Coronavirus And Your Mental Health:

In my last post (Coronavirus update), I wrote a bit about how at the time of writing I'm still working with clients one to one and taking extra precautions (as we all should be) to keep us all safe whilst doing so.

I also mentioned how you can get your hands on a free copy of my Stress Relief Hypnosis Download which I hope will provide some help to those of you who may be feeling overwhelmed, uncertain or fearful right now. I'm really pleased that a whole load of you have downloaded it and I hope you find it helpful in the coming days and weeks.

The schools are about to shut, people are becoming ill and isolating themselves, the number of deaths continues to rise and people are naturally worried about what the future holds for them and their loved ones.  People are worried about their health, livelihoods, education, businesses, jobs, paying the bills and a whole host of other things. 

And the only certain thing right now is uncertainty. It's an ever shifting landscape that impacts upon each and every one of us.

Yet there is hope. We will come out the other side (for better or for worse). Life will return to normal (whether in weeks or months or longer). And right now it's more important than ever that you take care of your mental health and wellbeing.

Looking After Your Mental Health

If you were already struggling with anxiety, worry and fear even before the coronavirus, then everything going on right now may have exacerbated your anxiety. Some of the key things that people with anxiety often struggle with are managing uncertainty, thinking the worst and catastrophising and overthinking those 'what-if' things. And right now, as we are in pretty much unchartered waters with the corona virus, there is no certainty and things are out of your control in many ways. 

But even if anxiety hasn't featured much in your life before now, the changes in society, the unknowns about the future and all the worry right now can cause a massive sense of overwhelming stress that impacts on your mental health. 

You may feel like you can't or won't cope with things. You may worry about whether you will still have a business or job at the end of it all. You may be stressing about holding things together and paying the bills. You may be anxious about loved ones getting the virus and the possible dreaded consequences of that. And there are far more worries, stresses and anxieties into each and every aspect of life than those. 

And because we have no certainty and things change daily, those thoughts can keep going around and around and so anxiety and stress dominate your thoughts and feelings, or at least eat into a large chunk of your focus and awareness.

So here are some thoughts on what you can do right now to support good mental health (at the time of writing all of these are doable):

1. Exercise

Everyone is suggesting it, and for good reason. I've written a number of times before about how exercise can help with anxiety and depression symptoms and can help support good mental health (I covered a load of the mental health benefits here: Ely Festive 5k 2019 and Why You Should Get Running For Your Mental Health). You can easily get out for a brisk walk or run (maintaining social distancing) or, if you are in self-isolation then do something at home (there are loads of resources online including this one from the BBC: Coronavirus: How to exercise while staying at home).

As long as you are well and able to, you really will benefit from being active.

2. Get Out In Nature

Again, as long as you maintain social distancing, there are mental health benefits from getting out in nature. 

Research has shown that even as little as twenty minutes in a natural setting can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as boosting your mood and increasing feelings of calm and comfort.

If you are able to do, get out into nature to support your mental health.

3. Focus on What You Can Control 

 So many of us have a tendency to get anxious, angry, frustrated and stressed about things we can't do anything about. And, if it's something outside your control then at the end of it, all that's left is feeling angry, anxious and stressed, and a head full of impotent thoughts that go around and around. 

There is no place where a sense of being out of control is more prominent than right here and now with the coronavirus. We don't know who has it, whether we'll get it, how bad it might get, what decisions the government or an employer might make for the future for ourselves and our families. So many things right now are outside of your control. 

So rather than only focus on things you can't do anything about, focus your thoughts and feelings on what you can do something about. For starters (and if you aren't doing this already, you should be) you can wash your hands regularly, clean surfaces, handles and switches, and avoid social contact. Focus on keeping yourself and everyone else healthy and safe.

You can start making notes and tackling your contingency plans. Start writing a list of all the businesses and organisations your can contact to see what support they are offering. Credit card companies, landlords and mortgage companies can all be contacted for help and support if you need it. And then there are benefits, grants and loans becoming available for businesses and individuals. Start planning and contacting to mitigate things and to be ready if you need these things.

You can take control and use some of the other suggestions in this article to support your own mental health and wellbeing and do what you can to be in a healthy place for when life starts to return to normal.

4. Take Time Out From It All

The coronavirus and everything that goes with it has literally taken over our lives and our focus. Everyone is talking about and posting about it. And the media is covering it twenty four hours a day.

It's easy to get caught up into it for extensive periods of time, checking every update and reading every post. Yet in fact, day by day the advice to each of us is pretty much the same, a lot of the details will only come out in due course and (at least in the UK) decisions are normally covered in the late afternoon briefing. You don't miss anything important by only checking in a couple of times a day. Rather than stressing your brain out with each and every update, what it might mean and what might come next, do try to limit your consumption. 

Instead, devote some of that time to doing things you normally enjoy. Read a book, play a musical instrument, exercise. If you have kids at home now, play with them, enjoy the time with them that has been thrown your way. And be sure to download my Stress Relief hypnosis audio (which comes with a calmness hypnosis audio too) to give your brain some time out to relax and recharge.

5. Keep In Touch With Others

You may be self-isolating yourself (or others may be) but there have never been so many ways to communicate with each other. Even if you can't be physically with someone, you can message, text, email, phone, skype, facetime and still connect. Don't be tempted to shut yourself off and don't forget those around you. We are all better off for staying in touch and communicating even if for now we may have to use other methods for a while.

6. Do Stuff

With everything going on and all the changes and challenges, it's easy to slide into a lull where our normal activities and distractions are no longer available. To avoid this, aim to keep doing stuff. I don't know about you but I've lost count of how often I tell myself I'll get around to something when I'm less busy. But life is usually so busy that those things just never happen.

Make a list of the things you've always siad you'll do when you have more time. And now that you (probably) have more time, make a start on some of them. Get out in the garden, start exercising, research recipes and have a go, get your accounts done, read that book, watch that film, do that online course, paint that room, sort that cupboard.... Get busy on some of these things and you'll feel better for having done them and cleared them off your list. Not only that but when things pick back up, you'll want to spend your time and focus on 'normal life' one again.

7. Avoid Fortune Telling

It's easy if you are feeling anxious or stressed to start guessing what the future might hold. And all those worst case scenarios and overthinking 'what-ifs' can massively exacerbate your anxiety. And if you are anxious or stressed then those things you are imagining and thinking about will probably be focused on things going badly in some way.

To counter this, first recognise you are doing it and that your imagination is being driven by how you feel. Bring your mind back to the facts and evidence right now. Yes the future is uncertain and things are changing fast, yet all we have is what we know right now. 

You can interrupt unhelpful thoughts by using concentration exercises like counting backwards form three hundred in threes, or reciting the alphabet backwards. And alongside this, practice extending your out breath to stimulate the relaxation response and take away the 'emotional fuel' from your thoughts. You can use the free hypnosis download I've mentioned or other resources such as Headspace to help remove the anxious distortion from your thinking. And by exercising, getting things done, staying connected and the other suggestions here, you can reign your thoughts back to the here and now. 

And if you still find your mind wandering to the worst case then also deliberately think of the best case and as many other options and possibles of what could happen that are between those two extremes. At this point in time, any of those options are equally as likely because they haven't happened yet. So to avoid thinking of only the worst case and then following down that path in your mind, give your brain some other choices and possibilities and use the uncertainty to counter the anxiety and stress.

8. Be Kind To Others

These are testing times for everyone and none of us know what is going on in someone else's mind and life right now (this is always true but perhaps more so for more of us right now). The person who serves you in the shop, that person you think is in your way: each and every one of us is being affected. That other person may have just lost their income, they may be worried about an elderly relative who has been diagnosed, they may not be sleeping, they may have anxiety and they may be struggling in some way right now as a result of the coronavirus. 

Don't be a dick. Be especially kind, supportive and understanding of others right now. There's a lot of stuff going down and that other person may have a lot more of that stuff in a not good way going down than you. 

And that especially applies to hoarders. There's enough to go around if you get what you need and not what you can.  

9. Be Kind To Yourself

These are unprecedented times, so just be nice to yourself right now. You're doing the best you can in uncertain circumstances. You're doing ok.

There are many out there seemingly out for themselves right now, but remember there are many, many people who are displaying all sorts of kindness and doing positive things for others around them. And above all, while the biggest issue some of us face is finding pasta, the doctors and nurses and those who support them, along with other key workers who are keeping the country going, are working all hours in challenging times and doing so much for the benefit of all of us. Let's be sure to express our thanks to each and every one of them right now.

Stay healthy, look after yourself and be kind,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket