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Navigating the new reality—How to protect your mental health and well-being

By Dr Bill Mitchell, Clinical Psychologist

 

Protecting your mental health

I can imagine you are doing everything you can to stay physically well during these very difficult times, it’s also a time to look after your psychological well-being. It is no exaggeration to say that the anxiety level of the world population will have increased as a result of what is going on right now. Many will be anxious about their health or about the health of people they care about, others will feel insecure about their jobs or businesses. Then there are the consequences of not being able to see friends or family and not being able to spend time outdoors and how they impact your mood and mental well-being. Of course, your mental well-being also has an impact on your physical immunity.

 

What can we do to keep ourselves mentally resilient despite these unusual pressures? Here are some ideas for you to consider.

  • Keep a predictable structure to your day, a routine for starting the day and a healthy breakfast help. Define when the workday starts, what key things you want to get done and clarity about when the workday closes. Build-in breaks but beware of too many snacks. Have a good break at lunchtime, and build in a 5-minute exercise break or stretching. Have a routine that closes the working day, maybe go for a walk, put the laptop away and do something that connects you with your home life like cooking or playing with the kids.
     
  • Use the time you would normally be commuting to do something for yourself; have a coffee and listen to the radio or do an online class like yoga or a catch-up call with your family.
     
  • Connect with people at work on Skype or Zoom for regular social catchups the equivalent of a coffee break. Share stories and humour to keep a strong sense of belonging. Don’t wait for your boss to instigate this, just set it up.
     
  • If you have kids and they are at home right now, work out a shift routine with your partner to get some uninterrupted time for what you need to focus on.
     
  • Get out every day (if your country’s guidance for coronavirus allows it). Even if you are not into exercise, just get out and walk, ideally fast. It is such a stress reliever, a natural antidepressant. If you can, get some sunshine for your immune system but Vitamin D is also good for your mood.
     
  • Try to get some time for yourself every day, maybe a bath or sitting on your bed listening to music or find time to read, even if only for 10 minutes, it will help you feel less overwhelmed. 
     
  • Some relationships will be under strain as a result of being under one roof all the time. Make your relationship a priority. After your kids are in bed, make some time just for the two of you, time to chat and hopefully laugh together or watch your favourite box set. Put the laptop away and make it time just for the two of you.
     
  • Limit how much news you watch or read. Some people are almost addictively glued to the news. The more you watch the more anxious you will get.
     
  • Try not to get overwhelmed by everything you have to do. If you are trying to stay on top of work while you also try to home-school your kids with little support, then take it hour-by-hour:
     
    • What am I going to do in the next hour, and what can I let go of?
       
    • Have a conversation with your manager, could some of these demands be negotiated?
       
    • Do emails in blocks not as they come in, this creates time free from interruptions.
       
    • Let go of the perfectionism, be pragmatic. What do I really need to get done today?
       
  • Don’t let go of the belief that we’re going to get through this, we’re going to be playing in the park with our kids again, we’re going to be socialising in a pub or restaurant again. We’ll fly off on a holiday again. One day, this will be behind us. We might be a little wiser, it might make us reassess what matters in our lives. It might even bring some benefits we can’t foresee right now. Such is life.
     

Dr Bill Mitchell is a clinical psychologist at the Mitchell Practice. He works with contemporary cognitively based psychological approaches to treat anxiety states, depression, stress reactions and chronic fatigue states. He has a particular interest in treating work-related psychological difficulties recognizing that many people work in circumstances that can easily lead to the loss of any balance to life which increases the potential for them becoming exhausted or ill.

 

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