Protect Your Mental Health, Save Lives
At the beginning of lockdown we all played our part in protecting the NHS and saving lives, we stayed indoors for months and as such we seemingly 'flattened the curve'. It was hard but we put our trust in our government. We didn't want hundreds of thousands to die, we didn't want to see our medical workers over-run. But we are paying a different price, and it's still steep.
Since March, there was almost an immediate increase in the number of people needing our help. And now we're out of the 'big lockdown' instead of seeing the emotional suffering decline, we are seeing it increase and here's why:
In March we knew the rules, sure there were people who broke them but most of us adhered and although it was hard - and for many quite scary, we found new things to be grateful for. We personally felt stronger and closer as a family, we enjoyed the extra time to grow vegetables and use our imagination more at home. But the uncertainty kicked in by April. The 'three-week lockdown' was continuously extended with very little explanation, forcing us to simply trust what we were being told, whilst we remained determined not to contribute to the spread of the virus.
This caused massive uncertainty...
The ever changing rules; uncertainty.
The threat of local and national lockdowns; uncertainty.
A rushed vaccine; uncertainty.
Our brain LOVES certainty, it gives us a sense of control and safety, something we have absolutely needed since first mention of Covid19. The uncertainty with which we've been governed has left us feeling more afraid and has played a huge part in the emotional suffering of the virus.
2. Blame and 'separateness'
Several times I've had to take a break from social media since Coronavirus, so sick I am of reading or scrolling by hateful comments, judgments and blame. All whilst many people are simply attempting to create some certainty, gain some control of their life.
During the World War's the suicide rate decreased and theories on why suggest that the strengthening of societies and the reduced rate of unemployment paid a big part. And yet here we are, in a very different kind of war, where our communities are strained and unemployment high.
3. Lack of trust
From the beginning the media have ploughed us with contradicting information. We've seen loaded hospitals and empty hospitals. We've been given death toll numbers only to hear that they've been massively exaggerated.
The ever changing rules which often leave the nation confused only perpetuate the growing lack of trust.
According to sane.org: "When trust is missing, uncertainty can feel overwhelming and the person can become anxious.
Trust enables us to act, to do things, which we refer to as having agency. Without trust we have no agency - we stop being able to act - we stop being able to do things in our lives and to function normally."
These are just some of the reasons behind the sense of overwhelm & stress and some of the things that need our attention when we look at the impact of coronavirus on mental health.
We need to stand up for this just as we stood up for the NHS, for the frontline workers are now the people who work in fields like ours, the people who deal daily with mental health.
How we do that as a nation is by paying attention. Take just some of your focus off of the virus and onto yourself - how are you really feeling and why? How are those around you feeling?
Here's what else we can do about it:
Connect. This is hard right now but so important. Join online groups that contain 'your people'. Go for walks with a friend. Hug, for goodness sake hug. Arrange phone calls with people who fill you, who understand you; who feed your soul. Talk honestly with those who can hear it, about how you feel and where you can, be there for others.
Turn off the news. You don't need to know how many people have died of Covid19 today, you don't need to know anything. Take a break from social media and the views of others. Take in a different view instead: the one of your family, your partner, your home, from your window. Remember what's important to you and give that your attention.
Be responsible for your own physical health. Exercise, eat well, take cold showers, meditate. Whatever calms you, whatever gives you optimum health will contribute not just towards avoiding or fighting illness but towards a feeling of self-control and empowerment.
Stay present. In the present moment we do not require certainty, community or trust; we require nothing. Take a few deep breaths and silence your thoughts even if just for a minute. Take in the solitude of right now, breathe in this moment and bathe in the peace of right now.
Remember that you cannot always change what's going on 'out there' but you are far from helpless. For as Mother Teresa so wisely and aptly said: "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family".
And so whilst we're learning to live in this current way, let us replace paying attention to our views and the views of others to paying attention to our feelings and the feelings of others. Let us slow down and remember what's important to us, for much of that remains unchanged. Finally, let's reach out when we need it, and listen when we're needed.
Coronavirus - and the handling of it - has taken much, do not let it continue to steal your happiness, your connection to others, or the love you have for them. Let's work together to protect our mental health, and save lives.
Sources/further reading: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/your-brain-work/200910/hunger-certainty