With the stressors around us currently, mental health has moved more into our general conversations. This seems to be a natural response to the fear, frustrations and changes many are experiencing in relation to the effects of covid-19 on many aspects of our lives. Finding ways to cope in these times has become an important thing to look at.
By now many are aware of how fears related to the virus have been affecting them: denial, paranoia, avoidance, anger, the list goes on. What may not be as front of mind is how stress can bring forward unresolved emotions, thoughts and experiences.
You may find yourself thinking about things from years gone by. You may be faced with unresolved concerns. You may be filled with regrets. You may be filled with dreams anew of things to add to your ‘post covid’ to do list. More seriously, the trauma of experiencing serious covid-19 related illness and loosing loved ones can take its toll on us in the present; and can also re-ignite experiences of previous trauma. It is therefore important to care for yourself and others at this time.
Giving Yourself Support
So how do you go about giving yourself additional support. Here are a few tips:
- Engage with positive hobbies and practices which calm and distract, whatever they may be. This could be music, gardening, reading, building something, sorting your cupboards, etc. If it works for you, keep doing it (As long as it doesn’t cause you or others harm).
- Spend quality time with loved ones, albeit virtually.
- Avoid isolating yourself: share with others and get support as needed.
- Plug out. Filter your exposure to news, social media and negative conversation. Stay in the know but also try and stay in reality, avoid panic and seek out encouragement.
- Plug in. Take time to reflect on your goals and needs. Make plans to action things and give yourself a sense of certainty in times where there is little control over the future.
- Frame things realistically and with a touch of motivational thinking. Keeping inspired in stressful times helps take each little step forward that gets you to where you need to be. Retreating to a place of negativity or of unrealistic panic can cause more distress.
- Try have conversations around interests and going-ons outside of covid.
- Fill your mind with what feeds your soul, exercise, eat a balanced diet and improve your sleep to help manage your mental state. The mind and the body work powerfully together.
- Create something to look forward to. E.g., an online social, a themed movie night, a covid safe outing, a hike for a refreshing change of scenery.
- If you or a loved one are not coping seek professional help.
There is hope if you are feeling that you are in a difficult place. Seeking help from a trained professional can give you support and guidance. This is non-judgemental and confidential, making it a safe space. You can contact a psychologist, social worker or a registered counsellor. There are wonderful services available from private practices and as well as very useful free resources and services from organisations such as SADAG, Lifeline, Childline and others.
Signs to Look Out For
Here are some signs that you or someone you know may benefit from additional support. These are not meant to make any particular diagnosis but are a sign that you/another are not coping as well as usual:
- Your mood is flat or lower than usual for more than two weeks, with or without a stressor that may account for this.
- You have lost interest in things that you used to enjoy.
- You do not wish to see, interact with or contact others.
- You are isolating yourself.
- You feel excessively panicked or anxious, regularly, or for a period of more than 2 weeks.
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or others.
- You have plans to harm yourself or others.
- You have changes in your sleep pattern: too much sleep, too little sleep, difficulty getting out of bed, fatigued, exhausted despite sleeping.
- You have changes in your appetite: eating more, eating less, not eating, ‘comfort’ eating.
- You feel a sense of hopelessness.
- You feel you are repeating negative or destructive patterns in your relationships; work or with your children, that may point to something unresolved in your past or within yourself.
- You have a sense of a need for change in how you are living to feel more fulfilled.
- You experience regular self-doubt, low motivation, poor confidence.
- You are regularly angry, irritable or have outbursts.
- You are regularly sad, tearful, low.
- You have difficulty regulating your emotions.
- You have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
- You have difficulty setting or maintaining boundaries.
- You are unable to meet your usual demands e.g., at home, at work.
- You have difficulty focusing, getting things completed and are forgetful.
In these times, and in all times, caring for yourself and others is a priority. There is no shame in seeking help from your support network or in the safety of the confidential relationship with a mental health professional. While there may be stigma towards mental health, the more people understand and are less fearful of what they don’t know, the more this will decrease. My hope is that you will give yourself the chance to receive what you need where you are right now. Take care!