Many of us are worrying; worrying about our health or the health of a loved one. Worrying about our jobs or what money we have coming in. Worrying about when this will all be over and life, as we knew it, will finally resume? But for some people, it is important to recognise that these aren’t new worries, they are worries that have been compounded by the current pandemic and they are now potentially more disconnected from their support networks than ever before. These people will undoubtedly include some of you reading this article.
My name is Hayden Stothard. I am a registered Mental Health Nurse and accredited Cognitive Analytic Therapist. I work as a manager in the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and also run a small private practice for adults interested in personal therapy.
As I was reflecting on what I wanted to convey in this post, I was thinking about how we, as individuals and a society maybe relating to the world at the moment. It would be reasonable to assume that for many people, it feels quite unsafe, restricted and perhaps even attacking? In relation to this, many of us will have experienced a sense of feeling helpless, disconnected and the need to respond defensively.
But although it is understandable to feel fear, we don’t have to be driven by it to respond to the world and each other in this way.
Evidence suggests that there are 5 steps you can take to improve your mental health and wellbeing:
Connecting: When we feel frightened of being disconnected from each other, we must look for ways of strengthening those connections. If you live with someone, set aside time each day that is device free to talk and listen, to be present in the moment and to feel connected in any way that you can. And if you don’t live with anyone, consider taking up that offer of someone calling you- you’ll feel better for it. For some people this might include spirituality which is frequently shown to demonstrate higher levels of resilience in peoples’ mental health .
Be active: When we feel restricted, whether that is because you can’t go to see your friends or you are at home shielding; do what you can and enjoy what you do. "Move your mood" and find something that is safe to do within your own capability. Try to keep to your routine as much as possible, as though you were planning on going out that day.
Take notice: When we feel hopeless because everything in the world is feeling so overwhelming, try to remember the simple things that bring you joy. Look out for the stories of hope, like Captain Tom and try to balance how much and the type of news you read.
Keep learning: When we feel helpless, embrace new experiences, see opportunities and surprise yourself. Perhaps today is the day to order that smartphone and have a go at video-calling if you have never done it before? Or maybe even start a blog!?
Give: When we are feeling defensive or hurt, give time to your words and treat each other with kindness and patience. Giving to others doesn’t have to be limited by lockdown, simply telling someone thank you for something they have done for you can count. Offering to share a chore at home or picking up some essentials for a neighbour are all ways of creating positive feelings and building self-worth.
I hope that these simple suggestions will help in the coming weeks and that you are able to continue to build on them while looking after yourself and your loved ones.
If you are concerned about your own mental health or that of someone else's, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has recently launched a free 24/7 help and advice line in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire for adults (01865 904997) and for children and young people (01865 904998).
Stay safe and well,