• Karen Young

Ten ways to remain positive during the Coronavirus pandemic

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

The last few weeks have been unlike anything known before, and we've all been forced to make huge lifestyle adjustments and personal sacrifices in the interest of containing the spread of Coronavirus. For some sadly, the impact has been devastating with the traumatic loss of loved ones. Others have lost financial security and are enduring hardship, and the elderly and clinically vulnerable are having to cope with the isolation and loneliness of shielding. The impact of trauma on our NHS frontline healthworkers has yet to be fully felt. Similarly the economic impact. Whatever our circumstances, we'll all be feeling the effects of the pandemic in our own way.

What we're all starting to realise is that the impact of Coronavirus and social distancing isn't going away any time soon. So how can we care for ourselves, and each other, in this time of loss, fear and uncertainty?

Ten ways to foster resilience and maintain our wellbeing

Staying connected

We are social beings and it is important now, more than ever, to stay socially connected with others. We can be grateful for the technology in its various forms that allows us to have family gatherings, meetings, to socialise, share photos and videos. The slightly relaxed social distancing measures enable us to meet up with loved ones and friends more easily.

Social interactions create positivity and strengthen resilience and coping skills. Do you have enough social contact at the moment? Many helplines have been launched in recent weeks to support those feeling socially isolated.

NHS Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Mental Health Helpline for the Socially Isolated 24/7

Adults: 01865 904997

Children: 01865 904998

Physical Activity

There might be a temptation to do less activity than normal at the moment, especially if our usual way to exercise isn't available to us. So why should we keep moving, stay active and remain fit? Our physical wellbeing is as important as our mental health; exercise has a positive effect on blood pressure, it boosts the immune system, keeps muscles and bones strong, reduces the risk of serious illness such as heart attack, diabetes and stroke.

If you want to introduce exercise into your daily routine, start with a realistic goal. A regular walk for twenty minutes is a great start. Yoga with Adriene offers free yoga tutorials with Adriene, a warm, encouraging soul who will make you feel special for just getting on the mat. This isn't a lecture, and I should probably listen to the advice I'm giving you right now - the point is, we all know exercise matters, it just matters more than ever right now.

Personal resources

Our personal resources support us on a daily basis, and we depend upon them even more during a time of crisis. Resources can be internal, such as humour, thoughtfulness, creativity, and they can be external, such as walking in nature, talking with friends, reading, exercise, meditation. Perhaps write a list of the resources you have - you might be pleasantly surprised. We can take for granted qualities or practices we possess, not realising how much they support us. Perhaps this blog post might feature on your resources list!

Practise mindful noticing

We're often so caught up in our thoughts that we forget to check in with the rest of our body. Mindfully noticing what's going on inside, with an attitude of curiosity rather than judgement, can allow us access to a wealth of information about how we are on any one day. For example, my training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy has taught me that we can be curious as to whether we're holding tension, is there emotion, how are we holding our posture today, and what might these things be saying if they could speak in words? When we practise being in contact with the whole of our body, not just our mind, we can get better at figuring out how we are and how we can best support ourselves on a daily basis.

Routine Health-Check

Many of us are now working from home. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a dedicated workspace and are having to set up a desk in our living room, bedroom, or on the kitchen table. We may be juggling home-schooling alongside work commitments. Because work and home may be under the same roof, the lines between both may become blurred, making it harder to focus and to switch off at the end of the working day.

If this is happening in your home, consider whether the routine you have works well enough, or might you want to try doing things any differently? Might you benefit from a clearer boundary between work and home? Might some kind of 'leaving ritual' be helpful at the end of the day, such as tidying work away, shutting the door to your workspace, changing your clothes? And forgive yourself if you have a bad day or it just feels too much. You're doing the best you can.

A daily routine helps us to feel in control. It helps us develop good habits, reduce stress and improve wellbeing.

Good quality sleep

If you're a person who can feel affected by bad news, worrying predictions, sad stories, then try making a point of avoiding this material just before before bedtime. Good quality sleep boosts immune function, so we can help ourselves by actively finding ways to prioritize a good night's sleep.

Understanding our feelings

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the world we live in go through an unprecedented period of loss. Not since the second world war has our country experienced loss on such a collective scale. Many families are grieving the untimely death of a loved one in traumatic circumstances. Due to lockdown and social distancing, all of us are experiencing losses of human contact, personal freedoms, employment and income, family and social time, hobbies, holidays, education. Previous experiences of loss may be getting triggered and re-experienced in the current climate.

When we go through loss, we grieve. The process of grieving is fluid and changeable; emotions such as shock, denial, sadness, anger and hopelessness can surface, and we have to go through the pain of them before we can reach a stage of acceptance. This is our normal and natural response as humans. So let's be kind, and give ourselves permission to acknowledge these feelings if they're there. For some, it may help to share them with another person, chances are, they're going through something similar. For others, finding a creative way to express them through art, appreciating nature, writing, music, or spiritually can be beneficial. Sometimes, it is simply enough to be able to make sense of why we might be feeling as we do.

We will all be experiencing some loss in varying degrees just now, but if you've recently been bereaved, and feel isolated with your grief, Cruse Bereavement Care has a free telephone helpline: 0808 808 1677. www.cruse.org.uk

Reaching out

Some people reach out naturally to others and some retreat. Neither is wrong, and our preferred way of managing will have been influenced by our early years' environment. However, we are inherently social beings, and social connection is one of our fundamental human needs. When times get tough, what might start as managing alone may lead to withdrawal and eventually depression. Particularly during times of stress, we can benefit from being able to talk to a trusted other, whether that's a family member, friend or professional.

If you're struggling at the moment, perhaps this might encourage you to take the first step to reach out.

Practising kindness

We've all been touched by the response of kindness to one another during these past weeks. Whether it's a greater sense of community, neighbours helping each other out, regular donations of food, time or money to those in need, the nation's support of our NHS heroes and keyworkers, indeed their example of dedication and care to the seriously ill.

Practising kindness towards others has a significant effect on our mental health; it boosts the immune system, can lower blood pressure, reduces anxiety and increases happiness. ... And remember to include kindness towards yourself too!

Developing a positive outlook

We've been in the middle of a crisis situation for the past few weeks, and recent conversation is turning to what life looks like as we begin to move out of it. We are still faced with a lot of uncertainty, but there is forward movement. Let's remind ourselves that crises eventually pass, things will gradually become easier. Life will return to a kind of normal, even if we don't quite know what that normal looks like yet.

Fostering a positive outlook on life is proven to help with stress management and can improve health. It helps with our psychological and physical wellbeing, and gives us better coping skills during times of hardship.

If you feel that there are unresolved issues in your life which may be stopping you from feeling positive, a trained professional can help you process the difficulties, which will enable you to move forward in a new, more constructive, and more rewarding way.

If you are finding life difficult at the moment, and feel you might benefit from talking with someone like myself, you are welcome to contact me - www.karenyoungcounselling.co.uk - I'd be happy to hear from you.