Advice: How to stay calm

In this month's advice column, film & TV industry Psychologist, Charlotte Armitage gives tips on how to deal with anxiety and stress in the current climate.

How can you stay calm and positive in the current climate?

It is quite natural to feel stressed and anxious with the current situation that we are facing. The level of uncertainty about the future combined with lack of information is creating panic amongst many of us. Not only do we have to think about the impact that this situation might have on our health or the health of our loved ones, but we also have the worry of how this is going to impact the economy and our careers in the creative field. Although a level of anxiety is natural in these times, too much anxiety has an impact on your ability to think rationally and is therefore counterproductive. If you are feeling anxious, you can try these tips to help you relax:

  1. Deep breathing, breathing in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds. Or focussing on your breathing for 3 minutes, focus on your breathing, your surroundings, your body, your thoughts and your whole self.
  2. Practicing Sensory awareness- Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This helps to bring your back to the present moment and can reduce anxiety. Try doing this activity outdoors.
  3. Getting outdoors and away from technology. Even if self-isolating, you can still go into the garden or stand outside your front door for a bit of fresh air.
  4. Limit social media exposure and try not to become obsessed with it.
  5. Be honest with people if they are panicking if this is causing you distress. Just explain that you find it difficult to hear what they are saying and that it is making you feel anxious.
  6. Remember that there are going to be a lot of changes, but this situation will eventually pass and we can start to rebuild from there. Focus on what is within your control and attempt to let go of the things that you can’t control.

How do you deal with work being cancelled and feeling isolated?

It’s highly frustrating that work has been cancelled and the whole world is feeling the impact of this situation. There are a few things that you can do to avoid feeling isolated.

  1. It’s important to create a routine and stick to it. Routine is the bedrock of healthy psychological functioning and without this we can feel lost and out of control.
  2. Practice something related to your career at home, whether that is writing a new script or learning a new software, there are things that you can work on and get involved with.
  3. Create online groups for you and your friends, having support in times like this is going to be vitally important. I’m running online support groups which I will be facilitating as a psychologist, you can book in for these via www.yafta.co.uk. If you just want to talk to fellow creative professionals or friends, you can set up whatsapp groups or groups in Skype or Zoom where you can talk to groups of friends. Open and honest communication is will help to relieve the feelings of isolation.
  4. Go outdoors, even if it is just into your garden. Being in the house for too long is unhelpful for your mental health. If you are well enough, you could go for a walk near where you live just to have a break.

Charlotte Armitage is the Managing Director at Yorkshire Academy Of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA). She is also a psychologist and helps people in the film industry with mental health issues. Read our exclusive interview with Charlotte.