Mental Health During a Pandemic

Fear from Covid 19

Maintaining mental health during a pandemic can be challenging. Fear, uncertainty, lack of control and the inability to meet your needs in the ways you have become used to, all have the potential to impact your mental health. The good news is that all these things are “figureoutable”.

Fear

Fear from Covid 19If you are living in fear, you are not living in the present. Fear is always an imagining of something in the future.

Mindfulness is often prescribed as an antidote to fear, because if you are present and focusing fully on what is around you it is impossible to be imagining what might happen tomorrow, next week or next month.

Logic is another useful strategy to reduce fear.

  • Is imagining all the awful possible outcomes of a pandemic serving you in being able to enjoy your day in peace?
  • Would you agree that most of the thing things you have previously worried about never actually happened?
  • What things in the future can you control?
    • Only yourself, right?
    • Therefore, what can you do now that might be beneficial in the future?
    • Let’s look at this as a practical example. Maybe you are a flight attendant and your fear is that you will never work again in the way you have worked before, your career is in the toilet, what will become of you?
      • Possibilities: the airline industry might resume after a few months and after a year or so could be just as it was before Covid-19; or maybe it won’t, what happens then? What can you do about that possibility right now?
        • You could remain fearful of the future or you could invest in a new set of skills that you can use if your worst-case scenario comes to fruition.
        • Boom! Suddenly your days can become filled with imaginings of all the positive possibilities out there, rather than all the terrifying things that might happen which you have no control over. 

Lack of Control

A pandemic is an opportunity for us to take a reality check and remember that we have a lot less control of our lives than we like to think we do. Normally we tend to live in a comfortable agreement with life that states: if I play by the rules, i.e. stay safe, work hard, be responsible, live healthily and be kind to others, my life will be predictable, and I’ll be OK.

We only have to look at someone who has lost a loved ones, had their home destroyed by a bushfire or a hurricane, or been struck down by a terminal illness, to know that is not a universal truth. At some point most people are severely impacted by something that they cannot control, so learning how to operate effectively under the law of control is a valuable practice.

The Law of Control

The law of control: The only thing I can control is myself.

There is absolutely no point allowing yourself to become upset by what you cannot control. Your response to anyone or any situation is what is important and that is something you do have  control over.

Learning to take up that control is one of the most beneficial skills you can learn,  but how do you do it? By learning to control your thoughts and your actions!

Feelings are the direct result of thoughts and actions. The more you think about doom and gloom and the end of the world the worse you will feel. The more you try to snuff out those thoughts with junk food, alcohol, drugs and any other unsuccessful  addictive behaviours the worse you will feel.

It’s not easy because if your negative thoughts have been running rampant in your mind anything that will give you some relief can seem worthwhile in the short term. You probably won’t be able to change destructive behaviours and destructive thinking overnight, but if you can decide upon how you want to feel and what you want to achieve you can gradually begin to line up your thoughts and behaviours with your desired outcomes.

  • Question: Will this thought/action get me what I want? No? .… so choose again.

Meeting your Needs

Love and BelongingIf you were actively managing your mental health prior to Covid-19 and some of the strategies you used to feel better have been removed from your repertoire, you can replace them with something else that meets the same need.

If you have a a high need for love and belonging it is particularly important to find new ways to stay connected with other people. You may not find Zoom meetings particularly satisfying and feel frustrated that you can’t meet your family and friends the ways you used to, but if you can keep an open mind, online get togethers  will help.

Meeting your need for success and acknowledgement (power), can be incredibly difficult during a pandemic if you’ve lost your job, or your business has been closed down. Many artists have taken to showcasing their work online,  for no money or to raise money for others. They may not receive money for their performances but the joy of performing, and the pleasure and support it brings others is still an important way for them to meet their need  for success and acknowledgement.

If you’ve lost your job, or you can’t operate your business what other ways are there for you to meet your need for success and acknowledgement? It could be something like focusing on a new goal e.g. losing weight, getting fit, giving up alcohol. It could be studying or creating something new, taking up a new hobby, renovating your house or garden. Only you can answer this question.

Identifying your Individual Needs

Everything we do every day is in an attempt to meet one or more of our five needs: survival, love and belonging, fun, freedom, and power (success and acknowledgement). We all have these needs to differing degrees, and our mental health is directly related to how successful we are in meeting those needs. Even during a pandemic there is still an enormous number of ways that most people can successfully meet their needs.

I’d love you to share some of the different ways you are meeting your needs during the Covid-19 crisis. Please share below in the comments section, you never know who you might be helping.

 

Thanks  for reading

 

Deb 🙂