Mental Wellbeing During Covid-19: Your Questions Answered

Mental Wellbeing During Covid-19: Your Questions Answered

After the bushfire crisis I know I am low on resources. What can I do to get through this?

We work with many people for whom being of service is a very strong value. Often, they look after others first, while putting their own needs last.

When you are low on resources it’s important not to fall into the same patterns of stepping up, working to exhaustion, and having nothing left.

It’s incredibly important to treat yourself with self-compassion – and this isn’t just some warm, fuzzy concept. It means taking actions to look after yourself and not trying to do it all alone. A compassionate action can be something as simple as putting a call-out to friends, saying “work is really full-on and I don’t have time to wait around at the supermarket for toilet paper. Could anyone drop a roll around?”

Self-compassion can mean adjusting expectations and letting others know that you may not have the same capacity that they are used to. At times it can mean saying “no”, which can be a really hard thing if you are used to saying “yes”.

It’s also important to remember that the most resilient action you can ever take is to reach out for support. Don’t wait until you feel completely overwhelmed. Instead, regularly check in with those people who have your back and can provide the type of mindful support you need.

Extra help: log in to Mindarma and check out Session 8 The Compassion Myth and Session 10 When the Going Gets Tough.

Coronavirus information is everywhere. How much should I consume?

We need a certain amount of information to remain well informed and know what to do. Just 15 minutes of news in the morning and a brief scroll of a news site at night, will likely give us all we actually need to know.

Our brains are biased towards negative information. Hear something positive and we will shrug it off. Hear something negative and we will buy in much more. If we spend hours absorbed in tragic, confronting news coverage it will very naturally have an effect on us.

It’s important we get our news from reliable sources, and not to get lured in by click-bait or alarmist social media posts. Instead of spending hours down the rabbit hole, consider spending your time doing something restorative. This may be as simple as switching over to a comedy, reading a book or calling up an old friend.

A short, guided mindfulness practise can also be extremely helpful when we are faced with difficult thoughts and stressful events.

Extra help: log in to Mindarma and check out session 2 Simple Skills.

We’ve been told not to panic, but this is scary, right? Am I supposed to just keep calm and carry on?

Humans have evolved to be highly attuned to danger. We have this reactive part of our brains that quickly steps in to keep us safe, activating our limbic system and triggering the “flight, fight or freeze” response. It is a very valuable part of our makeup and we can’t just casually dismiss it.

If we attempt to deny our fear or push it away and simply carry on, the fear won’t just disappear. Instead, the reactive mind will try harder and harder to get the message through and we may actually end up feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and hopeless.
A better strategy can be to recognise this difficult emotion and create space for it.

Take a moment to pause and consider what the fear is telling you: perhaps now is a time to look after yourself and be cautious. It can also be very helpful to offer yourself words of encouragement and support as you do this – much like if you were talking with a dear friend.

When we interact with difficult emotions in this way, we begin to escape the panic cycle. Suddenly we are more connected with our wise mind. We can start to take perspective and make more rational decisions. By directing self-compassion inwards, we can also help the process, integrate, and release some of these heavy feelings.

Extra help: Log in to Mindarma and check out session 5 Getting All Emotional

There are a lot of unknowns right now. I’m very worried about money and loved ones overseas.

When things are uncertain and out of our control, it can be quite challenging to deal with. Typically, your reactive mind will get very busy trying to problem solve and make crystal ball predictions.

In times like these, it is natural and normal to experience worry. Excessive worrying can however drain us of energy and can even result in a sense of futility. As these worries relate to your safety and that of loved ones, they can be quite intense and it can be hard to focus on anything else.

Of course, there may be some small, practical actions you can take to ease your worries. Perhaps you can call your loved ones overseas and come up with some financial back-up plans. But there will still be things outside of your control – and it is very important to recognise this.

While it may feel impossible to adopt a “whatever will be, will be” attitude, by recognising something is outside of your control, you can at least begin to realise that this excessive worry is not helpful.

If we are proactive about our inner dialogue, it can allow us to step back from difficult thoughts. When that difficult thought appears, it may be helpful to ask “is this thought useful to me right now?” or “is this thought just my reactive mind babbling on?” or “will this thought bring me greater vitality or greater suffering?”

Rather than simply try to rid ourselves of these thoughts, it’s important to acknowledge them. A very useful technique can be to say “thank you brain for this thought, but it’s not really useful to me right now.” We can then engage in a little mindful breathing to recentre your focus to actions within our sphere of influence. This can help us to get less tangled up in difficult thoughts and worries that don’t really serve us.

Extra help: Log into Mindarma and check out session 4 Tame the Tangle and Session 7 Sphere of Influence

5 simple ways we can all bolster our resilience right now.

1. Reach out – reaching out is always an act of resilience, but is particularly important during these tough times. Remember, we’re all in this together.

2. Practise a little mindfulness – even a few minutes a day, can make a big difference to your wellbeing.

3. Be kind to your mind – this is no time for self-criticism. Offer words of encouragement and support to yourself and others.

4. Look after yourself – take some time out each day for exercise, other acts of self-care, and moments of joy.

5. Wash your hands mindfully – take a pause, give thanks and appreciate that with this simple action you are doing what matters most.