Self-Care practices for anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK in adults


  • Antony Laban-Sharman Faculty of Sport, Allied Health & Performance Sciences, St. Mary’s University, London, United Kingdom
  • Dr. Anne Majumdar 1Faculty of Sport, Allied Health & Performance Sciences, St. Mary’s University, London, United Kingdom



Anxiety, Mental Health, Self-Care, Covid-19, Qualitative


Introduction. The National Health Service cannot chronically sustain the overwhelming demands being placed on it due to financial cuts, staff numbers and presence of Covid-19. As a result, anxiety levels are on the rise thus increasing the need for effective self-care behaviors.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to comprehend and acknowledge the profound influence Covid-19 has had on anxiety levels and explore what behaviors people engage in to manage their perceived stress levels themselves.
Methodology: This study was an exploratory mixed-methods design consisting of 110 self-referred adults aged 18-65 with anxiety completed an online survey guided by the “Harvard Anxiety and Depression Scale”. Data collected from the free-text questions were analyzed using the thematic analyses method to evoke the most relevant themes and generate an evidence-based narrative.
Results and Discussion: Self-care behaviors used for anxiety self-management pre and during lockdown were walks, virtual family/social peer support, cooking and aerobic exercise. Additionally, it was apparent that a lack of ongoing family/social support was a key predictor for the proclivity of anxiety-inducing thoughts to be experienced. Interestingly, individuals who continually engaged in activity experienced positive mood states irrespective of the current lockdown environment.
Conclusion: This study adds to novel literature on the current anxiety levels of adults living in the UK under the Covid-19 pandemic and what self-care behaviors people implement to self-manage their anxiety levels. This study stresses the significance of ongoing peer support as a self-care behavior that can act as a positive meditator for healthy cognitive processes to ensue. Therefore, future self-care programs advocating this strategy may, if not prevent, slow down the rising cases of anxiety and ill mental health due to the uncertain environment of Covid-19


Appleby, L., Shaw, J., & Amos, T. (1997). National confidential inquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 170(2), 101-102.

American College of Sports Medicine. (2016). Exercise management for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

American College of Sports Medicine. (2017). Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.

Aherne, D., Farrant, K., Hickey, L., Hickey, E., McGrath, L., & McGrath, D. (2016). Mindfulness based stress reduction for medical students: optimising student satisfaction and engagement. BMC medical education, 16(1), 209. DOI:

Appleby, L., Shaw, J., & Amos, T. (1997). National confidential inquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 170(2), 101-102. DOI:

Byrom, N. (2018). An evaluation of a peer support intervention for student mental health. Journal of Mental Health, 27(3), 240-246. DOI:

Bortel, T., Basnayake, A., Wurie, F., Jambai, M., Koroma, A. S., Muana, A. T., ... & Nellums, L. B. (2016). Psychosocial effects of an Ebola outbreak at individual, community and international levels. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 94(3), 210. DOI:

Bocking, J., Ewart, S. B., Happell, B., Platania-Phung, C., Stanton, R., & Scholz, B. (2018). “Here if you need me”: exploring peer support to enhance access to physical health care. Journal of Mental Health, 27(4), 329-335. DOI:

Baker, C. (2020). Mental health statistics for England: prevalence, services and funding. House of Commons Library, 6988.

Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health education & behavior, 31(2), 143-164. DOI:

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. DOI:

Bhuyan, K. K. (2004). Health promotion through self-care and community participation: elements of a proposed programme in the developing countries. BMC public health, 4(1), 11. DOI:

Brog, N. A., Hegy, J. K., Berger, T., & Znoj, H. (2021). An internet-based self-help intervention for people with psychological distress due to COVID-19: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 22(1), 1-11. DOI:

Berger, T., Caspar, F., Richardson, R., Kneubühler, B., Sutter, D., & Andersson, G. (2011). Internet-based treatment of social phobia: a randomized controlled trial comparing unguided with two types of guided self-help. Behaviour research and therapy, 49(3), 158-169. DOI:

Connor, R. C., & Kirtley, O. J. (2018). The integrated motivational–volitional model of suicidal behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1754), 2017-2068. DOI:

Coatsworth-Puspoky, R., Forchuk, C., & Ward-Griffin, C. (2006). Peer support relationships: an unexplored interpersonal process in mental health. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 13(5), 490-497. DOI:

Dean, K., & Kickbusch, I. (1995). Health related behaviour in health promotion: utilizing the concept of self-care. Health Promotion International, 10(1), 35-40. DOI:

Decker, J. T., Brown, J. L. C., Ashley, W., & Lipscomb, A. E. (2019). Mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises: reduced anxiety for clients and self-care for social work interns. Social Work with Groups, 42(4), 308-322. DOI:

Department of Work & Pensions. (2019). Households below average income: 1994/95 to 2018/19. Retrieved from

Elovainio, M., Hakulinen, C., Pulkki-Råback, L., Virtanen, M., Josefsson, K., Jokela, M., ... & Kivimäki, M. (2017). Contribution of risk factors to excess mortality in isolated and lonely individuals: an analysis of data from the UK Biobank cohort study. The Lancet Public Health, 2(6), e260-e266. DOI:

Frasquilho, D., Matos, M. G., Salonna, F., Guerreiro, D., Storti, C. C., Gaspar, T., & Caldas-de-Almeida, J. M. (2015). Mental health outcomes in times of economic recession: a systematic literature review. BMC public health, 16(1), 115. DOI:

Freedman, L. (2020). Strategy for a Pandemic: The UK and COVID-19. Survival, 62(3), 25-76. DOI:

Foley, N. (2020). Unemployment by ethnic background. House of Commons Library: Briefing Paper Number, 1, 6385.

Farmer, N., Touchton-Leonard, K., & Ross, A. (2018). Psychosocial benefits of cooking interventions: a systematic review. Health Education & Behavior, 45(2), 167-180. DOI:

Gillard, S. (2019). Peer support in mental health services: where is the research taking us, and do we want to go there?. Journal of Mental Health, 28, 341-344. DOI:

Holmes, E. A., O'Connor, R. C., Perry, V. H., Tracey, I., Wessely, S., Arseneault, L., ... & Ford, T. (2020). Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(6), 547-560. DOI:

Huber, C., Finelli, L., & Stevens, W. (2018). The economic and social burden of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 218(5), 698-704. DOI:

James, P. B., Wardle, J., Steel, A., & Adams, J. (2019). Post?Ebola psychosocial experiences and coping mechanisms among Ebola survivors: a systematic review. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 24(6), 671-691. DOI:

Krieger, T., Reber, F., von Glutz, B., Urech, A., Moser, C. T., Schulz, A., & Berger, T. (2019). An internet-based compassion-focused intervention for increased self-criticism: a randomized controlled trial. Behavior therapy, 50(2), 430-445. DOI:

Kleiboer, A., Donker, T., Seekles, W., van Straten, A., Riper, H., & Cuijpers, P. (2015). A randomized controlled trial on the role of support in Internet-based problem solving therapy for depression and anxiety. Behaviour research and therapy, 72, 63-71. DOI:

Kef, K. (2021). COVID-19: The Level of Knowledge, Anxiety and Symptom Presentation. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 14, 541. DOI:

Kotrlik, J. W. K. J. W., & Higgins, C. C. H. C. C. (2001). Organizational research: Determining appropriate sample size in survey research appropriate sample size in survey research. Information technology, learning, and performance journal, 19(1), 43.

Lawn, S., Smith, A., & Hunter, K. (2008). Mental health peer support for hospital avoidance and early discharge: an Australian example of consumer driven and operated service. Journal of Mental Health, 17(5), 498-508. DOI:

Mahase, E. (2020). Covid-19: Mental health consequences of pandemic need urgent research, paper advises. DOI:

Matthews, T., Danese, A., Caspi, A., Fisher, H. L., Goldman-Mellor, S., Kepa, A., ... & Arseneault, L. (2019). Lonely young adults in modern Britain: findings from an epidemiological cohort study. Psychological medicine, 49(2), 268-277. DOI:

Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Maturitas, 106, 48-56. DOI:

National Health Service. (2018a). Generalized anxiety disorder in adults. Retrieved from

National Health Service. (2018b). Yoga. Retrieved from

O’Connell, M. J., Flanagan, E. H., Delphin-Rittmon, M. E., & Davidson, L. (2017). Enhancing outcomes for persons with co-occurring disorders through skills training and peer recovery support. Journal of Mental Health, 29(1), 6-11. DOI:

Puschner, B. (2018). Peer support and global mental health. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences, 27(5), 413-414. DOI:

Public Health England. (2018). Health matters: reducing health inequalities in mental illness. Retrieved from

Ryan, R., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development and well-being. American Psychologist, 55 (1), 68-78. DOI:

Rosen, C. S., Glassman, L. H., & Morland, L. A. (2020). Telepsychotherapy during a pandemic: A traumatic stress perspective. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 30(2), 174. DOI:

Rheker, J., Andersson, G., & Weise, C. (2015). The role of “on demand” therapist guidance vs. no support in the treatment of tinnitus via the internet: a randomized controlled trial. Internet Interventions, 2(2), 189-199. DOI:

Stussman, B. J., Black, L. I., Barnes, P. M., Clarke, T. C., & Nahin, R. L. (2015). Wellness-related use of common complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2012. National Health Statistics Reports, (85), 1–12.

Smith, A. (2006). Cognitive empathy and emotional empathy in human behavior and evolution. The Psychological Record, 56(1), 3-21. DOI:

Summerfield, D. (2000). War and mental health: a brief overview. BMJ, 321(7255), 232-235. DOI:

Sahni, P. S., Singh, K., Sharma, N., & Garg, R. (2021). Yoga an effective strategy for self-management of stress-related problems and wellbeing during COVID19 lockdown: a cross-sectional study. PloS one, 16(2), e0245214. DOI:

Sahu, K. K., & Kumar, R. (2020). Preventive and treatment strategies of COVID-19: From community to clinical trials. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 9(5), 2149. DOI:

Tolomiczenko, G. S., Kahan, M., Ricci, M., Strathern, L., Jeney, C., Patterson, K., & Wilson, L. (2005). SARS: coping with the impact at a community hospital. Journal of advanced nursing, 50(1), 101-110. DOI:

Tracy, S. J. (2013). Qualitative research methods: collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Utter, J., Denny, S., Lucassen, M., & Dyson, B. (2016). Adolescent cooking abilities and behaviors: Associations with nutrition and emotional well-being. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 48(1), 35-41. DOI:

Weir, B., Cunningham, M., Abraham, L., & Allanson-Oddy, C. (2019). Military veteran engagement with mental health and well-being services: A qualitative study of the role of the peer support worker. Journal of Mental Health, 28(6), 647-653. DOI:

Wu, A. W., Connors, C., & Everly Jr, G. S. (2020). COVID-19: peer support and crisis communication strategies to promote institutional resilience. ACP Journals, 1, 1-2. DOI:

World Health Organisation. (2019). What do we mean by self-care. Retrieved from




How to Cite

Laban-Sharman, A., & Majumdar, A. . (2021). Self-Care practices for anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK in adults. Mental Health: Global Challenges Journal, 4(1).

Most read articles by the same author(s)