Dr Emily Pathe: 5 more tips to cope with challenging times

4th May 2020

Following on from last week, here are more tips from Dr Emily Pathe, Highly Specialist Counselling Psychologist with Ypeople and NHS Lanarkshire. I think we can all agree that it has been a new challenge to manage our mental health during these unique times. We hope you find these notes from Emily to be as useful as we have.


 

5 more tips to cope with challenging times

 

1. Manage your expectations:

Is it just me, or did anyone else fail to become an expert baker, self-taught yoga instructor and 110% productive worker during lockdown?

It is important not to expect too much from yourself, or others, during these unusual times. Even as the situation changes and society tries to regain a sense of normality, it will take time for us to become used to changes in our lives. Try not to fall into the expectation vs reality trap.

Working in the area of homelessness has really confirmed for me the belief that we humans are generally doing the very best we can given the specific set of circumstances we are facing and the resources available to us.

 

2. Focus on what you can control:

The uncertainty facing us at present is likely to continue, even when the current restrictions are reduced.

As I mentioned in my blog last week, getting caught up in a range of emotions in response is a natural human response to the unknown and all of these responses are valid and worth acknowledging. While we cannot control our natural emotional responses, we do have some control over our behaviour. It is helpful to focus on what we can still control in our lives and which help us feel better, such as keeping to a routine, making sure we connect with others every day, staying active and contributing to our communities.

 

3. Gratitude:

For some, being on lockdown has offered time to reflect on life goals and priorities or an opportunity to reconnect with family at home or with nature. Others have gained a newfound appreciation for the work carried out by staff in health and social care.

Perhaps it could be useful to keep this sense of gratitude as we go forward into times which continue to be uncertain. Keeping a gratitude journal of things in our daily lives for which we are thankful has been shown to benefit our mental health.

I am keenly aware when writing about gratitude that there will also be many people across Scotland, and the world, who have experienced significant losses and are grieving. Gratitude can, however, also be helpful during the grieving process.

 

4. Be careful with the news:

It is important we all continue to keep informed on how to stay safe. However, checking the news and social media too frequently can make us feel worse.

Research conducted after previous worldwide health threats such as Ebola demonstrated that excessive exposure to news coverage regarding the outbreak had a negative impact on physical and psychological health.

Try to restrict your news time to a certain point in the day and then take a break. For example, checking the news at lunchtime for 15 mins and then putting your phone away and engaging fully in another activity.

 

and finally…

5. Practice being mindful:

Mindfulness has become ‘trendy’ over the past few years. This is with good reason, however, as acquiring the skill of mindfulness has a range of health benefits which can be of real benefit to us during lockdown and beyond.

You do not need to necessarily sit with your eyes closed to be mindful.  For example, the next time you are washing your hands, try to bring your attention to the present moment as fully as possible. Notice the movement of your hands, the sound of the tap running, the smell of the soap, the sensation of the water on your hands. Notice if your mind is wandering and gently bring your attention back to the sensory experience of washing your hands. Congratulations, you have just practiced mindful hand-washing!


Thank you once again to Dr Emily Pathe for taking the time to put together this thoughtful advice. Look out for more from us on the subject of mental health on our social media channels: facebook, twitter, and instagram.

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