The fear pandemic is something that each of us has to manage – anxiety loves the words ‘what if’ – so how can you manage your head and overcome your feelings when they are overwhelming and how can you help others who may be struggling too?
1. Scale how you feel from 1-10
With 1 being the worst you’ve ever felt, and 10 being the best you’ve ever felt, what number are you right now? It is a subjective measure, but it is a useful one. Whatever number you are, how can you increase it by 1? What do you need to do, and who can help you? We are all on an emotional ‘roller-coaster’ – reset your head every day with rational information, avoid going down the rabbit hole for long. It is ok to be uncertain and feel sad for a short time, but then you need to act to improve your mood.
2. Accept the advice we are being given
Acceptance can be hard and we are frightened. But, rebelling against it will prolong the time we are needing to practice social distancing and isolation. Being separated is not our natural response and so the more accountable we can be, and the more responsible we are by making good choices, the better. As someone who always finds a way around the rules, I know my instinct is to rebel, but I also know what’s good for me and my family in the long term. So, let’s just do as we are told.
3. Manage your self-talk
How are you talking to yourself in your head? Would you talk to anyone else like that? If you wouldn’t, then be kinder to yourself. Even if you change how you are speaking to yourself just once a day (and you don’t even have to believe it right now) it will make a difference to how you feel. Change the negative words to positive, be nurturing, embrace your weird.
4. Recognise what you can control and influence
You have control over you and can influence the people around you, family and friends, but the rest falls in to the ‘circle of concern’, which is a reactive and less positive place to be and causes anxiety and panic. It is important to recognise what you can choose to let go of.
5. Ask for help
Are you good at asking for help or do you avoid it? Think about who can help you, and who you can help. We are in this together, and if we don’t help one another, then the tougher this will be. Reciprocity is something that we use in business – help others for the right reasons, and that good stuff comes back to you (at some point!).
6. Take time out
Manage social media and news access. Our brains are not meant to function 24 hours a day. Decide on your trusted news provider and check in with that. Follow the government’s briefings – they are in charge of the decisions that are being made – then switch it off because the rest is supposition, for the most part.
7. Avoid your head catastrophising
When we catastrophise, we look to the worst-case scenario. At the moment, the worst case is being ill and dying, or losing someone we love. The balance of evidence to this, is that if we are following the advice, we are minimising the chances greatly. There are also more people who are recovering from the virus than are dying from it, however that is not reported on in the press. An article I read on the BBC app this weekend discussed that the death rate we would ‘normally’ expect at this time of year, has not been taken in to account in the statistics. Added to this, in many areas in the country, the numbers are still low so the immediate threat is again, currently, minimal, and can continue to be so, if we all take responsibility for our actions, and follow the advice.
8. Manage your time
Either plan together, with work colleagues or family – can you have a shared timetable? Take breaks together. We are all in the same boat and there needs to be boundaries in place, but be mindful of your energy levels and work/be active when they are high so you are effective (don’t be too hard on yourself if energy levels dip!).
9. Access therapy
The power of having a safe space to talk cannot be underestimated to help you to be well. You might not be able to see someone face to face, but feedback we are getting from clients, who are using the different technology we have to offer (phone, skype, zoom, whats app, facetime) has been really positive, saying that it is as good as sitting in a room with their therapist.
10. Stay in touch
Keep contact with each other over the phone, Skype, Zoom, Facetime or WhatsApp. Write letters, have virtual coffee breaks with family, friends and colleagues – anything that keeps you connected.
11. Have a purpose
If you are working from home, keep to your routine – our heads like routine and being organised. If you are not working, decide what you would like to do and see the time as an opportunity. Are there jobs or interests that you have not had time to do that you can use this time to explore?
12. Look at your finances
Whilst there either is, or will be financial hardship, there is a lot of information out there that is free and can help to navigate through what is available. Ask for help, pick up the phone and negotiate what you need.
13. Clear your space
Your environment can reflect how your head is. Clear the clutter and feel in control of your space. In a time when there are things we can not control, taking control of what you can, is important.
Whatever that means to you. Walking (whilst distancing), a HIIT session, weights (if you have them), cycling…..whatever – expand your lung capacity and increase your heart rate. It is possible that you could be more healthy and fit at the end of this time than at the beginning!
15. Avoid self-medicating
Using alcohol, substances, smoking, and over-eating as a coping mechanism is counter-productive for your mental and physical health. Do something more positive!
16. Be creative.
Being creative can be really therapeutic. If your first response to this is ‘I’m not creative at all’, it can take many different guises. This could be anything from drawing (which I am terrible at!), to writing, gardening, cooking, doing a jigsaw, playing with Lego, starting an online community group – again, whatever works for you.
We are British! Humour is our birth right – so use it 😉 Having worked in mental health services for years and being the mum to three children, I know I use humour (I have to!) – it’s a great way of lifting our mood and feeling more perspective.
18. Buffer children
Children and young people have access to all sort of information now. Be mindful of the conversations you have with them and in front of them. They need us, as adults, to make sense of what is happening in an age appropriate way. They will remember how we dealt with this and it will inform their learned responses in the future.
19. Rest well, eat well
This has been the basic advice for many years for a reason. It is imperative that we fuel ourselves in the right way and give ourselves a chance for recovery. We may not have the foods we would like to have at the moment, not due to supply issues, but due to people issues – but there are different foods you could have. If you are a key worker and work feels relentless at the moment, as a minimum, rest when you can and ask for help when you need it.
20. Be grateful
This sounds like a really ‘counsellory’ thing to say, but it’s true. Being grateful for what and who we have in our lives, and our current health situation, grounds us and helps us to focus less on what we feel we don’t have – it’s a great antidote to fear and anxiety.
Coronavirus Resource Hub
For more tips, information, activities and exercises to help you and your family throughout coronavirus, click through to the Fortis Resource Hub.