Health is Wealth - Coping better than ever despite COVID-19
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week right smack bang in the middle of the Coronavirus lockdown stage of the outbreak. A coincidence of course but now more relevant than ever.
With a growing list of mental challenges and uncertainty affecting more of us than ever maybe it’s time to really give some time to shoring up your mental defences and coping strategies. No one expects you to magically know how to do this. The ‘off the top of my head’ list of challenges below is just the start of it. So don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help from a specialist to get straight to the point of how best to drive the vehicle of yourself safely but effectively in this unknown and rough terrain.
Even the most robust of us will have come up against some of the following:
‘Short’ list of common challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak
OVERWHELM - worry, fear, phobias (past and new), anxiety, feeling out of control
FATIGUE - insomnia, brain fog, lack of energy, depression, increased responsibility (becoming teacher/carer/mental support to others)
CHANGE and LOSS - loss of friends/family, loss or uncertainty with work/studies, more/fewer people at home more/less of the time, inability to see your support group (friends/hobbies etc.), cancelled/delayed life plans (moving, studies, divorce, marriage), feeling lost
LONELINESS - self isolation, or feeling isolated even if others are around you
LIFE REVIEW - feeling out of your depth knowing you need to make changes to life for the future e.g. lose weight, get fitter, work fewer hours, reduce time with negative people etc.
In this blog I’m going to focus on two of these - loneliness and change and loss.
Change and loss
Loss comes in many shapes and sizes - bereavement, loss of your job, pending study plans, personal freedom, social connections, power and control over our lives. Many of these changes effect our personal identity and create anxiety, sadness, anger, shock, grief, a desire to withdraw, denial, and guilt. Symptoms manifest that can mess with our sleep, concentration, energy, tolerance, appetite, decisions, create tension pains and fatigue.
It’s important to realise these feelings although unpleasant are normal and part of an adjustment process. We need to remember the process will eventually pass as we re-adjust to a new normal. This process may recur several times as we adjust repeatedly to the phased changes in how we’re living. It’s time to be patient and give yourself space. Realise feeling unsettled will not inherently damage you if you can look beyond these highly changeable time towards a more settled future and feeling better.
A healthy strategy would be to regularly get your thoughts and feelings out of your head. Get it all off your chest, write it down, call a friend, talk to the cat, speak to a therapist. When you speak out loud, or write things you ‘listen’ to your insecure emotional self more rationally which can let the pressure off enough to help the process of bereavement and loss progress healthily. Even better would be to then do something ‘good for you’ after off-loading. Do some gentle but enjoyable physical activity such as gardening, taking a stroll, or playing with the dog - this allows you to burn off some of the built up stress hormones (cortisol) which in itself will make you feel better.
According to a survey of UK adults which took place during lockdown during April 2020, 24% said they had feelings of loneliness in the previous two weeks, versus 10% prior to lockdown. Short term loneliness is part of a normal mindset but when loneliness continues long term the more it can impact us detrimentally.
The key to fix this is to nurture as many connections with others as possible and create routine where possible for having those connections. Here are some examples - take up as many as you can and come up with your own.
Join in weekly groups e.g. book club, poetry reading, cooking classes, or crafting lesson, fitness/yoga Zoom class - many are two-way so you get some interaction and feel part of something
Go for your daily Boris walk or cycle where you can safely socially distance and people watch such as in the park. If you’re self isolating you will unfortunately have to pass on this one and instead work up on-line options more
Call up relatives, or friends on a regular basis - best mate Tuesday, Aunty Nelly Thursday, work colleague Friday etc.
The take home message is clear, you do not need to struggle. You can learn skills to cope well, adapt, blossom, be resilient, robust, thrive, take advantage of opportunities, evolve, or just feel better, happy and relaxed again (or for the first time!).
I’ll write on the other challenges very soon.
Until then stay well!