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Coronavirus: Gedling counsellor Elaine Bond shares tips on how to look after your mental health during lockdown

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Elaine Bond is a trained counsellor from Gedling. Here she shares some tips on looking after your mental health during the lockdown period…

Easter is over, the sun is out and here we are stuck at home with no idea of when this lockdown is going to end.

Our distress will now be starting to increase as feelings of helplessness and powerlessness take over. This is a natural process because as humans we need to feel we have control over our lives and, more importantly, be in contact with other humans – we are designed that way.

We may start to feel anxiety as we start to fill in the gaps with what we do not know with our deepest fears. Of course, the ultimate fear is death, so our anxiety takes us to the point where we believe we have Coronavirus or someone in the queue at the supermarket had it. It makes us suspicious of others and judgemental because other people are behaving in a way that we feel will endanger us. We have all seen the increase in our judgement of other people on social media and some of this is born out of fear.

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Some of us will feel depressed, especially if our lives revolve around our work or our social life. Loneliness is often a key part of depression. The brain reacts differently when we are lonely. It processes the lonely feelings in a similar way it processes danger and threat which is by heightening our cortisol level when we wake and not letting it drop throughout the day.

Coronavirus
We have been put into lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus

On the other hand, our mental health can be affected by too many people being in our home and we are stuck with them. Relationships with our partners and our children often work as there is a break from them and the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has some truth to it! Living on top of each other can create friction as issues that were easy to ignore become increasingly irritating. Boredom, which is actually repressed anger, becomes overt anger and the lack of space becomes a whole new set of boundary issues.

If we have suffered some form of trauma in our past, this lock down will have triggering affects. Feelings of being controlled, helpless or out of control can trigger panic attacks, anger, anxiety or start flashbacks.

We all run the risk of going into what is known as survival mode, by becoming hypersensitive to our environment, struggling to do the usually easy things like getting up, taking a shower etc, or we find risky things to do, like breaking the lockdown, or we get snappy as we cannot see a future.

So, what can we do to get through this?

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Looking after our mental health

As humans we need structure. Very few of us cope well without a sense of time and a routine based around time. We need to develop a routine, setting our alarm, having a shower, eating three meals a day, doing work if we are working from home, taking exercise, getting outside for a while and scheduling contact with others.

If we are working from home, we need to maintain some boundaries with our work and our boss! So, if we are doing a working day of 9-5 then that’s when we work from home. This means no quickly checking emails before 9am or answering that 7pm call and no missing your lunch break. Make a space for working from home, if you have an office door you can close at the end of the day that would be ideal, but if you are working for the kitchen table pack up the laptop and hide it away at the end of your working day. We should make sure there is a difference in the way you dress when you are working from home. My friend who worked from home for years taught me even if you have your PJs on always put your shoes on, then you know its work time. It’s worked for me for years.

If there are two of you working from home, then wherever possible have separate spaces to work from. Having space to work with your colleagues and not your partner is important.

It can be difficult if we have children with us, as a structure for them is important too. They need maybe structure of exercise, schoolwork, creativity, space to talk to friends and time away from family to remain okay with this situation. Many young people are struggling right now, some have not been able to finish their exams and are grieving for the loss of exam results, proms and final days. Others are without support, as young people create their own support systems, favourite teachers aren’t available and any access to counsellors is limited. Childline is open on limited hours for children and young people – https://www.childline.org.uk/.  Its no reflection on us as parents if your children want that extra bit of support right now.

If you are a key worker like me, then taking care of ourselves is essential, being aware of our health and well-being, checking on our exhaustion levels and saying “no” when we need to.

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The lockdown gives us no way to distract from our normal worries and concerns. It is a time for us to really take care of our mental health. There is something we can do by limiting our consumption of news and media reports as they are often dramatic and always talk about the bad news because that’s what sells.

Focusing on what we can control helps, as we can control our thoughts and behaviours, what we do with our time and how well we follow the government guidelines but have control over very little else. We all have an ability to be mindful and now is the time to try techniques that calm our mind from meditation to knitting to gardening do whatever keeps us in the here and now.

We all need to be aware that there will be an end at some point, as a virus has a shelf life and it will be over. We just cannot see when that will be.

It is really important right now that we stay in touch with our friends and relatives by setting up regular contact via telephone or video or even just a WhatsApp group for funny memes as makes us feel like we are connecting with people.

We should move around by taking exercise whether that is by going out for a walk or aerobics in front of the TV as the endorphins are brilliant at making us feel better and it keeps us in better shape to fight the coronavirus should we catch it.

Take that hour outside get some fresh air and some sunlight which is known to make us feel better and the vitamin D really helps fight any virus’s we come in contact with.

Try to relax. Some of us maybe be learning a new language or making a freezer full of homemade food and some of us may just be coping. Any of those or anything in between is fine right now.

Finally, most counsellors are still working remotely by phone or skype or online chats, I have found these methods work and can provide support and comfort for any issues you have right now.  I have spaces for clients using all the methods above and can provide long or short-term support throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond.

Tel 07769 152 951

Email ng4counselling@gmail.com

www.nottingham-counselling.co.uk

If you feel like self-harming or suicidal right now the Samaritans are still working https://www.samaritans.org/  or 116 123

Spotted something? Got a story? Email our newsdesk news@gedlingeye.co.uk

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