Staff Care Consultant and Psychotherapist BEN PORTER on how each of us might best look after ourselves as the pandemic continues.
Here we are, the second wave of Coronavirus is upon us. This time we have some experience under our belts, but also the weight and cumulative impact of the first wave. Much of the energy we’ve mustered to cope with COVID has been spent, yet the virus endures and even intensifies. Stressors crossed the line from acute to chronic a long time ago.
In broad strokes, one of the notable differences in our response to the second wave is less shock, but a deepening of fatigue and depression. Many people have habituated into this season of uncertainty and anxiety with emotions now undulating towards feelings of resignation, helplessness and depression. These feelings are particularly insidious when experienced alone—a situation many of us find ourselves in these days.
Important annual rhythms such as trips and holidays over the summer, school terms, and possibly Christmas, as well as daily/weekly rhythms of going and coming from work, weekend breaks have been disrupted, giving many of us a sense of timelessness and looking for those “reset buttons”.
Statistics show that our mental health is at risk. With mounting pressures of job instability and financial concern, illness and loss of life, isolation and loneliness, “22 percent of adults with no previous experience of poor mental health [reported] that their mental health was poor or very poor.” More than half of adults said that their mental health has gotten worse during the period of lockdown restrictions (Mind UK, June 2020). And so as we head into the second wave, we should also be aware of delayed reactions to the first wave. Even if the situation seems less severe, unprocessed loss and grief may surface. This is normal.
It’s time to think ahead. Set yourself up for staying well over this second wave and take proactive steps. Here are a few ideas:
● It can be helpful to get out of our left-brain that gathers and analyses information, and to invite our right-brain into the process. Are there any creative outlets you can use to ‘voice’ your experience? Is there a metaphor that comes to mind when you think about your current circumstances? Is there someone you can share it with?
● Even though the Coronavirus is completely novel, you have always been the expert in knowing how you react to hardship. Jon Kabat Zin wrote a book called “Wherever you go, there you are”, which acknowledges our enduring personality traits despite our surroundings. During stress our go-to reactions are magnified. For example, if you are prone to coping with anxiety by over-functioning, it’s likely that’s intensifying these days. Similarly, mindsets and behaviours that have worked well for you in the past will likely work well for you now. What has helped in the past that you can employ now?
● Lunchtime walks: With the days getting darker earlier (here in the UK, anyway), don’t wait until the end of your working day to get outside. Try going on a brisk walk at lunchtime. Gather your attention towards sights, smells, sounds, and touch/feeling. Afterwards, take a moment to notice how you feel.
● Acknowledge what you have been able to do with respect to coping with the pandemic and also in your professional life. With the strange passing of time, it’s hard to remember and affirm our wins. Take 30 seconds and list a few of those achievements.
● Think one day at a time—and make sure your routine includes: good sleep, balanced diet (and water!), and movement.
● Don’t wait to get some professional help. If you are worried about your mental health, find someone to talk to. Reach out to one of our counsellors at Thrive Worldwide (firstname.lastname@example.org).
● As always, be kind to yourself and others. Feelings of anxiety and depression are amplified when we accuse ourselves of not coping well enough. Be the voice of compassion to yourself and offer it to others….this too can spread!