Today I would like to divert your focus for a while. Maybe help you to willingly change it for longer. At the moment, wherever we look – TV, social media, texts from friends – it’s just 24/7 on just one thing: Covid 19. The focus is placing us on high alert for the sake of everyone’s physical health and continued existence. It couldn’t get more serious! However, to get through this pandemic it will be tending to our mental and emotional health that enables us to deal with the many challenges this brings our way now and in the future.
One problem the pandemic brings us is the sheer amount of information we’re on the receiving end of – it’s more than we are built to take in and process as human beings! And we’re on alert in the face of an unseen ‘enemy’. We all have different ways of coping with this depending on our habits and personality from letting it pass over our heads or making a joke of it, to cleaning and washing every item we come across several times a day, or feeling utter despair for our safety and that of our loved ones and the public in general. This is what the brain does to protect us from overload or overwhelm. It has a built-in system to scan for possible threats and then sends us into flight, fight, frieze mode. You can see this in the examples of reactions I’ve given above, and you’ll spot which one is nearest to your own response. They are all in built reactions, and you will have learned to continue to practice some of these more than others. If we are able to deal with an ‘attack’ then the threat goes away, and we can return to normal. With a constant invisible threat, the stress reaction is also constant. The adrenaline designed to help you deal with the threat is still present in your body going nowhere and it becomes more like a poison. And then this all repeats. Have you noticed that you have felt more tired than usual recently? Any existing matters that you have to deal with – debt, young family, relationship tension, unemployment, ongoing health problem, – will all add to this. It’s also worth remembering that a body and brain full of adrenaline inhibits your ability to think and inhibits your immune system as all resources have gone to dealing with the ongoing threat. So, this is neither good for the body or the mind.
So, to counteract this, I’m going to ask you to focus on you and your own sanity. Rather than having a reactive response that can become counter-productive, consider what might be the best way for you to respond and what you need in order to do this. What do you personally need to function at your best right now? I suggest you make a list and handwriting it. What might this list look like? It might include some of the following:
- Limit watching news to an hour a day or what is needed to stay informed.
- Choose films and books that are uplifting and hopeful.
- Get into nature and get some sunlight – in the garden if you have one or go for a walk or run in your allotted time out. The effects of being surrounded by greenery and in daylight have an enormous effect on our mood and therefore helping us to cope. If you can, do some planting in pots for indoors or outdoors or maybe beg a cutting to nurture from a neighbour!
- Create a space that’s just for you (and maybe a ‘do not disturb time’ even if it’s for 10 minutes locked the bathroom or garden shed!) – and you may come up with more things for this list then too.
- Plan some form of exercise doing something you enjoy (to use up that adrenalin that’s poison to the body!) – lots of things online for free and it doesn’t have to wreck you – be mindful of pushing yourself just to the edge of where you can truly go and just beyond what is easy.
There’s a lot to be gained from putting pen to paper – it helps you to access your thoughts, even ones you weren’t aware were there, and express them more easily amongst other things that research has shown. You could choose to write as a way of exploring what you want on your list and/or you could write about each of the items on your list. You can even add some doodles or sketches as your thoughts unravel! This process is known as journaling and has enormous therapeutic benefits.
Here’s to your ongoing physical and mental wellbeing!
We’d like to say a huge thanks to our very own OAKS Personal Tutor, Linda for this well-timed and thought provoking piece.