It's easy to agree that we are going through very challenging and unique times. The global COVID-19 pandemic has shaken a lot more than our physical health. I remember when the lockdown got announced in March the myriad of thoughts and emotions that came up for me. It’s like each one demanded attention and resolution at the same time. It was overwhelming and anxiety provoking to say the least.
I know that after speaking to loved ones and colleagues, a lot of us were asking ourselves a version of the same questions.
“Am I going to be ok? Will I be alone? Can I deal with isolation? What about work and finances? How are me and my partner going to make it through this? Am I going to see my friends again? When am I getting another hug? And why doesn't anyone have any clear answers?!”
We were all trying to understand what was happening and how we can deal with the uncertainty and the unknown of what was next.
I started looking at what the mental health implications and therapeutic solutions can be. And a summary of these is what I am sharing here.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown for it, anxiety and depression have become the 2 most prominent struggles for a lot of people, affecting more and more of us with each passing day.
What the theory, other colleagues’ expertise and my own practice showed is that alongside engaging with therapy, there are some support tools we can all apply.
For dealing with anxiety:
· Writing out thoughts and feelings, sometimes with words, or free stream sentences or in a more structured reflective way - this is a good start for managing the “head” anxiety (the thoughts, narratives and cognitive processing that stimulates anxiety)
· Movement - dealing with the “head” anxiety is only half the job, walking for long enough, dancing, doing yoga or stretching regularly, means the body can get rid of the physical build-up of tension that accompanies the thoughts.
For dealing with depressive episodes, these recurred as practically helpful:
· Very slow and clear directive morning tasks, self-announcing them as the alarm goes off – “Stretch up, put one foot on the floor and feel the ground, do the same with the other, walk to the bathroom and splash some water on your face …”
· A discipline of planning that guarantees a sense of accomplishment and accommodates for the reality of what energy is available – “What do I have to do today if I can only pick one thing?” or the work day version of “What is the first task to tackle and can I tackle it stand alone as if there aren’t any others?”
· A self-confirmation for the progress of the day and an acknowledgement of the positive highlights at the end
These can seem simple and straight forward and on some level a reduction of our daily complexities, however spelling out clear guidelines is where we start building a base. We all lost our communal and individual sense of normality and in order to deal with that what has been necessary is to create a new structure and frame for a daily routine - a new baseline.