Uncertainty during COVID-19

It’s been nearly a year since the first national lockdown and despite the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, many of us are still facing high levels of anxiety due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. This may be uncertainty over the second wave, national lockdown restrictions, home-schooling, and returning to school or work. It may also relate to health, jobs, family, relationships or even when we will be able to give relatives a long-awaited hug.

Even before COVID-19, the ability to tolerate uncertainty was difficult and challenging. However, Coronavirus, with its complete disruption of our lives, has compounded and magnified our innate underlying fears of not being in control - fears that are usually kept in check by our usual daily routines.

Dealing with the uncertainty linked to the global pandemic can have a profound effect on stress and mental health. Research has shown that COVID-19 has significantly increased anxiety and depression in the UK.


How uncertainty can cause stress, anxiety, and depression

Uncertainty can create anxiety, anger, sadness and feelings of not being in control. These emotions are normally felt in the body some way, and so we do whatever we can to ease the tension, or we begin to overthink about the ‘what if' scenarios or shutting off and feeling numb. We might start picturing worst-case scenarios, fixating on things like health or food, or might feel unable to go out.

Anxiety-related stress which can lead to depression is separate from fear. When faced with an unfavourable situation, or with the threat of such a situation, fear is the normal response. This acts out as the flight or fight scenario.

However, when the situation dreaded is in the far and uncertain future, the observed result is anxiety or depression, which is seen as a tendency to constantly assess the risk level.


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Top tips for coping with uncertainty

We have put together some tips for coping with anxiety, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Take time to reflect and process difficult episodes.

Engage your thinking whilst acknowledging your feelings to help guide you in what to do next. This will help you to respond rather than react and may prove invaluable and save time later down the line.

Take a break.

If you are feeling anxious, you can always take some time for yourself to process your thoughts and your situation.

Make a list of what has helped you in the past in similar situations.

Think about what has helped you through these struggles previously. Make a list of things that help you when you are struggling in life and keep hold of it.

Focus on the things you can control.

Even when being buffeted about by life’s challenges which means putting your thinking and responsibility in the executive.

Asking for help when you need it.

Talk to your family and friends about how you are feeling. If your mental health is impacting your work, talk to your line manager or even a medical professional.

Drawing strength from others can prove particularly valuable. Reach out to those in a similar situation or even research charities who focus on supporting individuals going through difficult periods in their lives. Sometimes we just want to feel heard and for others to empathise with our situation before we can look to the future.

Practice healthy habits and take responsibility for self-care.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and eating a balanced diet.

Avoid constant news reports.

This can generate negativity and affect mood or cause increased anxiety. It could be as simple as switching off your notifications on your phone.

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No one should ever struggle in silence. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, ask for help. Alternatively,  If you are more comfortable speaking to a medical expert, The Doctors Clinic Group offer mental health support for both individuals and businesses.

If you need emergency support, please go to your local A&E or call NHS 111 (in England). You can also contact the following crisis support hotlines:

• Samaritans – 116 123 (24/7, 365 days a year)

• SANEline – 0300 304 7000 (6pm – 11pm, 365 days a year)