In a move that would have been absolutely unthinkable just months ago, quarantine and social distancing have now become commonplace globally as Governments are desperately making concerted efforts to fight the spiralling Covid-19 outbreak. I thought it may be helpful to write a piece on mental and emotional wellbeing through this time of uncertainty. Fear and anxiety about a disease can really be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children. However knowing some coping mechanisms to help deal with stress will make you, the people you care about and your community stronger.
We are all in this together
11th May 2020
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include :
Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
Changes in sleep or eating patterns
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Worsening of chronic health problems
Worsening of mental health problems
Infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, financial loss and anger.
It is important to remember everyone reacts to stress differently. The list above can be an issue not only for those with pre-existing mental health concerns, but also for those in seemingly good psychological health. I do think how you respond to the outbreak and to the accompanying stress can depend on your back ground and life experiences.
Mental wellbeing is how we respond to life’s ups and downs. In this simple definition lies deeper meaning and implication for our lives. It includes how a person thinks, handles emotion and acts.
This very important part of who we are has multiple meanings. These traits - which are actually skills we can practice and develop - are all part of mental wellbeing:
Knowing and using our unique character strengths
Accurate perception of reality
Desire for continued growth
Having interests and pursuing them
Thriving in the face of adversity - Emotional Resilience
Knowing and remaining true to values
Optimism (hope - the mindset that things can improve)
Maintaining emotionally healthy relationships
Emotional health is an important part of our overall health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They are able to cope with life’s challenges, can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from set backs.
Being emotionally healthy does not mean you are happy all of the time. It means you are aware of your emotions. You can deal with them, wether they are positive or negative. Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger and of course sadness. Yet they know how to manage their negative feelings. They can tell when a problem is more than they can handle on their own. They also know when to seek help from their Doctor.
Emotional health is a skill and there are many steps you can take to improve your emotional health and be happier.
Learning relaxation methods can help you to cope with stress. These could include deep breathing, meditation and exercise.
Strive for balance - find a healthy balance between work and play - if you are working from home during the pandemic and trying to look after small children - make time for the things you will all enjoy doing. Focus on positive things in your life.
Take care of your physical health
Your physical health can affect your emotional health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals and try and get enough sleep.
Find purpose and meaning - figure out what is important to you in life and focus on that.
Try to keep to a routine, I know its hard getting out of your pyjamas somedays but get up, have a shower, get dressed, if it helps, make a list of all the things you would like to achieve each day, to create a sense of normality and productivity.
Break up your day
Doing fun things - a game with your children, cook a nice lunch with your partner, go for a walk, teach your dog new tricks!
Don’t forget to still love yourself: Self care is so important! You are your first responsibility. Unplug for a while and just chill.
Make a list of all of the things you would like to do once Lockdown is over.
Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Try hard to focus on positives - amplify good news stories and honour care givers working tirelessly to try and resolve this situation.
Just take one day at a time, this will not last forever. Remember that these are temporary measures and you are not alone.
Treasure your family and friends. Let them know how much you love them.
And lastly, a note to employers
It’s a good idea for employers to to put in place a support system to help spot and alleviate issues arising from their staff’s mental health suffering -
Ensure good communication and accurate information updates in order to mitigate uncertainty and increase the sense of control.
Foster an environment that encourages employees to express if their mental and emotional well being is being affected.
Allow a reasonable time for rest, recuperation and self care activities.
Provide a brief and regular platform for employees to express their concerns and ask questions, without breaking confidentiality.
Pay attention to employees who are experiencing difficulties in their personal life and emotional challenges, or those who are lacking in social support.
I hope that the words in my blog have bought some comfort.
Stay safe everyone, move forward, keep your fighting spirit going. We are all in this together.