Hong Kong Anxiety and Omicron
The past couple of years in Hong Kong have been tough. As shutdowns begin, we are reminded of exactly where we were in January 2020. How can we be here again? More important, how has the rest of the world moved on, and yet, here we are again?
I have listed my top tips here, at the bottom of this article, which experience has shown me as a Hong Kong psychotherapist, will work to regulate your nervous system.
How counselling and psychotherapy works here:
Because of all the environmental stresses, many of us are experiencing more anxiety and worry than we typically would. Anxiety is actually a normal reaction to a stressful situation. However, when anxiety is persistent, when it gets in the way of the ability to function well at school, work, social situations, and in general, it can make sense to get help managing it. You don’t need to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to get assistance in developing tools to use in stressful situations and make life easier. Especially given we’ve been in a stressful situation in Hong Kong for a long time now!
C.B.T. – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Your Nervous System
We all have a sympathetic nervous system, which basically gears up our “fight or flight” instinct. We also have a parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for returning our bodies back to regular functioning. When we feel anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system jumps in to protect us. If we were in the jungle running away from a lion, it would be a good thing that we had moved to “fight or flight” mode! However, generally, a real danger isn’t present, we just feel that it is, and our minds and bodies react accordingly.
The good news is that, when this happens, you can learn to engage your parasympathetic nervous system in order to calm down and access the logical part of your brain, which will let you know that there is no real danger present. There are many different ways to do this depending on what works for you. For many people, as a psychotherapist I have found Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is very useful in reducing feelings of anxiety, but there are many other methods as well.
In both psychotherapy and counselling I’ll teach you this, and am happy to see you in my office, however in the meantime I offer some very simple things you can do to combat anxiety are:
- The most basic thing you can do, as soon as you feel some anxiety building, is to start deep breathing. I know it may sound corny, I used to think it was also, but it really works! The key is that you have to begin as soon as you start to feel stressed. If you wait too long, it’s less likely to work. There are many ways to deep breathe, so find a technique that works from you. Make sure you are breathing in your stomach, not your chest (which can increase feelings of anxiety).
- If you find deep breathing difficult or just don’t like the idea of it, you can try progressive relaxation. Tense one muscle at a time, hold for a short period, and then relax it. Do this all over your body, even your face, until you feel calmer.
- Another very simple thing to do (that most of us already know but many of us block out because we don’t feel like it!) is exercise. Even getting out and going for a walk can help those feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins, in your brain get going. That can reduce mild anxiety and depression. Exercise also helps you sleep better, something that can be challenging when feeling stressed or anxious.
- You can also ask yourself some questions. Is your fear justified, is it actually likely? Has something like that happened before? If so, was it bad or did it turn out mostly ok? How will you manage if it does happen? Try not to keep asking yourself “what if?” Instead try thinking, “so what?” Maybe the worst-case scenario won’t be so bad.
It’s also possible that you or someone you know may have an actual anxiety disorder. Some signs include, excessive worrying, feeling agitated (racing pulse, sweaty hands), restlessness (feeling on edge, having an urge to move), fatigue (a surprising one as anxiety is generally associated with hyperactivity), difficulty concentrating, irritability, having tense muscles, trouble falling or staying asleep, panic attacks, avoiding social situations (social anxiety) and irrational fears (phobias). If any of this sounds familiar, you may want to consider treatment options so you can feel better.
Whether you are experiencing some anxiety that makes certain aspects of life uncomfortable or you may have an anxiety disorder, feel free to reach out to discuss the situation. We can review what is going on, go over treatment options that could be useful, and potentially make life a bit easier. After all, who doesn’t want life to be a bit easier?