Closed schools, restaurants, borders, offices … How can we stay mentally healthy?
With the current pandemic many need to stay home – work virtually or take days off in order to be with their kids when the schools are closed. Some decide to self-isolate. Yet many still need to work and be out there, not only health and safety personnel, but everyone involved with food, pharmaceuticals and energy production or supply-chain operators. These are the heroes who face a big share of the risk so that others can be better taken care of.
What can each of us do?
Whatever the situation, the most important thing that each one of us can do is to take all possible precautions to stay safe and healthy and to minimise the risk for others. We hear lots of tips and suggestions from many sources; common sense tells us that the most important steps are the basic ones: washing hands, keeping distance and sticking to good physical discipline in terms of eating, sleeping and moving.
But there is something that we do not hear enough of: mental health. With all the stress, the uncertainties, the fear, the apprehension and anxiety about ourselves and our loved ones, including the frequent necessary isolation from social contacts, it is hard to stay mentally healthy.
In the current situation of high uncertainty and looming threats to our own very life, it is normal to have strong instinctive reactions: we may imagine and believe the worst case scenarios and spend time figuring out how to cope; we may want to find someone or something to blame and use energy in endless complaints (or even online trolling); we may feel so powerless that we cynically give up doing anything constructive and rather indulge into unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, all of these natural reactions are counterproductive, they make us mentally fatigued, or weak. In a crisis we need strength.
Here some suggestions to stay mentally strong and emotionally healthy:
1. Talk about your challenges. Share facts, not judgments or complaints. Express how you feel about it. It is good to “vent”, it helps to release pressure. The more we keep our worries bottled up, the more they grow in seriousness and make us weak.
- For example, I am sharing with friends how my son plans to get married in 3 weeks and how I might not be able to travel (crossing international borders) to be there with him; or how there is a risk that he might not be able to have the wedding party at all. I feel a roller coaster of hope, worry, anticipation and sadness. Once I say it and it is off my chest, it is easier to cope with the uncertainty without feeling overwhelmed.
2. Take responsibility for what you can control and take measures to stop worrying about what you cannot control. Make sure that you choose every moment with full consciousness keeping a healthy balance. In a crisis it is easy to hide behind excuses and end up over-doing or under-doing.
- For example, I am preparing to participate in my son’s wedding, but I set aside the temptation to imagine alternative plans in case things do not go as we wish (which, as a “mum” I could be tempted to do). This is not so hard and my awareness is sufficient, but for something harder I have to resort to relaxation exercises: e.g. I need a bigger effort to set aside worries for my daughter’s well being, who is alone, stuck in chaotic Manhattan, working in a UN building where colleagues are already getting sick.
Those two steps are highly recommended: please find a way to stay connected, share with other people (virtually) and identify ways to protect your mental health.
If you wish, you can take my online offer: I will talk more about how to cope with the anxiety of uncertainty and you will have to opportunity to share how you fee in a Group Coaching.
Above all, do keep the courage to smile.
Be safe, take care and always …
LEAD WITH A SMILE!