When the unexpected happens ………. How to maintain positive Mental Health during challenging times

Our daily lives can be regularly interrupted by inconveniences and turns for the worse, but, for many of us, the current Covid-19 pandemic is a disruption like no other, forcing change in our lives that would have been unthinkable only weeks ago. The speed at which this change has happened is, understandably, unsettling, and will raise many questions and concerns. To help navigate these choppy waters we have complied a number of tips to help protect and bolster your psychological health.

Give yourself time and space

The events of recent weeks has been a big shock for many of us and it is important to give ourselves the time and space to adjust, both mentally and physically. Generally, humans are very resilient. We usually overcome adversity and often grow stronger, but there often needs to be a period of adjustment to find our new ‘norm’ and find a new way to be. While this is happening, it is fine not to feel okay, to feel upset, low and perhaps scared. In fact, fighting with these feelings only causes them to stay around for longer.

We are what we eat

This adage also applies to the mind and the information it consumes. Fill it with negative information and negative feelings and behaviours are going to come out. When faced with a danger our natural reaction is to become alert to negative information as our instinct for survival starts to take over. To try banishing these instincts is impossible. A far better strategy is to manage them instead, accepting they are part of our genetic make-up and limit how much you feed them.

  • Limit the amount of exposure you have to the news. Perhaps set aside time twice a day to catch up if you feel the need.
  • Take your information from trusted sources like the NHS and Government websites.
  • Avoid social media rumours like posts that start with the phrase: ‘I know somebody who works in the NHS and they said… ‘ Such posts fuel people’s anxiety.
  • It may be worth considering muting certain social media apps or groups for a temporary period.

Sense of control

Having a sense of control in one’s life is important to good psychological wellbeing. People with a greater sense of control tend to be more successful in their endeavours and enjoy better health. Of course, as the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates, our control over life is actually quite limited, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to exercise it where we can. Think about setting a plan, like a timetable, for work and fun so there is still a structure to your day, and so you spend appropriate amounts of time doing both.

In addition, are there any benefits to being in the current situation? Finding the upsides to the current situation can help create balance with all the negative news.

Emotions

Remember, your attitude is a product of your choosing. Whether you think it is going to be a good day or a bad day, it probably will be.

Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. This can have the same effect as talking with a friend in the office. It helps to bring perspective and healthy reflection on situations and your actions. It can be massively insightful.

Working from home might mean you receive less recognition than you might normally like. Come up with some ways to reward yourself when you complete a big task or know you have done a good job.

When there are many reasons to feel negative, it is important to take some time to remind yourself of what is important to you, what you value the most in life. Either consider, or write about why these things are so important to you.

Staying physically fit

Create a plan for looking after your physical health because if you do not it will impact on your mental health. Make time to be active i.e. going for a walk or following an online exercise class. Buy in healthy snacks and stay well hydrated. Also consider your new workspace – does it allow you to maintain good posture? If not, take regular comfort breaks to prevent aches and pains.

Staying connected

We are sociable creatures and need connection to maintain good mental health. Take advantage of technologies that allow you to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues. It doesn’t have to be formal, why not meet up at lunchtime and virtually eat together?

Be there for yourself

The current information about the Covid-19 pandemic indicates we are at the start of tough challenge, and the end-point is unclear. Many people will have their mental health tested and surviving this time does not depend on being strong at all costs. This is how people burn out. It is more important than ever that you learn to be your best friend, to support yourself and give praise and encouragement. Talk aloud to yourself positively; it may sound silly but is has the same effect on your state of mind as somebody else saying it to you. When you know you will always have your own back, then the world starts to become a far less scary place.

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