Lauren Bell is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with more than eleven years experience of working in primary care mental health.
Lauren, who lives in Thorne, shares with us five tips which aim to help us look after our mental wellbeing at a time when we may be feeling anxious or worried.
Covid-19 has been a global situation which has impacted on our lives in a way that nobody could have ever predicted. Given the serious and unprecedented nature of this global epidemic, many of us have experienced difficulties with our mental health, experiencing symptoms of low mood, anxiety, worry and stress. We have been (and still are) at war with an invisible enemy and that is emotionally challenging to say the least.
As we continue to adapt to the ‘new norm’ it is normal that we will continue to experience challenges with our mental wellbeing. We may experience anxiety at the prospect of returning to work, school or socialising with others. We may potentially struggle to find the motivation to return back to a busy schedule after weeks of being furloughed or living in isolation. We may also worry about our health in a way we have never experienced before. These feelings are all normal and are to be expected to some extent. There are some small steps that we can take however to manage these feelings and that is what the following article will address.
The following five key strategies are based on (CBT) principals. CBT is form of therapy which looks at how we think and how we behave and how these thoughts and behaviours have a significant impact on how we feel both physiologically and emotionally.
Tip one – Set a basic daily routine
The first technique is called Behavioural Activation (BA). This technique is used for people experiencing symptoms of Depression. It will also be helpful for people experiencing low motivation levels, or for those struggling to find a proper balance of activity. BA is a technique which looks specifically at the impact that our behaviour (what we do) has on our emotions (how we feel). Given the fact that many of us have been in isolation for weeks, it is likely that this will have impacted on mood, activity and energy levels – making the idea of returning to a busy routine or schedule feel like a huge feat! The best way to overcome this is to begin by setting a basic daily routine. As human beings, we thrive off routine and we naturally feel better if we are completing daily goals and have structure to our day. The key to making this work for you is all about grading and balance. Action does create motivation but if you set the bar too high you can de-motivate yourself and lower mood further. Start off with a low level of activity and gradually build on it as mood and motivation improves. In terms of balance – be sure to include a blend of tasks which are routine (washing pots), necessary (paying bills) and pleasurable (playing board games with family) and try to stick to similar times for doing things each day. When setting goals it is also important to consider your own values and what makes you as an individual ‘tick’. If you set goals which are more in line with your values this will make them seem more meaningful and they will have a more positive impact on mood. It is also important to remember that humans are inherently ‘social animals’ so trying to set goals which involve some kind of social contact in line with government guidance is of key importance.
Tip two – Postpone your worries
These are just some basic strategies which will hopefully help people to keep on top of their mental health in this ever evolving situation. Although there is not a lot we can do about the changes made by the government, it is important for us all to remember that we do still have a lot of control over our mental wellbeing. We can still choose to engage in activities and thinking styles that are more helpful for us and we can all choose to reach out and support each other as times get tough. Mindset plays a huge role in how we experience things and we can overcome even the most difficult of obstacles if we allow ourselves to believe that it is possible.
Lauren can be contacted via her social media pages: Facebook @therapyinyorkshire, Instagram @theyorkshiretherapist or by visiting her website: www.theyorkshiretherapist.co.uk. You can also access therapy for free through the NHS by contacting your local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service on 01302 565556.