and might experience various emotions such as anger, sadness, agitation, aggression and or anxiety,” said Munnik. 

Read more: How to access mental health resources online 

In stressful situations, human beings either have a “flight” or “fight” response. During these times of civil unrest, even if people are only seeing it on social media, it might trigger panic attacks, depression and anxiety. This is especially if the person has experienced a previous episode of public violence. However, Munnik said, some individuals might seem more resilient to cope with adverse situations. “For some individuals it has become a way of living and individuals who are exposed to violence regularly might react by a “fight” rather than a flight response or even a passiveness,” said Munnik. 

Best way to manage anxiety: 

Safety first. Munnik said it’s important to try as far as possible to avoid situations where there is possible exposure to public violence. Another tip Munnik gave is that people should try to stay calm, get to a safe space and know the signs of anxiety. This includes feelings of fear, sadness, physical and behavioral responses such as feeling nauseous and dizziness. 

Read more: #COVID-19: 5 Ways To Protect Your Mental Health 

How to cope:

Munnik said people should be patient with themselves as recovery takes time. However, she said it’s important that people try to stay away from non-conducive coping mechanisms such asalcohol or other substances. 

Get reliable information

One of the best ways to manage fear is to understand what’s happening. The more we know about the current situation, the more effective steps we can take to help minimise our risk. Be sure to get information from a reputable source. Know and follow all directions from provincial and local authorities.

Be aware. 

When you are in a situation where there is potential violence, it’s important to remain vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings; have a plan for seeking shelter if needed.

Focus on what you do have control over

The images we see on social media and TV, along with the stories we hear and our own thoughts about violence, can increase our anxiety. Think about what you can control and how you can reduce your risk of being a victim. This may include avoiding an area where violence is occurring. You may want to review your workplace safety plan and discuss safety with your family and friends.

Minimise your exposure to the media

While it’s important to stay informed, constant exposure may add to feelings of distress. Try to give yourself a break from the intensity of what is happening.

Allow your feelings. 

If you notice that you are having strong feelings, acknowledge them to yourself. Don’t try to ignore or deny them.

Try relaxation techniques. 

Deep breathing or meditation may be helpful. These gentle techniques can help you get control over the physical symptoms of anxiety and calm your thoughts.

Those who have been directly impacted may want to seek professional help or support services.

No matter how much we try to manage our emotions during times of civil unrest, sometimes we can’t manage on our own. Seeing such pain and injustice every day can be traumatising, especially if you identify as an individual who is directly affected by the pain and injustice. It is okay to seek professional help to process your emotions. 

While it might be difficult to seek professional help during these times, there are some options available online. 

Read more: How to access mental health resources online