Self-Help advice and support during COVID-19
I heard someone say, “If I hear ‘unprecedented’ one more time I think I’m going to lose it!” But, what better word is there to describe the global pandemic that is affecting each and every one of us as I write this in April 2020.
Almost no living person today has experienced anything like this, and that is unprecedented. Our bodies and our minds, however are built to deal with serious events. Our ancestors were used to surviving mortal dangers, to anticipating and dealing with risk, and so we have these fight/flight/freeze reactions hardwired into us, too. Useful if you are looking out for danger in an unfriendly looking street late at night, not so useful if you are trying to stay calm and manage in the wake of COVID-19.
Global pandemic, individual issues
This is a global pandemic, yet the effect is totally individual depending on who we are, where we are, what we do and who is around us. I know from my clients, from my friends and colleagues and from myself that reactions and feelings change as often as the news, too. Whether you have been furloughed, are a frontline worker, self-isolating alone or with others, you may well be feeling anxious and stressed, and that’s completely normal.
It's OK not to be OK
Some people have found new opportunities, new hope, new ideas as a result of the situation. Being able to spend more time on themselves instead of commuting to work has freed people up. Others don’t feel that positive, are finding it hard to even function let alone do anything new. I think it is important to say that any and all feelings about this are valid, good, bad, neutral. How you feel is how you feel.
This pandemic is a crash course in dealing with uncertainty, and one we haven’t prepped for.
Here’s a list of some of the more challenging emotions you might be feeling as a result of COVID-19/Coronavirus
Loss of control
Loneliness and isolation
Loss of purpose
Grief and loss
Feeling these emotions and being on high alert is tough and can feel exhausting. You might be struggling to sleep, or have changes in appetite, you might feel like resorting to old coping mechanisms.
Finding a therapist to support you can really help, especially if you find that the situation is reigniting old coping mechanisms, or highlighting issues you need help with, or just to have someone to help and support you in processing everything that is happening. If you’d like to get in touch to find out how therapy could help you, drop me a message.
Finding the right online therapist is important and ACTO provide a directory of qualified online therapists here, too.
There are a lot of self help and support resources out there, these are some I particularly like:
The NHS have 10 tips on managing COVID-19 anxiety:
If you have specific issues you need support with, the NHS have details of the national helplines and services that might be able to help.
David K. Mosher has an excellent blog on 7 ways to cope with COVID-19. His positive psychology approach assesses 7 different strategies including emotional coping, grounding and mindfulness, and reminds us that is is natural to find this challenging:
“COVID-19 is a furnace of strife that is forging “new normals” around the world. While there is space for genuine concern, we can also find ourselves spiralling in unhelpful thoughts and reverting to ways of coping that get us nowhere.”
At the top of the list of things to look after are the four pillars of good mental health:
Sleep well! Sleep is so important, it’s one of the four pillars of good mental health, we need sleep to manage anxiety, it's in our sleep that our brain can process the day.
Eat well! Another pillar, good food and the right amount helps us to be strong and resilient enough to cope with what’s going on
Keep active. Getting outside is proven to improve mental health. You don’t have to train for a marathon. Getting regular exercise, even if just a walk around the block is vital to mental wellbeing.
Keep connected. We are social animals, and this is vital to our mental health. Keep in touch with people, friends, family, and coworkers. Make video calls, write letters, share memes, whatever helps you to feel connected. Talk to a therapist. Or get in touch with an organisation that can help.
Do things you enjoy, whatever they are, you do not have to learn to play and instrument or write a novel, you do you, whatever that is.
Limit your news intake, there is more news than it is possible to take in out there. It’s natural to search for certainty, but you can’t find it, and you are overloading yourself.
Get creative, maybe you do feel like writing, drawing, or playing, do it.
Take time to relax, if you want to do nothing, do nothing, your body might be telling you it's exhausted and needs to rest.
What is your daily routine? Make one if you don’t have one, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Plan a little, live a lot.
And this reminder that it's absolutely OK not to be OK, from Susan Biali Haas M.D.:
"Allow yourself to feel the reality of what you’re going through. You don’t have to present a brave face to the world, if you’re having a tough time.....I’ll say it again: If you’re feeling like all of this is too much—it’s because it is."