Dr Emily Pathe: 5 tips to cope with challenging times

27th April 2020

Over the next two weeks Dr Emily Pathe, Highly Specialist Counselling Psychologist with Ypeople and NHS Lanarkshire, will be discussing some of her top tips on coping with the current circumstances


Hello all

I’m Emily, and I am the resident Psychologist for Ypeople.

The current circumstances can be tricky for all of our mental health. As I witness firsthand the Ypeople staff demonstrating ongoing commitment to those we support in line with Ypeople values, I am particularly proud to be part of the team during these unique times.

I can also see what a toll this global situation is taking on all of us: social distancing, all the uncertainty around the virus, frequent bad news on social media, as well as practical difficulties with things like having to stay at home, events postponed or cancelled appointments etc. These can all have an impact on our wellbeing.

With this in mind I have put together a few pieces of advice that I return to often in times of stress, I hope you find them useful.

 

 

5 tips to cope with challenging times

 

1.    Remember that it is normal to have mixed emotions:

Feeling trapped, alone, angry, sad, helpless, worried, afraid, guilty, stressed, exhausted, confused and bored are all normal responses to the abnormal situation in which we currently find ourselves.

For some, difficult emotions are to be expected under the current challenging circumstances. You may find, on the other hand, that you are coping as well as possible and that you even experience some moments of joy-that is ok too! Acknowledge all your emotions with kindness.

In this useful Ted talk on emotional first aid, Dr Guy Winch encourages us to take our emotional health as seriously as our physical health.

 

2.    Social connection despite physical distance:

It is vital for our mental health that we socially connect with others every day, even if this is through phone-calls to friends or online, such as joining an online support group. It is through relationships that we build the social resilience which buffers us from stress.

The importance of maintaining our relationships cannot be emphasised enough at this time. It is increasingly acknowledged that it is more useful to think about physical distancing, as opposed to social distancing.

For more on this I would recommend this article It’s Time to Stop Using the Phrase Social Distance

 

3.    Do not forget the body:

Whether we are working on the ‘frontline’ or working from home, it can be easy to forget to pay attention to our bodies. Take time to ‘check in’ with your body every day, whether that is through taking any form of physical exercise through online classes, gardening, yoga practice or simple breathing exercises, such as this useful exercise on ‘soothing rhythm breathing’

 

4.   Compassion for others:

It is likely that some of us are struggling at the moment and we cannot always know what is going on in others’ minds or lives. That neighbour who we may have secretly judged for going out more than once per day? Perhaps taking that second walk was their only way of coping with their thoughts.

Make time to check if others are ok or maybe struggling, see if there is any way you can support them from a distance. Being compassionate towards others can increase our own wellbeing.

 

And finally…

5.   Compassion for yourself:

You may be struggling to cope at times, it’s understandable, but it is so important that you don’t criticise yourself for not “coping better”. There is no rule book for how to get through this situation. Some days may be better than others, but when you have a tough day it’s important that you be gentle with yourself.

Try not to criticise and undermine what you are achieving. Have compassion for all that you are feeling and experiencing in these challenging times. It is understandable that other previously important things fall by the way side and your priorities may shift.

There is plenty of evidence to strongly suggests that self-criticism tends to increase our distress, as well as our use of unhealthy coping strategies. It is important that we are kind to ourselves in these challenging times. You can read more about this research here.


Many thanks to Dr Emily Pathe for taking the time to put together this thoughtful advice. We hope you find it helpful and we look forward to sharing more with you next week.

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